Microsoft was working on a secret “pocketable” Surface device powered by a custom Windows OS before the company turned to Android for its Surface Duo. Codenamed Andromeda, the device appeared in leaked emails, patents, reports, and throughout various references to it in Microsoft’s Windows operating system.
Now, Windows Central has obtained an early test version of Andromeda OS running on a Lumia 950 to show just how close Microsoft got to launching a more modern successor to Windows Phone.
While Andromeda OS was never designed to ship on a Lumia 950, some Microsoft engineers used these devices to test parts of the operating system. As is typical for secret device development at many tech companies, not all engineers got access to prototype dual-screen hardware, but they still had to work on OS components.
Windows Central’s hands-on of Andromeda OS shows a very early version of what would have ultimately been a Windows Phone for dual-screen hardware. The lockscreen is clearly inspired by Windows Phone, with Cortana managing notifications. A big difference is the ability of the lockscreen to act as a giant canvas to take notes. No need to launch a separate notes app — just start writing.
Even the home screen was another inking canvas, something Microsoft called Journal. This digital notebook supported inking, sticky notes, images, and 3D objects and was always instantly accessible.
Elsewhere, there is early gesture support that clearly led to what eventually shipped on the Android-powered Surface Duo. Most of the early Andromeda OS UI looks like parts of what shipped with the Surface Duo or even ideas that went into Windows 11.
Still, it’s interesting to look back at what could have been. Microsoft eventually canceled plans for Andromeda and Andromeda OS in favor of similar hardware that would be powered by Android. The software maker was also working on Surface Neo, a larger dual-screen device powered by Windows 10X. That project ended with the cancelation of Windows 10X last year, and it looks like Windows 11 will lead the way for any devices from OEMs that attempt to bring foldable or dual-screen hardware to life.