• Sat. Sep 19th, 2020

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Technology

Microsoft’s return to smartphone market sports 2 screens, Android software

The Microsoft Surface Duo hits shelves this month, marking the company’s long-awaited return to the smartphone market.



screen of a cell phone: Microsoft Surface Duo


© Microsoft
Microsoft Surface Duo

The $1,399 Duo is a “foldable” phone — a category which also includes Samsung’s $1,999 Galaxy Z Fold2, and Motorola’s $1,399 Razr 5G. Where those devices feature a single, ultra-thin bendable screen, the Duo instead has two screens connected by a hinge mechanism.

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“Two screens side-by-side is what this product is about,” said Microsoft chief product officer Panos Panay in an interview with ABC Audio.

Digital Trends’ editor-in-chief Jeremy Kaplan said having two screens allows users to compartmentalize data more easily.

“What Microsoft’s engineers have leaned into is cognitive science. And they’ve shown that, by separating this thing, by actually having two physical screens, your brain is better able to process information.”

But having a dual-screen device comes with drawbacks, which have been noted in early reviews of the Duo.

“There is a learning curve that comes with it,” said Panay. “You can see that in the reviews, you can feel it in the conversations.”

He said it may take awhile to warm up to the device’s new form factor.

“I don’t think you’ll end up in a frustration point. It’s just a matter of finding all the things you can do with the device takes time.”



a close up of a computer: Microsoft Surface Duo


© Microsoft
Microsoft Surface Duo

Other complaints from reviewers centered on the Duo’s camera setup. The Duo features a single, 11-megapixel camera sensor. Samsung’s recently unveiled foldable, the Galaxy Z Fold 2, boasts five cameras — three of which are 12-megapixel units.

“We get asked all the time: why didn’t you put a better camera on the back of the device? But ultimately it wasn’t designed for that,” said Panay.

The Duo also garnered attention for its software. Existing Windows phones used Microsoft’s internally designed operating system. The Duo uses Google’s Android software. Panay said the reason Microsoft opted to borrow another tech giant’s software came down to the predominance of Google’s apps.

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“Android is so powerful for this product. You know, the millions of apps that you can choose — the ones that are most important to you.”

It’s a sentiment Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella echoed in an interview with ABC Audio last year, after the partnership with Google was first announced.

“We felt that there was a real need for someone to come out and innovate on this next inflection point around dual-screen devices, and we said — let’s use Android,” Nadella said at the time.



a screen shot of a computer: Microsoft Surface Duo


© Microsoft
Microsoft Surface Duo

Kaplan thinks Microsoft is making a wise decision by partnering with Google.

“It makes sense to lean into Android here. Microsoft has said, ‘we want to be where our customers are, we want to be where people are.’ And where are people? They’re on the Google Play Store. They’re using Android phones.”

As for the future of folding smartphones, Panay said he’s optimistic.

“I think it’s the form factor where phones or phones should be going,” said Panay.

Hear ABC News Radio’s Dave Packer report on Microsoft’s return to the smartphone market:

Gallery: I swapped my iPhone SE for the new $350 Pixel 4a. These are the 5 things I liked better about Google’s low-cost smartphone compared to Apple’s. (Business Insider)

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