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 record of bugs and points that made it very irritating to make use of, has bucked that pattern. In actual fact, the Duo 2 has improved a lot that it is now one in all my favourite cellular 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 cellphone with two massive screens joined by a hinge. In contrast to 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 hooked up collectively and operating the identical software program. You possibly can simply run two apps facet by facet as in the event you have been holding two telephones on the similar time, or you may span a single app throughout each screens to imitate a small pill. Each halves of the cellphone are skinny sufficient that it might 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 nicely for note-taking, studying an book, or drafting an e mail.

After 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 sort on, irritating to make use of, and in the end disappointing. It was a $ 1,500 novelty that would solely attraction to probably 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.

A person writing on the Surface Duo 2's left screen with the Microsoft Surface Slim Pen 2 while reading a website displayed on the right screen.

The Floor Duo 2 does not actually work nicely as a cellphone, however generally is a very helpful pocket laptop.

However, remarkably, Microsoft has not given up on the Duo 2. In actual fact, the corporate has constantly issued software program updates on a month-to-month foundation to handle the numerous 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 sort on the Duo 2’s digital keyboard – and even navigate the interface.

Figuring out that Microsoft has been attending to lots of my authentic complaints with the Duo 2, I took benefit of a latest worth minimize (the cellphone can now be had for $ 1,000, which continues to be costly however considerably lower than its launch worth) and a beneficiant trade-in provide and purchased one in all my very own. The purpose was to see if I might get a greater concept of ​​what Microsoft is making an attempt to perform with this system when show-stopping bugs aren’t standing in its approach.

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

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

Studying Kindle books stays top-of-the-line experiences on the Duo 2.

The Pocket Android app displays 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 supplies 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 supply a extra book-like expertise than every 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 became 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 activity 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 major smartphone as a result of I take advantage of them for various duties: messaging, calls, photographs, good dwelling management, music, and cellular funds on my iPhone; studying, multitasking, note-taking, and YouTube on the Duo 2. I’ve but to really 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 would use an iPad Mini, besides it folds in half and matches in my pocket. It is not even correct to name this system a “cellphone” primarily based on how I take advantage of it. (Microsoft tried to place the unique Floor Duo as one thing aside from a cellphone at its launch however moved away from that advertising with the Duo 2.)

Microsoft has made the Duo 2’s digital camera 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. In actual fact, I might choose it if the ungainly rear hump and its digital camera have been gone completely and the Duo 2 maintained the sleeker traces and talent to fold flat towards itself that the first Duo had.

Except for being a clumsy digital camera, there are different issues in regards to the Duo 2’s design that make it difficult to make use of as a major cellphone. There isn’t any fast strategy to verify 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 truth.) It’s a way more intentional system than weak telephones that may be simply unlocked and used one-handed if you need to kill a while in line on the grocery retailer. Samsung’s Z Fold 3 is a a lot better single system to switch each a cellphone and a pill just because you may 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 laborious to place a case on and keep the flexibleness of the hinge. (I’ve resorted to Microsoft’s Floor Pen charging cowl and bumper together with a Dbrand pores and skin.) Regardless that 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 nicely 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 occasions when an app or hyperlink opens on the alternative display from what I am anticipating or a gesture to full-screen an app fails. Pen enter in something aside from Microsoft’s personal apps continues to be awful. I do not assume I’ve ever really used the drag-and-drop characteristic as a result of it is supported in so few apps that it is not value remembering it exists.

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

All of that’s to say that, regardless of the updates and bug fixes, the Duo 2 continues to be not going to be a cellphone 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 worth minimize, it is nonetheless costlier than an iPad or different small pill. It is solely very best for individuals who will respect the power to take it on the go extra locations, even when they’re already carrying one other cellphone 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 an alternative holding it for 2023. That will 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 might additionally deal with the features of the Duo design that make it tough to make use of as a major cellphone (a touchscreen on the surface would go a good distance right here). Maybe it might work out a strategy to connect and cost the pen with out resorting to a goofy and costly add-on case. AND latest patent submitting from the corporate imagines a Duo-like system that makes use of a single panel that may fold 360 levels as an alternative of two discrete screens hooked up by a hinge. I am unsure what drawback that will resolve aside from eliminating the hole between the screens if you’re watching video, however it might positively look cool.

Both approach, 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 one in all my favorites, and I am curious to see the place Microsoft takes it subsequent. Within the meantime, I’ve obtained one other guide to complete studying.

Pictures by Dan Seifert / The Verge

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