Microsoft Floor Duo 2 re-review: I get it now

It is exceedingly uncommon {that a} product really will get higher months after it was launched. However Microsoft’s oft-forgotten Floor Duo 2, which launched again in October 2021 with a steep price ticket and a laundry listing of bugs and points that made it very irritating to make use of, has bucked that pattern. The truth is, the Duo 2 has improved a lot that it is now certainly one of my favourite cell gadgets, even when it is nonetheless bizarre and distinctive sufficient that I am unable to precisely suggest it to most individuals.

In case you’ve got forgotten, the Floor Duo 2 is a folding telephone with two massive screens joined by a hinge. Not like Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold 3, which takes a single tablet-sized show and folds it in half to slot in your pocket, the Duo 2’s two screens make it really feel extra like two giant telephones connected collectively and working the identical software program. You’ll be able to simply run two apps aspect by aspect as in the event you have been holding two telephones on the similar time, or you possibly can span a single app throughout each screens to imitate a small pill. Each halves of the telephone are skinny sufficient that it might probably fold collectively like a guide and match right into a pocket with relative ease. Pair it with Microsoft’s Floor Slim Pen 2and you’ve got a transportable digital pocket book that may work simply as properly for note-taking, studying an e book, or drafting an e-mail.

Once I reviewed the Floor Duo 2 final 12 months, none of its intelligent design or book-like options mattered. The system was successfully damaged, held again by software program bugs that made it infuriating to kind on, irritating to make use of, and finally disappointing. It was a $ 1,500 novelty that would solely attraction to essentially the most die-hard Microsoft model stooges prepared to place up with its many faults so they might have the never-launched Courier system they dreamed about over a decade in the past.

The Floor Duo 2 would not actually work properly as a telephone, however generally is a very helpful pocket laptop.

However, remarkably, Microsoft has not given up on the Duo 2. The truth is, the corporate has persistently issued software program updates on a month-to-month foundation to deal with the various issues the Duo 2 had at launch. A few of these updates consisted of easy safety patches and small bug fixes, whereas others, just like the latest June replace, included extra important corrections and added new options. Crucially, Microsoft has addressed the contact latency issues that have been prevalent at launch and made it very tough to kind on the Duo 2’s digital keyboard – and even navigate the interface.

Realizing that Microsoft has been attending to lots of my authentic complaints with the Duo 2, I took benefit of a latest value minimize (the telephone can now be had for $ 1,000, which remains to be costly however considerably lower than its launch value) and a beneficiant trade-in supply and purchased certainly one of my very own. The aim was to see if I may get a greater concept of ​​what Microsoft is attempting to perform with this system when show-stopping bugs aren’t standing in its method.

And reader, I can lastly say I get it. The Duo 2 is essentially the most distinctive cell system I’ve used, permitting me to do issues I simply cannot do with a standard smartphone. It additionally does sure issues, akin to multitasking and studying ebooks, higher than the Z Fold 3’s single giant display screen.

A Kindle e-book spanned across both screens of the Microsoft Surface Duo 2

Studying Kindle books stays probably the greatest experiences on the Duo 2.

The Pocket Android app display an article on both screens of the Surface Duo 2 while it's held in portrait orientation.

Rotating the Duo 2 to portrait whereas each screens are open offers a big iPad Mini-size show for studying vertically scrolling articles or taking hand-written notes.

Up to now month-plus, I’ve used the Duo 2 for studying numerous books within the Kindle app, which takes benefit of the twin screens to offer a extra book-like expertise than some other system. I’ve managed my inbox and calendar on the similar time; I’ve edited Google Docs whereas maintaining with a Slack dialog. I’ve used the Slim Pen 2 to take hand-written notes in OneNote. I’ve learn numerous articles in my Pocket queue with the app stretched throughout each screens and the Duo 2 changed into a portrait orientation. I’ve watched a lot video spanned throughout each screens that I do not even discover the slight hole anymore. There’s one thing undeniably satisfying about finishing a process on the Duo 2 after which folding it closed like a guide and slipping it into my pocket.

The Duo 2 has not changed my main smartphone as a result of I exploit them for various duties: messaging, calls, photographs, sensible house management, music, and cell funds on my iPhone; studying, multitasking, note-taking, and YouTube on the Duo 2. I’ve but to truly take a name on the Duo 2 as a result of, except you employ wi-fi earbuds, it is horribly awkward to take action. Principally, I’ve used the Duo 2 precisely how I’d use an iPad Mini, besides it folds in half and matches in my pocket. It is not even correct to name this system a “telephone” based mostly on how I exploit it. (Microsoft tried to place the unique Floor Duo as one thing apart from a telephone at its launch however moved away from that advertising with the Duo 2.)

