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original model left it feeling outdated and overpriced. 2021’s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, with a patchy software experience making it hard to justify.
Nonetheless, several key hardware upgrades show Microsoft is moving in the right direction. That makes the prospect of a third-gen Duo very exciting indeed – here’s what we know so far.
When will the Surface Duo 3 be released?
Judging by the first two generations, Microsoft appears to have adopted an annual update cycle for the Surface Duo. We’re not expecting the staggered release of the original model to be repeated:
- Surface Duo – September 2020 (US), February 2021 (UK, Canada, France, Germany), April 2021 (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland)
- Surface Duo 2 – October 2021 (UK, US, France, Germany, Australia, Canada)
However, according to
Windows Central, there may be no new Surface Duo this year. That’s what author Zac Bowden’s sources are saying, with Microsoft supposedly targeting a 2023 release instead. This is still apparently subject to change, but would give the company time to focus on the software experience.
Bowden has since appeared in a
Windows Central YouTube video, where he indicated Microsoft had been green-lit for at least three generations. That makes it highly likely we’ll see the Duo 3 at some point, although Bowden reiterated that it probably won’t be this year.
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 (in black only)
Microsoft may decide that it’s time to make the Duo 3 more affordable, especially if the hardware updates are relatively minor. Around the same RRP is most likely, with a price increase only if there are some serious upgrades on the new model.
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.
Windows Central article linked above doesn’t reveal much, but author Zac Bowden hinted that slimmer bezels and wireless charging are likely in a subsequent
YouTube video. 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 will be
Android 12L. Google is releasing a new version of Android specifically designed for tablets and foldables in 2022, 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 here, 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.
According to the website, 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.
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:
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.
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