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

It is exceedingly uncommon {that a} product truly 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 checklist of bugs and points that made it very irritating to make use of, has bucked that development. The truth is, the Duo 2 has improved a lot that it is now one among my favourite cell gadgets, even when it is nonetheless bizarre and distinctive sufficient that I am unable to precisely advocate it to most individuals.

In case you’ve got forgotten, the Floor Duo 2 is a folding telephone with two large 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 massive telephones connected collectively and operating the identical software program. You’ll be able to simply run two apps aspect by aspect as should you had 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 telephone are skinny sufficient that it might probably fold collectively like a ebook and match right into a pocket with relative ease. Pair it with Microsoft’s Floor Slim Pen 2and you’ve got a conveyable digital pocket book that may work simply as properly for note-taking, studying an book, or drafting an electronic mail.

After I reviewed the Floor Duo 2 final yr, 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 in the end disappointing. It was a $ 1,500 novelty that would solely attraction to probably the most die-hard Microsoft model stooges keen to place up with its many faults so they may have the never-launched Courier system they dreamed about over a decade in the past.

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

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 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 current June replace, included extra important corrections and added new options. Crucially, Microsoft has addressed the contact latency issues that had been prevalent at launch and made it very troublesome 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 current value lower (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 acquired one among my very own. The aim 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 means.

And reader, I can lastly say I get it. The Duo 2 is probably the most distinctive cell system I’ve used, permitting me to do issues I simply can’t do with a conventional smartphone. It additionally does sure issues, resembling multitasking and studying ebooks, higher than the Z Fold 3’s single massive 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 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 supplies a big iPad Mini-size show for studying vertically scrolling articles or taking hand-written notes.

Previously month-plus, I’ve used the Duo 2 for studying plenty of books within the Kindle app, which takes benefit of the twin screens to offer a extra book-like expertise than another 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 job on the Duo 2 after which folding it closed like a ebook and slipping it into my pocket.

The Duo 2 has not changed my main smartphone as a result of I take advantage of them for various duties: messaging, calls, images, sensible house management, music, and cell 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. Largely, 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 isn’t even correct to name this system a “telephone” primarily based on how I take advantage of it. (Microsoft tried to place the unique Floor Duo as one thing aside from a telephone at its launch however moved away from that advertising and marketing with the Duo 2.)

Microsoft has made the Duo 2’s digicam app sooner and extra responsive, however I’ve by no means used it for taking images. It is simply too awkward for taking images, and I’ve my iPhone for that anyway. The truth is, I would want it if the ungainly rear hump and its digicam had been gone totally and the Duo 2 maintained the sleeker traces and talent to fold flat towards itself that the first Duo had.

Other than being an ungainly digicam, there are different issues concerning the Duo 2’s design that make it difficult to make use of as a main telephone. There is no fast solution to test notifications or do one thing one-handed – you have to open up the system to make use of it. (The current 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 slab 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 significantly better single system to switch each a telephone 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 troublesome 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 also be removed from a sturdy system. Although I have never 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 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.) Despite the fact that it is folded closed once I’m not utilizing it, it isn’t one thing I would just toss in a pocket with keys and unfastened change for concern one thing will get jammed within the hinge.

The software program additionally has loads of room for enchancment. Other than 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 occasions when an app or hyperlink opens on the other 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 remains to be awful. I do not suppose I’ve ever truly used the drag-and-drop function as a result of it is supported in so few apps that it isn’t 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.

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 like how an iPad or pill is secondary to your smartphone. Even with the current value lower, it is nonetheless costlier than an iPad or different small pill. It is solely supreme for individuals who will recognize the flexibility 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 most 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 yr, 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 might additionally handle the features of the Duo design that make it troublesome to make use of as a main telephone (a touchscreen on the skin would go a good distance right here). Maybe it might probably work out a solution to connect and cost the pen with out resorting to a goofy and costly add-on case. A current 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 will resolve aside from eliminating the hole between the screens if you’re watching video, however it might undoubtedly look cool.

Both means, 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 vital problematic gadgets I’ve reviewed to one among my favorites, and I am curious to see the place Microsoft takes it subsequent. Within the meantime, I’ve obtained one other ebook to complete studying.

Pictures by Dan Seifert / The Verge

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