Microsoft has made the Duo 2’s digicam app quicker and extra responsive, however I’ve by no means used it for taking photographs. It is simply too awkward for taking photographs, and I’ve my iPhone for that anyway. The truth is, I would favor it if the ungainly rear hump and its digicam have been gone fully and the Duo 2 maintained the sleeker strains and talent to fold flat in opposition to itself that the first Duo had.

Except for being an ungainly digicam, there are different issues in regards to the Duo 2’s design that make it difficult to make use of as a main telephone. There is no fast technique to examine notifications or do one thing one-handed – you have to open up the system to make use of it. (The latest addition of third-party chat app notifications to the “hinge show” within the June replace doesn’t change this reality.) It’s a way more intentional system than slab telephones that may be simply unlocked and used one-handed while you need. to kill a while in line on the grocery retailer. Samsung’s Z Fold 3 is a significantly better single system to interchange each a telephone and a pill just because you possibly can nonetheless use it when it is folded closed.

A black Surface Duo 2 with the Surface Pen bumper cover attached.

The Duo 2’s type issue makes it tough to guard from harm. I’ve resorted to utilizing the Floor Pen cowl bumper case and a vinyl pores and skin, however I nonetheless deal with it with child gloves (not pictured).

The Duo 2 can be removed from a sturdy system. Although I have not had something break within the month-plus I have been utilizing it once more, it lacks each water and dirt resistance, so you do not need to get it moist. Its design makes it extraordinarily onerous to place a case on and preserve the flexibleness of the hinge. (I’ve resorted to Microsoft’s Floor Pen charging cowl and bumper together with a Dbrand pores and skin.) Although it is folded closed after I’m not utilizing it, it is not one thing I would just toss in a pocket with keys and free change for concern one thing will get jammed within the hinge.

The software program additionally has loads of room for enchancment. Except for the Kindle app and Google Play Books, the one apps that may actually work properly spanned throughout each screens are made by Microsoft, even even supposing the Duo 2 has been in the marketplace for eight months now. There are nonetheless instances when an app or hyperlink opens on the alternative display screen from what I am anticipating or a gesture to full-screen an app fails. Pen enter in something apart from Microsoft’s personal apps remains to be awful. I do not assume I’ve ever really used the drag-and-drop function as a result of it is supported in so few apps that it is not price remembering it exists.

It is potential that issues will get higher with the forthcoming Android 12L replacewhich is designed to enhance the experiences on folding gadgets just like the Duo 2 and Fold 3. However I think that, even after that replace, I’ll nonetheless use most apps on a single display screen.

All of that’s to say that, regardless of the updates and bug fixes, the Duo 2 remains to be not going to be a telephone for everybody and even most individuals. It is best suited as a secondary system for particular duties, very similar to how an iPad or pill is secondary to your smartphone. Even with the latest value minimize, it is nonetheless dearer than an iPad or different small pill. It is solely very best for many who will respect the power to take it on the go extra locations, even when they’re already carrying one other telephone of their different pocket.

A black Microsoft Surface Duo 2 closed and sitting on a placemat.

Now that lots of the bugs and points with the software program have been resolved, the Duo 2 comes nearer to fulfilling the dream of the Microsoft Courier idea from 2009.

Rumors have it that Microsoft will not be launching a Duo 3 this 12 months, as a substitute holding it for 2023. That might give it extra time to iron out points and keep away from the bug-filled launches that plagued each the unique Duo and the Duo 2. Microsoft may additionally deal with the facets of the Duo design that make it tough to make use of as a main telephone (a touchscreen on the surface would go a great distance right here). Maybe it might probably work out a technique to connect and cost the pen with out resorting to a goofy and costly add-on case. A latest patent submitting from the corporate imagines a Duo-like system that makes use of a single panel that may fold 360 levels as a substitute of two discrete screens connected by a hinge. I am undecided what drawback that may resolve apart from eliminating the hole between the screens while you’re watching video, however it could undoubtedly look cool.

Both method, if Microsoft stays dedicated to the Duo type issue and continues to iterate on it, I will be watching. The Duo 2 has gone from one of the crucial problematic gadgets I’ve reviewed to certainly one of my favorites, and I am curious to see the place Microsoft takes it subsequent. Within the meantime, I’ve bought one other guide to complete studying.

Images by Dan Seifert / The Verge

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