Microsoft Surface Duo: Microsoft's folding smartphone is a bit like a Nintendo DS

Microsoft Surface Duo: Microsoft's folding smartphone is a bit like a Nintendo DS
(Image credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft is officially back in the smartphone business – and not only that, it has jumped aboard the foldable camera phone bandwagon by announcing the Microsoft Surface Duo. 

Unveiled at a press event in New York, the Microsoft Surface Duo will feature an Android operating system – as is only sensible, though still somewhat surprising given Microsoft's persistent attempts to make Windows Mobile OS a thing. 

• Read more: Best camera phones (opens in new tab)

"This product brings together the absolute best of Microsoft, and we're partnering with Google to bring the absolute best of Android in one product," said Microsoft Product Chief, Panos Panay (thanks, CNet (opens in new tab)). "This is industry pushing technology."

Interestingly, Microsoft distinctly considers the Duo to be part of the Surface family – which is to say that it isn't strictly a smartphone. "Make no mistake, this product is a Surface," Panay noted. 

And the Duo isn't strictly a folding device, either – not in the sense that the Samsung Galaxy Fold (opens in new tab) is, anyway. Where folding phones such as the Galaxy feature a single, seamless screen (the cause of Samsung's many miseries), the Surface Duo features separate dual screens, albeit in close proximity. 

Given that the Samsung has yet to pass any sustained durability tests (having spectacularly failed to last longer than a day without the screen breaking in its first go-around), we suspect that Microsoft made the right call. 

Very little else is known about the Microsoft Surface Duo, though we do know that it features a single rear (selfie) camera – there appears to be no front facing primary camera at all. 

The Microsoft Surface Duo only has a single camera, situated in the rear 'selfie' location

The Microsoft Surface Duo only has a single camera, situated in the rear 'selfie' location (Image credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft's presentation goes to great lengths to showcase the two screens being used independently, rather than as a single seamless tablet screen. It depicted one screen as a display and the other as a keyboard, for inputting text, or as a virtual joypad for playing Xbox games. Stylus input on one screen was also shown.

In this sense, Microsoft seems to be pitching the Duo's functionality as similar to the Nintendo DS. It seems to consider the two screens serving separate purposes, rather than combining to form a single larger display. It will be interesting to see whether this, or Samsung's approach, sees greater success when it launches in holiday 2020.

Read more: 

Samsung Galaxy Fold (opens in new tab) is finally available… and no longer breakable?
The best camera phone (opens in new tab) in 2019: which is the best smartphone for photography?
The best tablets (opens in new tab) for photo editing and photographers in 2019

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The editor of Digital Camera World, James has 21 years experience as a magazine and web journalist and started working in the photographic industry in 2014 (as an assistant to Damian McGillicuddy, who succeeded David Bailey as Principal Photographer for Olympus). In this time he shot for clients as diverse as Aston Martin Racing, Elinchrom and L'Oréal, in addition to shooting campaigns and product testing for Olympus, and providing training for professionals. This has led him to being a go-to expert for camera and lens reviews, photographic and lighting tutorials, as well as industry analysis, news and rumors for publications such as Digital Camera Magazine (opens in new tab)PhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine (opens in new tab)N-Photo: The Nikon Magazine (opens in new tab)Digital Photographer (opens in new tab) and Professional Imagemaker, as well as hosting workshops and demonstrations at The Photography Show (opens in new tab). An Olympus and Canon shooter, he has a wealth of knowledge on cameras of all makes – and a fondness for vintage lenses and instant cameras.