Posey's Tips & Tricks

My First Impressions of Surface Duo 2

Microsoft is making logical moves to address issues with the first version of its flagship smartphone.

 

Microsoft recently announced the Surface Duo 2, and after having spent quite a bit of time with the original Surface Duo in recent months, I was curious as to how the new device would stack up against the original. Unfortunately, I have yet to be able to get my hands on an evaluation unit, but there are a few things about Microsoft’s announcement that caught my attention.

For starters, Microsoft has improved the Duo’s camera. The original Surface Duo was equipped with a single, 11-megapixel camera. The camera seemed to be the one thing that almost everyone complained about. While I don’t personally think that the camera was as terrible as others have said, it definitely wasn’t a high-end camera by any stretch of the imagination. That probably wouldn’t have been such a big deal if it were not for the device’s $1400 price tag (which has been greatly reduced in recent months). When you pay that kind of money for a smartphone, you expect premium hardware. Additionally, the Duo only had one camera, so it had to be used as both a front and a rear camera. Maybe it’s operator error, but I often found that it was tough to get the Duo’s camera to do exactly what I needed it to do.

In contrast, the Surface Duo 2 has a 12-megapixel front-facing camera, and three rear-facing cameras with three different lens types (telephoto, wide angle and super wide angle). The wide angle and telephoto cameras are both 12 megapixels, but the ultra wide camera is 16 megapixels.

Obviously the camera upgrade was much needed and is sure to be well received by Microsoft’s customers. However, there were three other things about the device that actually drew my attention more than the cameras did.

The Pen Cover
One of the things that I really didn’t like about the original Surface Duo was that the pen had to be placed into its charging cradle for a couple of seconds prior to use. Otherwise, the pen would not turn on. This one simple requirement made the pen relatively useless, because nobody is going to carry a charging cradle with them wherever they go. Even if that requirement had not existed however, there was not an easy way to stow the pen when it was not in use. In other words, using the pen just wasn’t practical.

Microsoft solved this problem by introducing something that they call the Pen Cover. Contrary to its name, the Pen Cover isn’t actually a device cover. Instead, it simply means that the pen magnetically attaches to the outside of the device. When the pen is attached, the Duo 2’s battery charges the pen. That way, it is always ready to go.

Notifications
The second thing that got my attention was the way that the device provides notifications. I get it -- notifications are a weird thing to get excited about. However, I think that Microsoft really nailed it this time.

One of the disadvantages to the original Surface Duo’s design was that the device made it cumbersome to check the time or check for new text messages. You had to take the device out of your pocket, unfold it, and then turn it on. That’s a lot to go through if all you want to do is glance at the time. Microsoft solved this problem on the Surface Duo 2 in a very unique way.

The Surface Duo 2’s screens are curved. When the device is open, the curve helps the two screens to more seamlessly blend into one. When the device is closed however, the outer edge of the screens is visible between the hinges. Microsoft displays notifications on this visible portion of the screen (it’s almost like having a third screen just for notifications). Microsoft refers to this as the Glance Bar. The Glance Bar displays the time, badges reflecting the number of calls and messages that you have received, and battery remaining.

Windows 11 Integration
The third thing that caught my attention about the Surface Duo 2 was the way that it works with Windows 11. Although the device still runs Android, the newly redesigned Your Phone app allows the phone’s notifications, messages, and apps to be accessed and used on a Windows PC. You can even pin Android apps on the phone to the Windows taskbar for easy access. What may ultimately prove to be far more useful however, is that the app makes it easy to copy and paste content between the Surface Duo 2 and Windows 11.

Looking forward to the new Surface Duo 2 or want to share your thoughts on the original? Join the conversation in our chat below.

About the Author

Brien Posey is a 20-time Microsoft MVP with decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written thousands of articles and contributed to several dozen books on a wide variety of IT topics. Prior to going freelance, Posey was a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the country's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox. In addition to his continued work in IT, Posey has spent the last several years actively training as a commercial scientist-astronaut candidate in preparation to fly on a mission to study polar mesospheric clouds from space. You can follow his spaceflight training on his Web site.

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