Microsoft's Surface Duo is a foldable phone in all but name

Surface Duo
(Image credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft revealed a steady stream of new Surface devices at its October launch event, but none were quite as eye-catching as the Surface Duo.

Unveiled as the final announcement of the evening, it's a product that few of us saw coming – even though the mobile rumor mill has, in many ways, fantasized about it for years.

But first things first.

The Surface Duo is a foldable device in the same mould as the Samsung Galaxy Fold. It features two 5.6-inch displays – protected by Gorilla Glass – joined by a central hinge that allows it to morph into an 8.3-inch tablet.

It runs a customized version of Android that borrows heavily from Windows 10X, the new version of Windows 10 that Microsoft designed specifically as an OS for dual-screen devices. 

Among other things, Windows 10X allows the Surface Duo to run two apps concurrently on each display.  Or, in landscape mode, you can use the Duo's secondary display as a keyboard for productivity – or a controller for gaming.

That Android kernel is vital, though, as it means the Duo can download apps from the Play Store – lack of app availability having plagued Microsoft's Windows Phone mobile OS during its short life.

The Surface Duo's biggest feature might be its simplest

Yet while the Surface Duo sounds more than capable as small form factor 2-in-1, its most notable feature might be the old school ability to make phone calls.

This can't help but bring to mind past rumors surrounding a mysterious 'Surface Phone'  device – that have populated the internet with gusto for some time – though Microsoft isn't keen on the moniker, judging by the Duo's introduction.

However, if it is indeed powered by a Snapdragon 855 processor – the Qualcomm system-on-a-chip that powers many of this year's best smartphones – and features a camera that allows you feed your Instagram, it may be as close as we ever get to such a product.

With the Surface Duo not slated to be released until "holidays 2020", we've got plenty of time to adjust to the name.

Microsoft, too, has plenty of time to tweak the device, so remember that what we saw on-stage was still very much a prototype.

This means the Duo's exact specs and features are still up in the air, and pricing hasn't been confirmed, either – though it's safe to say the Duo is unlikely to come cheaply.

James Laird

A technology journalist with nearly 10 years of experience, James is the former News and Features Editor at Trusted Reviews, and has also served as regional Editor of Lifehacker. His articles have been spotted on sites ranging from The Sun to InStyle, but his true love is shiny things and the story behind them. An avid golfer in his spare time, you'll also regularly catch him hovering over the BBQ listening to Pearl Jam.