Microsoft announced its new series of Surface devices on Wednesday, with a new Surface Laptop 3, the Surface Pro 7 and Surface Pro X. But the two devices that have generated a lot of hype and interest are the new dual-screen, foldable devices: the Surface Duo and the Surface Neo.
The Surface Duo will run a customised version of Android, and the Surface Neo will run Windows 10X and can function like a fully-ready workstation with keyboard and mouse support. So what exactly are the differences between the two devices? We take a look below:
Surface Duo, Surface Neo: Will they launch, what will be the price?
Microsoft is yet to specify the exact launch date, though we know they will be hitting the markets by fall of 2020. So expect the final versions of both Surface Duo and Surface Neo to be revealed by October this time next year, when Microsoft usually hosts its Surface event. There’s no word on the price either yet.
Surface Duo: Known specifications, features
The Surface Duo is being pitched as a ‘Surface’ device, but one that can also make phone calls and runs Android. No, it is not the Surface Phone, Microsoft is very clear on that. Panos Panay, the chief product officer of Microsoft made that clear in the presentation, that the Surface Duo is a ‘Surface’. Microsoft is not going to call this ‘foldable phone’.
The Surface Duo unfolds into a 8.3-inch display when you put the two screens together. Individually, each display is 5.6-inches in size and the device has a total thickness of 4.8-mm when it is unfolded. The two screens are held together by a 360-degree hinge.
The Wired reported that Surface Duo will be powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor, but that would make it quite dated by the time given it is the flagship processor for this year. Microsoft also confirmed that the Surface Duo has a fingerprint reader and a Type-C USB Port. Based on what the company showed, the Surface Duo can be used in a variety of modes, depending on user preference.
The other interesting bit about the Surface Duo is that it runs Android and not Windows 10. Why Android? As Panay told The Verge, that’s because they needed apps. “Because there’s hundreds of thousands of apps, and you want them. And [Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella] and I talked about it, and it’s about meeting our customers where they are, where they’re going to be. I don’t think the mobile application platform’s going anywhere anytime soon,” he told The Verge.
Another reason for Android is that Microsoft has not really tasted success in the mobile segment, with Windows Mobile never really taking off. Developers were far less enthusiastic about Windows Mobile, especially compared to Android and iOS. The developer community support is what helped Android and iOS cement their stronghold over the mobile operating system market and Microsoft knows that very well now. This is also why Surface Duo is on Android, the world’s most popular mobile operating system.
But this version of Android will be tweaked for the dual screens. It looks like the Surface Duo will be able to run two apps at the same time when unfolded. Or one could have one side of the screen occupied by one part of the app such as the Inbox on an email app, while the other screen will display the email thread. This is what Microsoft demonstrated on stage during the launch presentation, though of course the use cases could evolve more once the device is finalised for actual sales.
Surface Neo: Known specifications, features
The Surface Neo is also a dual-screen foldable device, but this one runs a more customised version of Windows 10 called Windows 10X. The two screens of Neo are 9-inches each and also connected by a 360-degree full-friction hinge. When completely unfolded, the Surface Neo turns into a 13-inch display comparable to many of the laptops or bigger tablets in the market. At its thinnest, the Surface Neo is 5.6mm when unfolded.
Microsoft says the Neo is designed for productivity and multi-tasking like an actual PC. While the Surface Neo will have a proper in-screen keyboard, Microsoft will also offer a separate removable Bluetooth keyboard, which can attach magnetically to the device. This is in contrast to the Surface Duo, which has no such accessories.
The Surface Neo will also be compatible with the Surface Pen and a Bluetooth mouse as well. These will further support the full PC-like experience. The Surface Pen will also attach magnetically to the device.
Microsoft has not specified the exact processor which will power Surface Neo, but it will be an Intel one. It could also come with onboard LTE, will have a USB Type-C port and Windows Hello facial IR.
Regarding Windows 10X, Microsoft says this is a version of Windows 10 designed to work on dual-screen PC and that it will be faster, along with support for multi-tasking. For instance Windows 10X will let users take notes on one screen, while having a separate file or app open on another as you can see in the photo below.
It will also come with advancements to the core technology of Windows in order to enable a smoother mobile use, and the software will try and optimise the battery life as well given there were will be two screens in use. Windows 10X will also be coming to devices from Asus, Dell, HP, and Lenovo, which will have dual-screens. The OS will come in the fall of 2020.