Back in October 2019, when Microsoft unveiled no fewer than six Surface products, one stood out as markedly more interesting: The Surface Duo. It’s not just that the Surface Duo marks Microsoft’s first phone since the Lumia 650 – it’s a very different take on the foldable phone that could change everything.
Originally scheduled for Holiday 2020, Microsoft has apparently realised that it could take a big bite out of a potential rival – Samsung’s Galaxy Fold 2 – by going early. First, news came from Zac Bowden that Microsoft was planning to launch ahead of Samsung’s official unveiling, rumored to be on August 5.
I'm told Microsoft wants to launch Surface Duo before the Galaxy Fold 2 is announced. So, before August 5th? We're getting close. Assuming plans don't change, Surface Duo should start shipping in less than 2 months.June 12, 2020
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And now the same source has found more evidence to back up what he’s heard. Microsoft’s Your Phone app for Windows has been updated to include assets for Surface Duo. It’s unlikely this change would be made if a release weren’t imminent.
Looks like Your Phone already has the assets to differentiate between normal Android phones and Surface Duo pic.twitter.com/BBnKenOF1EJune 20, 2020
If you don’t know, the Your Phone app for Windows 10 allows you to replicate some of your phone’s functions on your desktop, from making and taking calls to managing your photos. While I don’t personally know anyone who uses it, as a Microsoft product it pretty much has to work well with the company’s first smartphone in four years.
So does Microsoft’s plan to pip the Galaxy Fold 2 to the post mean we should consider the Surface Duo a direct competitor to Samsung’s foldable flagship? Well, yes and no. They’re both folding phones running Android, though Microsoft is adopting a dual-screen approach with a very clear line between the two, while Samsung’s glass actually folds. As design decisions go, you can consider it a straight choice between reliability and desirability.
And it’s not just desirability where the Fold 2 wins out. If the leaks are to be believed, Samsung has a clear advantage. While the Galaxy Fold 2 will use the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865, Microsoft will be using last year’s 855 chip, backed by 6GB RAM. Don’t get me wrong, that still spells a smartphone that will be plenty fast enough for most people, but put the two side by side in a benchmarking play off and it’ll be no contest.
But then there’s the all important separator: price. Foldable phones have been ridiculously expensive so far, with even the middling specs of the Motorola Razr commanding a four-figure price. If Microsoft’s choice of last-generation innards and two screens rather than one folding one can make a difference to this mark up, then the company may well have a big hit on its hands. Assuming that bumping up the release date by a few months doesn’t lead to a QA disaster, of course...