Dual-screen Surface phone, tablet coming in Holiday 2020

Much of Microsoft’s Surface event today talked about hardware we’ll be able to get our hands on yet this year. In a “one more thing” moment, though, Microsoft’s Panos Panay revealed the next generation of Surface devices. Next holiday season, Microsoft is planning to release a pair of dual-screen, folding Surface devices called the Surface Neo and Surface Duo.

It’s not a phone

The headliner of the two—and the device that Microsoft used to cap off its event—is the Surface Duo, a 2-in-1 pocket-sized Android device that can make phone calls but that they don’t want you to call a phone.

That’s right: this thing runs Android. Microsoft is partnering with Google to build a hybrid Android device. It looks and acts like Windows, but it runs all your Android apps, downloaded and installed through the Google Play store. It’s Microsoft admitting defeat in the mobile OS space and instead focusing on the parts they know how to do well: experience and hardware.

While these devices are foldable, but the screens aren’t. This looks more like the canceled Courier booklet device from years and years back. Microsoft has designed the entire experience of using these devices around the dual-screen form factor. You can use one or both screens in horizontal or vertical posture—posture is the word they’re using to describe the many positions these devices can be used in—and in any angle along the 360-degree hinge. The hinge uses a torque function to make sure that you can just fold the device into a given position and expect it to stay that way.

Despite looking very similar and having a similar form factor, the Duo and Neo have a few major differences.

Surface Duo and Neo: Twins not alike

Microsoft Surface Duo

The larger Neo runs a specialized version of Windows called Windows 10X, designed for this new dual-screen format. Microsoft says that all Windows apps will run on it, so this isn’t a repeat of Windows RT. An Intel chip powers the Surface Neo; the Duo, meanwhile, runs Android on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855.

The Neo can have a magnetic Surface Pen attached, of course, but the keyboard is where things get interesting for that device. You can attach a magnetic Bluetooth keyboard, which I assume will be sold separately, to the device. It grips onto the outside of the device but can be flipped into place onto one of the two screens to essentially turn the device into a small laptop. The keyboard only occupies part of the screen—about two-thirds—while the rest transforms depending on whether you put the keyboard at the top or bottom of that screen.

If you place it at the top, the bottom, exposed bit of screen works like a trackpad for a mouse cursor on the upper screen. If you place the keyboard at the bottom, the visible second screen turns into a “Wunderbar” that calls to mind Apple’s Touch Bar, but with enough room that I could see myself getting use out of it.

Where’s the camera?

One thing that stands out on the Duo is the choice not to include a rear-facing camera. If you want to take a picture with this thing, you need to flip it open, unlock it, and use the front-facing camera, which Panay told Wired isn’t a “bajillion-megapixel camera.”

The Neo features a pair of 5.6-mm screens with nine-inch diagonals, and the whole thing weighs 655g. Microsoft says the Neo has “the thinnest LCD ever created.” The Duo’s screens are 5.6-inch displays.

Microsoft is releasing these devices last next year. That means that specifics like that Snapdragon 855 processor and the lack of a rear-facing camera on the Surface Duo could change. We’re going to be keeping an eye on both the Neo and the Duo as we move into 2020.

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Sweatshopking
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Sweatshopking

Expectations are that the duo runs Android, but rumors of it running 10x with support for Android apps and the Google play store abound. I haven’t seen any confirmation one way or the other, but it does appear to be Android to me. Personally I’d prefer 10x but not optimistic.

chuckula
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chuckula

The Duo is Android but with a customized UI that makes it Windows-like. I frankly don’t think it will be worse than some things that vendors do to vanilla Android.

Sweatshopking
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Sweatshopking

You’ve seen confirmation from Ms it’s Android? I know it does look like Android with the ms launcher but so does 10x.

JohnIL
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JohnIL

So I get Microsoft still wants to complete its ecosystem with a mobile os solution and devices to go along with that. But trying to sell people on this at least a year away seems like their trying to beat others to the punch. Which begs the question, why not just develop 10X and let third parties make the hardware? Because these devices already scream niche at best for solving what a few road warriors want. Otherwise I don’t see a iPad sort of market here. In fact I could argue that tablet market has shrunk not expanded and mobile… Read more »

Colton Westrate
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Ack! What stage am I supposed to be in now?

Neutronbeam
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Neutronbeam

Late-stage confusion?

Xolore
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Xolore

I’m not sure, but I wanna know too. I actually had just pulled out my old Windows Phone yesterday to see if it would still take a charge and boot up…unsurprisingly it remained dark. Just a remnant full of nothing but fond memories.

juzz86
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juzz86

Dammit Fish, you should’ve waited!

…Right?

Colton Westrate
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If this was the return of Windows Phone, yeah, I’d be pissed. As things are, I’m actually really pleased with my dumb Android Blackberry masquerading as a Windows Phone, heh.

chuckula
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chuckula

I read that “It’s not a phone” line in the same way Ahhnold said “It’s not a tumor”

Neutronbeam
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Neutronbeam

Technically, he said “It’s not a tumah!”

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