That Microsoft went with glossy oleophobic Gorilla Glass for the back and front of the Surface Duo 2 is a contentious issue. When clean and new, it feels and looks tremendous. But as time goes on the glass does acquire fingerprints and dust, plus it's always slippery. And slippery isn't good for a relatively fragile folding smartphone. With physical 'in situ' cases almost impossible because of the Duo 2's 'fold back' mechanics, the next best thing is a 'skin', a grippy adhesive panel on front and back to take the brunt of daily wear and tear and to help ensure the phone doesn't get dropped. Enter XtremeSkins, also available for just about every other phone in existence if you want to make a naked phone 'grippier', and bringing 'wood' to my phone for the first time since a Mozo back graced my Lumia 950 XL!
NB: I did first order from dBrand, the market leader and based in the USA, but after a month nothing had arrived and they gave me a refund. Sigh. Moral of the tale is to always order stuff from your own country if you possibly can!
Onto what you get then - you might be curious as to why I ordered two sets. Partly because I couldn't make my mind up which one to choose, but also partly because XtremeSkins had a 2-for-1 offer on. Not that the skins are expensive in the first place, at £11 a set, but to get two sets for that price was too good to pass up.
Black leather is a given, I've been opting for this off and on for a decade now. For example, back in the days of the Samsung Galaxy S4, I'd swap out the shiny plastic original back from Samsung and replace it with an after-market faux-leather-covered back. So much better.
Wood too, is a favourite of mine, such as on the Mozo back covers for the Lumia range, though of course here it's 'faux wood'(!)
Anyway, the plan is to try each of these for a month on my Surface Duo 2 and to report back.
I was a little apprehensive about fitting these accurately, since this was my first time fitting a 'skin', but a) the XtremeSkins video (embedded below) does a good job at showing what to do, and b) the two right angles inside the two hinges, for front and back, make aligning the skin a doddle and I didn't have to peel it off and try again at any point.
After fitting each skin, front and back, the video shows taking a hair dryer to the exposed (tiny) edges, just to help them stick to the Duo 2's glass, but I opted for a lower tech approach and just rubbed them down with my finger tips, which seemed to work just as well. Plus, as I said above, I'm planning to remove the oak skin in a month's time anyway (to put the black leather one on), so I won't mind if the edges are obviously accessible.
Here's the look once applied:
Although seeing wood rather than glossy glass is something of a shock, the main benefit here isn't the cosmetics - it's the feel in the hand. As you can probably tell from the photos here, the XtremeSkins aren't just photographic patterns on smooth plastic - they're textured like the real thing, so here we get grain and masses (and masses) of extra grip. My Duo 2 feels so much more secure in the hand now.
Here's the back skin, and note that I opted to apply the matching wood skin over the camera island too - though leaving this jet black did also look rather striking, so I almost didn't use the last supplied material:
Of particular note is that, in applying the skins, I didn't have to temporarily remove my Microsoft Duo 2 Bumpers - as I'd hoped, there was just enough clearance inside the bumpers for the skins to settle down nicely. (Although the bumpers can be removed for short periods without affecting the 'stickiness' too much, do this too often and you'll be going DIY with some 2mm double-sided tape eventually!)
Looking at my bumpered and skinned Duo 2 now, it feels far more secure than the bare device did just a few weeks ago when new. The only exposed original edges are part of the bottom of the device and the hinges, while all exterior glass is now sheathed in textured plastic. True, a serious drop onto concrete or tarmac will probably still crack something, but at least there's hope. With the grip from the rubberised bumpers and now the skins as well, the chances of a drop are much reduced.
Although the original glossy black glass was attractive you can't deny that there's a charm from 'modern oak' here - or from any of the 30 other colours and textures available from XtremeSkins. The Duo 2 looks 'different' and has certainly been easy to pick from my crowded desk thanks to not being a black rectangle anymore(!) Of course, when I put on the 'black leather' skin next month this may change slightly, but I'm still looking forward to it.
And at only a tenner (or so), the XtremeSkins are cheap enough that you can change up your Duo 2 on a regular basis, perhaps several times a year, having fun and keeping things fresh. Fancy a shocking green or deep turqouise? They're all available. (Getting an XtremeSkin off is as easy as getting a razor blade under one corner and then they just peel off with minimal effort, ready for the replacement.)
Of course, skinning a smartphone in this way isn't new, see the XtremeSkins product page for listings of everything else they do. But skinning the uniquely folding Duo 2 (together with the bumpers) is just about the only way to add grip and protection while not compromising all the device's postures.
Reviewed by Steve Litchfield at