Microsoft is back making smartphones regularly again, although it’s taken a different approach to any other company so far.
The Android-powered Surface Duo includes two separate smartphone displays that can fold in on each other, as opposed to the flip and book-style foldables we’ve seen elsewhere.
However, a big delay between the announcement and release of the original model left it feeling outdated and overpriced. 2021’s second attempt is a big step forward, but there are still significant software issues to overcome.
It’s hoped that these will be addressed on an upcoming Surface Duo 3, but Microsoft may end up ditching the dual-screen design altogether. Here’s everything you need to know.
When will the Surface Duo 3 be released?
With the original Surface Duo finally arriving in September 2020 and its successor in October 2021, you could be forgiven for thinking Microsoft had settled into an annual update cycle – as is the case with most phones.
However, there was no new Surface Duo in 2022, with Microsoft focusing on delivering several software updates to the Duo 2 instead. Ewan Spence at Forbes now believes there will be two years between generations.
But if the Windows Central report of its cancellation turns out to be true, author Zac Bowden says its book-style replacement is “unlikely to be ready in time for this fall”. That would raise the prospects of a 2024 release, instead of the 2023 one that was apparently originally planned.
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 – From $1,399/£1,349
- Surface Duo 2 – From $1,499/£1,349
The Duo 3 landing around the same price seems the most likely, but that could all change if the redesign rumours turn out to be true. Windows Central suggests the Duo 3 will be scrapped in favour of a book-style design similar to the Galaxy Z Fold 4, which could push the price even higher.
Author Zac Bowden also says the company is “eager to expand its line of Android smartphone offerings”, which could include a more affordable foldable or regular smartphone. An earlier Windows Central article from 2022 reported that a mid-range version of the Duo 2 was considered and even briefly listed on eBay.
What to expect from the Surface Duo 3
The biggest news so far comes from Windows Central‘s Zac Bowden, who says Microsoft has scrapped plans to bring the Surface Duo 3 to market. He expects it to be replaced with a book-style foldable, similar to the Galaxy Z Fold 4, Vivo X Fold and Honor Magic Vs.
Rather that the current dual-screen design, this would mean a regular-sized external phone display which opens to reveal a small tablet inside. It could technically still be marketed as a Surface Duo, but a name change would be likely.
Usually we’d take news like this with a pinch of salt, but Bowden has such a strong track record for Surface news, it’s quite possible this will end up happening.
No specs have been revealed at this stage, but the article indicates earlier patents such as the one below won’t become the final product:
The device is still expected to run Android, and this should hopefully be at least Android 13 by the time it launches. But Zac Bowden also says Microsoft is trying to further differentiate its version of Android from the one found other phones.
A custom Microsoft launcher is already pre-installed on both generations of the Surface Duo, but the company is wants to deliver an Apple-style ecosystem experience between Microsoft phones and Windows 11 devices. There may even be new regular smartphones to help support that.
In that same Windows Central article, Bowden says Microsoft had already finalised a dual-screen Surface Duo 3 before scrapping it. It would’ve apparently featured upgrades including taller displays with slimmer bezels and wireless charging, making it a significant improvement on the Duo 2.
Dominik Tomaszewski / Foundry
It’s important not to read too much into a single report, so the prospect of an upgraded Surface Duo 3 coming to market shouldn’t be ruled out entirely. But it now seems likely Microsoft will shift to this dual-screen design.
We’ll update this article once more is revealed about Microsoft’s future foldables.