When Windows Phones were discontinued, I was a bit disappointed. There was something about the way Microsoft organized things that made me stick with them for a long time (remember Windows CE?). But when my job required an app only available in Android or iPhone, a new phone was needed. Grudgingly, I moved to the iPhone 8 Plus (not a big fan) and to Android phones like the Samsung S21 Ultra (very good phone). But my job also required travel and a phone screen was often too small for what I wanted to do. Have you tried writing an article on a phone? Even with a Bluetooth keyboard, it is a bit awkward. Going back and forth between Windows laptops (big and bulky) and an Android tablet (Samsung S5e LTE) revealed that neither worked perfectly for my situation. The laptop had a built-in keyboard but often had to be plugged in and was a bit too bulky for use in the truck. The tablet was nice but required a Bluetooth keyboard for any serious writing. However, the tablet did have split screen mode which enabled me to do multiple things at the same time. For instance, it came in handy for DOT driving with one side used for logging miles and the other for Google maps. That worked fairly well but I would still end up bringing a laptop, tablet, and phone on trips. Couldn’t someone make one unit that would cover all of those needs? Enter the folding phone.
What good is a folding phone?
Folding phones were introduced by Samsung with the Fold Z. It was a phone with a screen that actually folded. As can be expected, the folding screen had some issues at first. But most of the issues have been resolved with the latest model. I have examined these phones but have never owned one. While the phone has certain advantages, the outer screen is very narrow and the inner screen is square. For me, these were unproductive screen dimensions. It would be better if the unfolded screen was a rectangle—especially if you were to be watching videos.
The Microsoft Surface Duo came out in 2020 with two screens attached by a hinge. It was an idea that quickly got my attention. The dimensions of the unfolded screens were perfect for what I wanted. Although the space between the two screens made spanning a video a little awkward, it was the right device for what I needed. The Surface Duo 2 (2021) was even better with slightly larger screen dimensions and better specs. My current Duo 2 has enabled me to do most anything I need without the other devices.
I would imagine that those who are accustomed to a single screen phone may not understand why two screens would be helpful. Before purchasing my first Duo, I taped two phones together to see what it would be like. It seemed silly to me. Do you remember when LG made a case for the V60 which included a second screen? That was certainly a curiosity but still not something that convinced me. The Surface Duo and Duo 2 did. Here are several reasons why.
Productivity – The Surface Duo 2 has two screens attached by a hinge. Having two screens enables me to use two apps simultaneously without having to switch from one to another. Use #1 – When I am using the Uber app, I can also have my contacts open on the other screen. This enables me to quickly copy and paste the address(es) from contacts over to the Uber app. Use #2 – Two screens are also helpful for public speaking. When I speak at our church, two screens enables me to have my notes on one screen and the Bible on the other. Use #3 – Have you ever been using your phone for navigation while driving and then got a call? The phone app covers up the map and (if you are like me) you miss the next turn. Two screens allows the map to remain on one screen while the phone call is on the other.
Larger Screen – Whenever a new phone comes out, there is much talk about the size of the screen. As I grow older, my eyes have appreciated bigger screens. However, the dimensions of a slab phone are never quite right. Tall and narrow (16:9) seems to be the current style. The Surface Duo and Duo 2 have a wider 4:3 aspect. And with the screen opened, the aspect ratio changes to 3:2 which works better for watching videos spanning both screens. How do people watch videos on the unfolded Z Fold 4? All complaints about the Duo/Duo 2’s bezels are moot at this point. It is interesting that the new Pixel Fold has similar dimensions. I guess Microsoft did something right there. However…
Does Microsoft provide continuing support for the Duo and Duo 2?
This is where things don’t go so well. Both units have been updated to Android version 12L. But Microsoft does not have a good track record when it comes to fixing issues or pushing out updates. Compared to updates from Samsung, they are not very quick. The last Duo 2 update came almost two months after the previous one. That isn’t good. Paired with the fact that Microsoft is no longer selling the Duo 2 and there is no concrete news about a future Duo 3, this is troubling. Does Microsoft care about keeping their current customers satisfied? Or are they just doing the bare minimum while moving on to their next idea. If current customers are not satisfied with the quality of support, will they want to buy the next Microsoft phone? Probably not.
To be fair, I have not been disappointed with the quality of the phone or how it works. All phones have issues at some point including those offered by Samsung, Apple, or Microsoft. So a few glitches here and there are not maddening. In my humble opinion, this could be a phone which I could use for several years. However, if Microsoft wants to stay in the phone business, they need to step up their support with monthly updates and annual upgrades to the next Android version. The 12L update was good but Android 14 Preview is already out. Will Microsoft be ready?