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Microsoft’s new Surface Duo 2 has all the features that were missing the first time around

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5G, better cameras, and bigger screens

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Microsoft Surface Duo 2
Image: Microsoft

Microsoft has officially announced the new Surface Duo 2, its second attempt at an Android-powered folding phone. The Duo 2 retains the head-turning design of the first-generation model, but it specifically addresses many of the complaints we had. This time around, Microsoft is putting a legit camera on it, supporting 5G, using a current processor, and is throwing in bigger screens — things that are all quite nice to have on expensive phones. Microsoft says the Duo 2 will be available starting on October 21st for $1,499.99.

The Surface Duo 2, which is available in the same white color as the first-gen plus a new black option, has two 5.8-inch, 1344 x 1892 OLED displays connected by a hinge that allows you to open it like a book or prop it up like a tent. It’s a markedly different approach from what Samsung is doing with its folding phones, which have a single large screen that gets folded in half. Combined, the two Duo 2 displays measure 8.3 inches diagonally and both of them feature a faster 90Hz refresh rate. A slight curve on the screen allows it to be viewed when the Duo 2 is closed, showing you time and missed notifications. Covering the screens is Corning glass.

The Duo 2 maintains the unique design of the first model.
Image: Microsoft
The screens have a slight curve that lets them be visible when the Duo 2 is closed — Microsoft is using it as a notification panel.
Image: Microsoft

Inside one half of the device is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor — a significant upgrade over the 855 chip that was in the first version. It also supports 5G connectivity, another upgrade from the 4G radio that was in the first Duo. Microsoft says it’s the thinnest 5G device on the market. Paired with the processor is 8GB of RAM (2GB more than the first gen) and between 128GB and 512GB of storage. Other hardware upgrades include NFC but no wireless charging, two things that were annoyingly omitted from the first Duo. Microsoft hasn’t specified how big the battery is, but it claims the usual line of “all day battery life.”

The Surface Duo 2 has a triple rear camera system.
Screenshot by Grayson Blackmon / The Verge

The original Surface Duo was laden with a single camera above the right screen, and frankly, it was terrible and one of the weakest points of the hardware. This time around, Microsoft has installed a proper three-camera system on the outside of the Duo 2, with a standard wide, ultrawide, and telephoto camera system. All three cameras have 12-megapixel resolution, with the wide and telephoto lens also featuring optical image stabilization.

Like the prior Duo, the Duo 2 supports pen input with Microsoft’s line of Surface Pens. You can magnetically stick the new Surface Slim Pen 2 to the outside of the Duo 2 to keep it with you on the go and it will charge while it’s sitting there. (But again, no wireless charging for the phone itself.)

The Duo 2 works with Microsoft’s new Surface Slim Pen 2.
Image: Microsoft

Of course, the main pitch with the Duo line of products is productivity, since it’s essentially two standard smartphones connected by a hinge. That’s not changing this year and Microsoft says it has come up with more optimizations for sharing information between the two screens and spreading a single app across them. The company says 150 games, including Asphalt Legends 9, Modern Combat 5, and Dungeon Hunter 5, are optimized for using one screen as a controller while viewing the game itself on the other screen.

But those promises were also made for the first Duo, and software support was where it really fell apart. Microsoft’s demos look impressive, but they did the first time around, too, so we’ll remain very skeptical until we’re able to test it out first hand.

The Duo 2 is running Android 11 at launch, even though the original Duo is still saddled with Android 10 and Microsoft didn’t indicate when it might get the update to 11. Check out our hands-on with the Duo 2 here and stay tuned for our forthcoming review.


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