In its infancy, the tech family believed the year to be the one where foldable phones will make a splash. Although we witnessed the debut of Samsung Galaxy Fold and Huawei Mate X, the said splash was amiss. Well, here we are at the outset of Techtober and Microsoft has unveiled the Surface Duo, a dual-screen phone. But, the Redmond-based company doesn’t consider it a smartphone. It’s called a Surface product, instead.
Alright, they want it to be treated as a new product range and we get it considering their previous attempt at smartphones. Nonetheless, we don’t want to take it at face value. So, here’s how we believe the Microsoft Surface Duo differentiates it from the foldable peers.
Microsoft Surface Duo vs Foldable Phones
1) Folding mechanism
Samsung’s implementation is like a book. You open the Galaxy Fold to use the large canvas. And whilst closed, the big screen is protected within and you get to use a small screen up top. But in this form, there is a gap between the top and bottom shells through which scratch and damage-inducing items could easily enter. Fold closes with a magnetic snap and can be unfolded with a little force.
On the flip-side, Mate X has an inward folding hinge. And in the unfurled state, you get a large screen real estate. When folded, the screen radius is similar to a phablet. And if it’s closed, you have to tap a button to open and doing so the hinge feels a tad resistant. Clearly, Huawei has opted for sturdiness here!
As the market was scratching their heads with the optimal folding implementation and plastic displays (since glass doesn’t fold, bummer!) Microsoft simply glued two screens together. From the demo, it looks easy to operate in terms of open and close. Surface Duo flaunts a clamshell design with a 360-degree hinge. In some sense, it joins the Dual Display fam including the likes of ZTE Axon M and LG G8X. It looks very svelte and a teaser video shows a woman using it in the folded form for a call. You can use it in the unfolded landscape orientation, hold it like a book, use it as a tiny laptop, fold it over and use it like a normal, single-screen phone, or place it up in a tent position for media streaming.
2) Looks and Durability
Galaxy Fold has a plastic display and the same has been a cause for the fiasco that shelved the phone for months since its debut. Even though the brand has tweaked the phone to address some of its durability concerns, still, we have some apprehension towards the build.
We are not confident about the Huawei’s approach either. The outward-facing screen is more probable to damages.
The latest entrant, however, seems more promising as the display remains enclosed whilst folded. Microsoft can use actual glass instead of plastic screens as it doesn’t need to fold. There is no screen on the outside. It has a pocketable footprint, forged from metal and polycarbonate. Glass is plastered on both sides giving a sleek and shiny appearance. It has a salient Surface Logo on the cover.
Fold sports a 7.3-inch QXGA+ (1,536 x 2,152) Dynamic AMOLED display with an aspect ratio of 4.2:3. This display christened Infinity Flex Display folds in half and you’ve got a 4.58-inch screen on the surface.
Speaking of surface, on Duo, you get two 5.6-inch panels and in an unfurled whole, it embellishes an 8.3-inch tablet. There is an apparent partition between the two displays. That said, Microsoft isn’t positioning it as a foldable phone. In no way, it transforms into one big screen like its counterparts. Satya Nadella emphasis that they are not entering an existing device category; rather, it’s trying to create a new one. One that bridges the gap in productivity.
You can use multiple apps on the two screens, dedicate the secondary screen as a game controller and keyboard, or drag app instances onto a separate screen, etc. Now, it all comes down to how smooth the transitions are and resource allocation. Even little things like how haptic friendly the keyboard is would make a major difference in the user experience.
Finally, the Mate X exhibits a notch-less 8-inch AMOLED screen, which gifts a better seamless distraction-free display. While folded, the cover display stretches to 6.6-inches in size with AMOLED quality and 1148 x 2480 pixel resolution. Fold it backward and you can use the active upper screen like a phone while the bottom one stays off.
One thing is the same for all the three – They offer a larger footprint for you to multitask and use different apps and instances on different screens by simple drag and drop.
Here’s a quick run down the spec sheet of both Huawei Mate X and Galaxy Fold:
Huawei Mate X vs Galaxy Fold Specifications
|Huawei Mate X
|2.6GHz 7nm Kirin 980 octa-core chipset
|2.84GHz 7nm Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 octa-core chipset
|512GB, Not expandable
|Android Pie-based EMUI
|Android Pie-based One UI
|4500mAh (no fast charging support)
|4380mAh (15W wired and wireless fast charging)
Since Microsoft Duo has a thin chassis, we are curious about the battery it will bear. It is reported to run on Snapdragon 855 SoC with Android 9 Pie on top. It appears to be a skinned iteration of the Android OS. We could anticipate a robust integration of core Microsoft apps like the office suite for example. They could learn from One UI’s finesse and polish with respect to Screen Continuity, Multi-resume, and Multi-display.
Microsoft has apparently worked closely with Google to optimize the software. The latest Android 10 already has an inherent support for the Foldable tech. So, we look forward to how this new partnership pans out.
Besides this, every other detail is kept under wraps. We still got no info on the cameras, battery size, memory configuration, support for 5G, etcetera. Wait, we also know it houses a USB-C socket.
5) Pricing and Availability
Samsung Galaxy Fold is priced in India at Rs. 1,64,999. Mate X is yet to retail and hence we have no word on the pricing. In similar veins, Microsoft Duo is projected for a late 2020 launch date. The brand was tight-lipped on Duo’s price also.
Developers can work on app-compatibility till then. We also desire for a refined and robust end product, unlike their competition. For now, we like this new take on the dual-screened display. And if everything works fine, we wouldn’t mind the wait.