Rounding up the Surface Duo ('Surface Phone') reviews

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We've covered the Surface Duo ('Surface Phone') quite a bit on AAWP, but this is the last coverage until we actually get one in... well, 2021, when the Duo 2 starts to leak, since that will be the one for the UK and world markets, with NFC for tap-to-pay, etc. But I did think it was worth rounding up the USA reviews of the first Surface Duo, since the embargo on these just lifted. See below for typical videos and verdicts.

(As usual with video embeds, if you want a larger picture and higher resolution then just click through on the YouTube logo.)

I guess we have to start with Daniel Rubino, since he has by far the most background in Microsoft - though as with the other reviews on this page, all the devices weren't gifts from Microsoft and weren't bought with their own hard-earned cash by the people talking about them, so take everything with just a little pinch of real world salt. Having said that, Daniel is pretty balanced, concluding that - unsurprisingly - the Surface Duo is somewhat under-baked in terms of OS and applications. Monthly updates should see fixes as 2020 rolls on. 

Daniel reckons, as most have been doing through this year, that the Surface Duo is for Microsoft fans who are happy to wait while the OS and experience get fine tuned. I was interested by his defense of Mirosoft omitting NFC - he makes a valid point that there's no one obvious way to tap with the screen on and authenticated, so where should the NFC antenna be? Should there be two? But I think this is solvable, Microsoft just needs to embed the antenna in an edge and then educate the user with an on-screen hint.


Marques Brownlee is someone else I trust and his reviews are what I'd have aspired to in The Phones Show if I'd been thirty years younger, more handsome, and American(!) - he always weaves a good story around his videos. He likes the Duo's ambition, but there's a ton of 'meh' points, including the typing experience in various modes and the general performance (showing quite a bit of lag - he suggests that the relatively paltry 6GB RAM is partly to blame here). And even more 'terrible' points, including the single earpiece speaker, which is quiet and tinny, and the camera, for which his main objection is the sheer amount of twisting, turning and UI manipulation needed to take a snap in time:

Marques agrees with Daniel that the Surface Duo 2 is where most general users should start with the concept, i.e. in 2021, with news that the Duo 2 is already at the prototype stage and will definitely appear.


Finally, Michael Fisher (aka 'Mr Mobile') is someone I count as a friend (we've kept in touch for years and he's been a guest on PSC numerous times) and he's a long time fan of Nokia, Microsoft, and 'weird form factors', so his opinions perhaps count the most.

And - yet again - he's a fan of the idea of the Surface Duo but not of the reality in terms of first generation hardware. Declaring that the Duo is best as an accessory device to an existing phone and laptop set-up, he wasn't impressed by the haptics, gesture recognition or general stability - his video shows numerous glitches, hopefully Microsoft can address most of these in the monthly updates.

Particularly telling are the multiple Lumia 950 XL references, with the same conclusion as for the 950 in late 2015*, that the Surface Duo has been rushed out and is 'only for hard core Windows Microsoft fans'. The 'rushed' bit in this case being ironic - though true - since the Surface Duo was announced a whopping 10 months ago.

The comments about unrecognised gestures and UI glitches rang true in particular, since I've been seeing these on the Surface Duo emulator for months - I just assumed that they were because I wasn't on a real touch-screen device. It seems not - they're bugs in the (Microsoft Launcher) UI generally.


Nice videos all, I guarentee that you'll be left wanting to have a play for yourself - but also very glad that you didn't put down any of your hard earned money (if outside the USA, then exporting it is an option, since the cell bands are common, etc.)

* This being AAWP, you'll know that the Lumia 950 range got a LOT better with age and updates, ultimately failing because of the ecosystem itself.

PS. Some of our previous Surface Duo coverage here: