Microsoft's Surface Duo dual-screen Android device takes another big step forwards

Microsoft looks set to release the dual-screen Surface Duo sooner rather than later.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Microsoft's dual-screen Android device is edging closer to launch, with details of the novel 'phablet' appearing on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) website. 

While the FCC application doesn't reveal much new about the Surface Duo, the application does suggest Microsoft is on target to release the device ahead of its original target of holiday 2020.

First spotted by Droidlife, Microsoft describes the Surface Duo in documents submitted to the FCC merely as a "phablet device" with the "model number 1930". While it's not confirmed that it is the Surface Duo, details in the application don't lead to any other conclusion unless Microsoft has another Android dual-screen smartphone in the works. 

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The model 1930 phablet is running on Android 10 and does have two screens. One of the documents notes that there are "four configurations with both screens: folded and closed/open 90 degrees/flat 180 degrees/folded and open". Besides that, the device is also confirmed to have LTE, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and NFC. 

The documents don't give much else away about Microsoft's first smartphone since it abandoned its Nokia Lumia Windows Phone devices. 

In May, Windows Central reported that the Surface Duo will run on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 — the same processor Samsung used in its $2,000 Galaxy Fold. It will also come with 6GB of RAM with either 64GB or 256GB of storage and features an 11-megapixel camera. 

The device sports two separate 5.6-inch AMOLED displays connected by Microsoft-designed hinges and opens to become an 8.3-inch display phone-tablet. That design means no expensive foldable displays, but a dual screen Android smartphone that allows developers to deliver new experiences on a mobile device. 

It's also tipped to feature one USB-C port, a nanoSIM slot, a 3,450mAh battery and will support the Surface Pen. Microsoft is likely to pre-install the Surface Duo with the same Office Mobile app bundle that shipped with Galaxy Note 10 phones last year. 

As a smartphone, the Surface Duo has one design quirk: there's no outward-facing screen. So to handle incoming messages, alerts and calls, Microsoft has built a "peek" feature that lets users see who's calling by half opening the device.  

Microsoft also published an interview with a developer who has been working on Duo apps. His verdict so far on the dual-screen concept is positive: "In context of a productivity app, two separated screens help to reduce the amount of hard context (aka app) switches on "standard" phones. For example, you can have a call on the left side and take some meeting notes on the right side. A dual-screen device could, in my opinion, help to be more focused on your current task," he said.

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Microsoft announced the Surface Duo alongside the Surface Neo last October, its Windows10X foldable device, but the Neo appears to be delayed. 

The Surface Neo fits within a bigger picture around Windows 10X. As ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley reported this week, this variant of Windows 10 was meant to ship first on dual-screen devices like the Neo. 

However, Microsoft looks set to release Windows 10X for single-screen devices first, targeting businesses and education customers in the spring of 2021. The following spring, it will roll out Windows 10X for more single-screen and dual-screen devices. 

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