I'm hopeful about the Surface Duo 2 after Microsoft's radical redesign

The pieces are in place, but will the jigsaw fit together

Surface Duo 2
(Image credit: Microsoft)

When Microsoft announced the Surface Duo last year there was a lot of interest. While a folding phone without a folding screen is much less exciting than Samsung’s Z Fold range, it still offers a lot of opportunities for people to enjoy a much more dynamic mobile phone experience. The question is, can it gather enough interest in a crowded market dominated by Apple and Samsung?

The biggest complaint about the original Duo was that it was quite underpowered. Compared to the Samsung Galaxy S20 which launched earlier that year it only had a Snapdragon 855, while the Samsung had an 865. Add to that the Surface’s modest 6GB of RAM, against the Samsung’s 8GB and you can see why, on a premium phone, people were underwhelmed. 

The camera was also a major issue with the first generation phone. A single, front-facing 11MP camera on a premium phone was never going to pass muster with a demanding user. Samsung offered three cameras on the S20 with its usual excellent performance. In his video review of the Duo, Marques Brownlee explained just how bad the camera was, but also noted that for Microsoft’s core audience of business users, this may not be much of an issue. 

A more serious problem for Microsoft’s core audience was the lack of 5G last time. If you’re someone that needs your phone as a serious work tool then the lack of the best connectivity isn’t going to go down well. That, again, has been rectified this time around, and I think that will make a big difference to certain people. 

One of the more interesting things about the Surface Duo 2 is the notifications which show on on the device when it’s shut. Microsoft is using the internal screens here, but the way it’s displayed reminds me of Samsung's probably long-forgotten Note Edge, a phone which I absolutely loved when it came out. Here it gives you a way to see what’s going on without opening the device, or needing an external screen – which obviously keeps costs down. 

A bigger battery should keep the Surface Duo 2 running for longer too. Previous reports suggested that with only one screen on, the last device was a bit of powerhouse. Adding more capacity will surely help it be even better this time around. 

So with all that in mind, I can’t really find a lot that’s technically wrong with the Surface Duo 2. It looks good, it will have Microsoft’s solid construction and it has the features it needs to compete. The camera will be interesting, as that will live and die based on the software which optimises images. Microsoft certainly has the brains to make that work, but it depends if it has applied itself. 

Ian has been involved in technology journalism since 2007, originally writing about AV hardware back when LCDs and plasma TVs were just gaining popularity. Nearly 15 years on, he remains as excited about how tech can make your life better.