The Surface Duo is a niche device, Its high price, unique form factor, and a requirement to work with Microsoft’s UI decisions rather than force it into the standard smartphone way of doing things makes it a hard device to recommend… at least as a direct smartphone replacement.
Microsoft may be comfortable calling the Duo as a phone, but it still has trouble in the role of your main device; you’re going to end up using bluetooth for making calls easier, you need to open the device to read your notifications in full, and it’s rather awkward to use one-handed.
As the six month anniversary of its released passed last week many have taken the chance to look again at Microsoft’s Android-powered mobile device, and have been pleasantly surprised by its potential not as someone’s main device, but as a secondary device. Is Microsoft’s dual-screen approach with the Surface Duo able to offer Android users an attractive alternative to the iPad as the other device you carry with you?
Apple’s iPad family is the dominant player in the tablet space. How dominant? A look at the US market share of Tablets shows the iPad family on nearly 60 percent, Amazon’s Kindle range on 13 percent, Samsung on 18 percent, leaving 9 percent for everyone else.
Of course not every iPad is going to be partnered with an iPhone; neither is every Galaxy smartphone going to be associated with one of the Samsung Tab models; and Amazon’s Kindle range is focused more on being a multimedia device with tablet functionality. Research from Kantar shows 42 percent of US-based smartphone users also use a second device.
This is the market that the Surface Duo can address. It’s larger than the number of people who would choose it as their main device, it sidesteps the issue of it not being “a regular smartphone”, and it’s an easy value proposition to pitch to consumers.
The Duo may not work particularly well for video and multimedia, and it’s never going to be the immediate choice for gamers, but is an excellent device for work once you can work with Microsoft’s approach to multitasking on the device. In essence all fo the key arguments for a tablet sitting alongside your phone work with the Duo as well
This is helped by the recent price drops on the Surface Duo 2, bringing it down to $1000 for some models. Microsoft’s continued software support both in the Android apps and the base experience have ironed out the problems throughout the device.
The Surface Duo 2 is in a much better place than it was six years ago. The bugs have been addressed, the hardware is stable, and now there’s a clear recognition on a popular use case in the community.
The Surface Duo is quietly carving out its own place in the mobile world.