Microsoft is back making smartphones regularly again, but it’s taking a different approach to many other companies. Despite running Android, the Surface Duo includes two separate displays that can fold in on each other. This is in stark contrast to the likes of Samsung, Huawei and Oppo, the other leading foldable manufacturers right now.
However, Microsoft still has a long way to go to convince people that the Surface Duo is the future of foldables. A big delay between the announcement and release of the original model left it feeling outdated and overpriced. 2021’s second attempt didn’t get any more affordable, although subsequent software updates have helped significantly improve the user experience.
From a hardware perspective, it’s also clear that Microsoft is moving in the right direction. However, from the latest rumours, it looks like we’ll still be waiting a while for the Duo 3. Here’s everything you need to know.
When will the Surface Duo 3 be released?
Judging purely from the first two generations, it would appear that Microsoft has adopted an annual release cycle:
Surface Duo – September 2020 (US), February 2021 (UK, Canada, France, Germany), April 2021 (nine other countries)
Surface Duo 2 – October 2021 (UK, US, France, Germany, Australia, Canada)
The staggered release of the original model is unlikely to be repeated, but it looks like there’ll be no Surface Duo 3 in 2022. That’s what Zac Bowden said in a February 2022 Windows Central YouTube video, where he indicated Microsoft had been green-lit for at least three generations. Ewan Spence at Forbes agrees, believing the company will will adopt a two-year update cycle for the Duo.
Microsoft has now confirmed an event for 12 October, but Bowden has reiterated that the Duo 3 isn’t expected to be among the announcements:
It’s difficult to predict a more specific release date for the Duo 2 at this stage, but Microsoft tends to reserve its big hardware releases for later in the year. A minor refresh could see a Spring announcement, but September/October 2023 feels like the most likely launch window.
How much will the Surface Duo 3 cost?
Pricing is usually one of the last product details to be revealed, so it’s no surprise that the cost of the Duo 3 remains a mystery. However, we can still use the pricing of the first two generations as a rough guide:
Surface Duo (128GB) – £1,349/US$1,399.99
Surface Duo (256GB) – £1,449/US$1,499.99
Surface Duo 2 (128GB) – £1,349/$1,499
Surface Duo 2 (256GB) – £1,429/$1,599.99
Surface Duo 2 (512GB, black only) – £1,589/$1,799.99
Around the same RRP is most likely, with a price increase only if there are some serious upgrades on the new model. However, Microsoft may decide to drop the price slightly, especially if the upgrades are minor. It’d be great to see the Duo 3 start at the same price as the Duo 2 currently sells for – $999.99/£849.
As Windows Central reported, a mid-range version of the Duo 2 was considered and even briefly listed on eBay. It’d be great to see a more affordable version of the Duo 3 launch alongside the premium model, but this remains unlikely to happen.
Surface Duo 3 design and new feature rumours
As you might expect at this early stage, concrete Surface Duo 3 rumours are thin on the ground.
In a Windows Central YouTube video from February 2022, Zac Bowden hints that slimmer bezels and wireless charging are likely. In the same video, colleague Daniel Rubino suggested Microsoft waiting longer between generations could allow it to reduce the size of the camera bump. This, in turn, would make it easier for Qi wireless charging to be added.
So far, the only other source of information is a listing on Specs Tech claiming to be the Duo 3. It’s not clear where the site found this information and it doesn’t have much of a track record for leaks. However, on the surface, everything listed seems to make sense.
First up, it’ll supposedly be running
Android 12 out of the box. Even if Google releases Android 13 before the next Duo is announced, Microsoft hardware is unlikely to be among the early adopters. With the Duo 2 still on Android 11 and original Duo stuck on Android 10, this feels like a pretty safe bet.
Hopefully, this is based on Android 12L. Google has begun rolling out a version of Android with specific features for large screens and foldables, which should help make them feel more optimised and intuitive. Of course, Microsoft will probably continue with its themed launcher, which should include some Duo-specific tweaks.
Another spec which makes sense is using Qualcomm’s latest flagship processor under the hood. This is listed as the Snapdragon 898 by Specs Tech, although we now know this is called the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1. Shifting to a 4nm chip with a new architecture should yield a useful performance boost, so this also seems likely. However, it may use the new Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 or its successor by the time a launch takes place.
According to Specs Tech, Microsoft will also increase the Duo 3’s total screen size to 8.5in. This is up from 8.3in on the Duo 2, and suggests each display will be 5.9in instead of 5.8in. It’s not clear if this will be achieved within the same total footprint (by slimming the bezels) and there’s no mention of resolution or refresh rate.
The cameras are also supposedly set for an upgrade. Specs Tech suggests Microsoft will retain the triple rear camera array and 16Mp ultrawide lens, but upgrade the wide and telephoto to also be 16Mp. However, as we’ve seen in the past, there’s no guarantee this will improve image quality. The listing doesn’t mention if there will be any changes to the 12Mp front-facing camera.
Both the other specs mentioned are identical to the Surface Duo 2. The same 8GB of RAM will supposedly be available, as well as 128-, 256- or 512GB of internal storage.
If there are no other surprises, the device would represent an iterative update. That makes sense, as the hardware is already excellent.
There’s also a slim chance we’ll see a more affordable version of the Duo 3, which potentially launches alongside the flagship model. In July 2022, Windows Central reported on an eBay listing for what was described as a Surface Duo 2 “dev unit”. Barely any details were provided, but the images show a device with a smaller camera bump, matte finish and more rounded corners:
eBay via Windows Central
This project appears to have been cancelled, but Microsoft may return to the idea of a mid-range Surface Duo at some point.
But could Microsoft opt for a completely different design for the Duo 3? As Twitter leaker WalkingCat first spotted, the company has applied to patent a new foldable which folds outwards instead of inwards:
This would reduce or potentially eliminate the gap between the two displays. News emerged in the same week LG teases new display tech that looks very similar, so the two companies could be working together on an upcoming device.
But if the dual-screen design isn’t retained, Microsoft probably won’t call it a Duo. Perhaps the Surface Neo could be reborn?
We’ll update this article once more information about the Surface Duo 2 comes to light. In the meantime, you may also be interested in the upcoming Surface Laptop 5.
As the resident expert on Windows, Senior Staff Writer Anyron’s main focus is PCs and laptops. Much of the rest of his time is split between smartphones, tablets and audio, with a particular focus on Android devices.