Microsoft Surface Duo: Rethinking the Smartphone



I’ve been using the Microsoft SurfaceDuo for over a week now, and it is my new favorite smartphone.

Optimized more for business than for consumer use, it isn’t for everyone. But for the way I use my smartphone, it is a better device for me. Let me walk you through why, and we’ll close with my product of the week — the new Nvidia RTX 30 card that may make you look better on your next Zoom call.

Spinning Back to a Business Focus

I was one of the last of the BlackBerry users and only recently gave up the latest BlackBerry phone because it was just too far out of date. While I’m still missing the keyboard a bit, what I really miss was the business focus of the device.

When the market pivoted from phones like the Palm, Microsoft, and Research In Motion (BlackBerry) devices, to the Android and iOS devices, we lost something. Mostly we lost a lot of time. We should have been focusing on work instead of distractions; and while streamed content is fun, it tends to consume our resources, i.e. time and money. At the same time, the old business standard arguably was more focused on helping us make more money and advance in our careers.

To me, and I realize that I’m not in the majority here, it is more important to focus on increasing my income and productivity than it is to focus on increasing my distractions and eating up both my free and work time.

I think Microsoft had it right when they ran this ad campaign for their old Microsoft phone, arguing that folks should take their nose out of their phones and experience life:

New Ways of Doing Things

The Microsoft Surface Duo is a very different phone, which means it has a learning curve. For instance, to use it as a phone, you need to flip it open, pivot the screen around to the back, and put the screen with the camera above it next to your ear (and this also automatically answers the phone).

This configuration makes the device much better when you are using earbuds or one of the few Android smartwatches, like the latest generation Diesel smartwatch. It runs Android with a Microsoft UI, and it does take some retraining. Learning the unique gestures makes it a ton more fun to use, but at first, it’s a little frustrating because it’s different.

Now, what this device is particularly good at is reading books, doing email, and Microsoft Teams calls. In all three cases, the foldable screen makes the device substantially more efficient.

For reading books: You get two pages (when you put it in two-page mode), which makes it feel pretty close to a small paperback.

For email: You get the list of messages on one screen and what is in the highlighted message on the other. This makes going through email far more efficient.

For Microsoft Teams: You get the video conference on one screen and another function on the other screen, like the chat window, or PowerPoint; allowing you to work with the phone similarly to how you likely work with your personal computer.

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