The Plain English Surface Duo update changelog(!)

Published by at

The original Surface Duo was perhaps closest to the original 'courier'/Andromeda vision, in terms of hardware that folded back on itself 100%, but it was lacking in terms of some vital specs (notably NFC) and in terms of distribution and software support. Its Android 11 update, in particular, was MIA for a long time, but this has now been fixed and is available over the air. Here's a summarised, plain English changelog, if you're interested. Though note that a software update alone isn't enough to bring the original Duo close to what the newer Duo 2 is capable of.

Here we go then (summarising the official text and including first hand testimony):

  • An upgrades to Android 11 (from 10).
  • Includes the Google Android January 2022 Security patches.
  • You can now launch OneNote when clicking the top button on the Surface Slim Pen 2.
  • You can now answer a phone call by folding the screen back (to single screen mode).
  • You can now choose specific apps to automatically span across both screens when you open them.
  • Quick Settings and notifications now look good in both portrait and landscape orientations.
  • You can now adjust media volume directly from Quick Settings in any device mode (i.e. even if the physical buttons are inaccessible).
  • You can now use thumb mode in Microsoft SwiftKey in all device modes and application states.
  • The app drawer and folder design has been updated, and with improved drag-and-drop support.
  • The Microsoft feed design has updated cards and new Microsoft Start widgets for News and Weather.
  • There's now a new dual-screen enhanced experience for viewing and editing photos in the OneDrive app.
  • You can now screenshot applications directly from the multitasking thumbnail view.
  • Xbox Game Pass: You can now discover and play games from the cloud with an on-screen controller.

Of course, all the above is also in Android 11 on the Surface Duo 2, but it's good to see parity across the board between the two devices now.

Shane Craig notes that:

Swiping/general touch is still bad. Probably worse than on Duo 2. Camera still lags on shutter. No option to lock phone mode to one screen is stupid. More to come?

Given that the Duo 2's touch sensitivity isn't perfect and that the Duo has older technology inside, it's perhaps not surprising that there are still issues here. Having used the Duo 2 for a month now, I think Microsoft has got the touch sensitivity about right on balance - obviously capacitive touch tech can offer better response, but the more you ramp up sensitivity, the more you have issues with unwanted touches as you manipulate the dual displays and hinge.

I do agree about wanting an option to lock the phone to using just one display - there are plenty of times when I don't need two AMOLED panels burning power and I'd like to have just one active without having to physically fold the unwanted display 'behind'. What I'd envisage is that a triple tap on a display would disable it and a double tap would 'bring it back'. Ideas, there, Microsoft?