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 listing of bugs and points that made it very irritating to make use of, has bucked that pattern. In reality, the Duo 2 has improved a lot that it is now certainly one of 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 have forgotten, the Floor Duo 2 is a folding telephone with two huge 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 hooked up collectively and operating the identical software program. You’ll be able to simply run two apps aspect by aspect as for those who had been holding two telephones on the identical 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 may 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 conveyable digital pocket book that may work simply as effectively for note-taking, studying an e book, or drafting an electronic mail.

After I reviewed the Floor Duo 2 final 12 months, none of its intelligent design or book-like options mattered. The machine 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 might solely enchantment to essentially the most die-hard Microsoft model stooges prepared to place up with its many faults so they might have the never-launched Courier machine they dreamed about over a decade in the past.

The Floor Duo 2 would not actually work effectively as a telephone, however could be a very helpful pocket pc.

However, remarkably, Microsoft has not given up on the Duo 2. In reality, the corporate has constantly issued software program updates on a month-to-month foundation to handle the various issues the Duo 2 had at launch. A few of these updates consisted of straightforward 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 had been prevalent at launch and made it very tough 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 latest value minimize (the telephone can now be had for $ 1,000, which continues to be costly however considerably lower than its launch value) and a beneficiant trade-in supply and purchased certainly one of my very own. The purpose was to see if I might get a greater thought of ​​what Microsoft is attempting to perform with this machine when show-stopping bugs aren’t standing in its method.

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

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.

Up to now month-plus, I’ve used the Duo 2 for studying a number of books within the Kindle app, which takes benefit of the twin screens to offer a extra book-like expertise than some other machine. I’ve managed my inbox and calendar on the identical 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 changed into 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 guide 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, photographs, sensible residence 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 is not even correct to name this machine a “telephone” primarily based on how I take advantage of it. (Microsoft tried to place the unique Floor Duo as one thing apart from a telephone 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 reality, I might favor it if the ungainly rear hump and its digital camera had been gone completely and the Duo 2 maintained the sleeker strains and talent to fold flat in opposition to itself that the first Duo had.

Other than being a clumsy digital camera, there are different issues concerning the Duo 2’s design that make it difficult to make use of as a main telephone. There isn’t any fast option to examine notifications or do one thing one-handed – you have to open up the machine 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 machine than slab telephones that may be simply unlocked and used one-handed once you need. to kill a while in line on the grocery retailer. Samsung’s Z Fold 3 is a significantly better single machine to exchange 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 kind 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 also be removed from a sturdy machine. 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 onerous to place a case on and keep the pliability 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 isn’t one thing I’d simply 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 effectively spanned throughout each screens are made by Microsoft, even even though the Duo 2 has been available on the market for eight months now. There are nonetheless instances when an app or hyperlink opens on the alternative display screen from what I am anticipating or a gesture to full-screen an app fails. Pen enter in something apart from Microsoft’s personal apps continues to be awful. I do not assume I’ve ever really used the drag-and-drop function as a result of it is supported in so few apps that it isn’t value 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 screen.

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 telephone for everybody and even most individuals. It is best suited as a secondary machine for particular duties, very similar to how an iPad or pill is secondary to your smartphone. Even with the latest value minimize, it is nonetheless costlier than an iPad or different small pill. It is solely excellent for many 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 12 months, 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 tackle the facets of the Duo design that make it tough to make use of as a main telephone (a touchscreen on the surface would go a good distance right here). Maybe it may work out a option to connect and cost the pen with out resorting to a goofy and costly add-on case. A latest patent submitting from the corporate imagines a Duo-like machine that makes use of a single panel that may fold 360 levels as a substitute of two discrete screens hooked up by a hinge. I am unsure what downside that may resolve apart from eliminating the hole between the screens once you’re watching video, however it could positively look cool.

Both method, if Microsoft stays dedicated to the Duo kind 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 certainly one of 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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