The Surface Duo costs $1,399. OK, let’s just stop there for a second. What? That’s about the same price as a tricked out iPhone 11 Max.
Yes, it’s expensive. No, people probably aren’t going to rush out to buy it. But the price and phone make sense for a few reasons.
First, it’s a dual-screen device. Microsoft described the phone as “a major new form factor,” in a blog post. It is essentially a folding tablet, which is also a phone. Each of the Surface Duo’s two screens are 5.6-inch displays that combine into a tablet-like 8.1-inch display when unfolded. It has a single camera that supports recording 4K video.
So if the phone is really an iPad mini that folds … and is also a phone … now we’re getting into $1,400 territory. The hinge works both ways, so you can close the phone like a book or open it fully so it’s a double-sided phone. It’s also super thin, has what could be one of the best screens on any phone. (Here’s an excellent synopsis of all the ins and outs of the Duo from our colleagues at CNN Underscored.)
Second, Microsoft is promoting the Duo as a productivity device. It’s a Surface, after all — the same brand it uses for its high-end computers that are all about showcasing Microsoft’s software, including Office and Windows. Microsoft said it optimized the entire Office Suite for the Duo, helping people make video calls (super important now), and get their work done on the go.
And third, the Duo is probably a showcase device. Like the original Surface, Microsoft is probably showing more what can be done than trying to convince millions of people that they should buy a Surface Duo. The original Surface got a ton of things wrong (Microsoft took a $1 billion writedown on the product.) But it got one big thing right — the two-in-one laptop-tablet idea was a winner. Microsoft stuck with the idea, listened to feedback, perfected it over time, and Surface is now a successful product with an avid fanbase.
Pre-orders for the Duo are available starting Wednesday at Best Buy, Microsoft’s online store and AT&T, which owns WarnerMedia, CNN’s parent company.
It’s the first Android phone from Microsoft, after it slowly stopped supporting its line of Windows phones.
Foldable phones have had their challenges in the past, such as when defective units of the nearly $2,000 Samsung Galaxy Fold were shipped out to tech reviewers, who discovered broken screens and hinges in their coverage. Samsung delayed the April launch of the device to September in response.
Despite that flub, several foldable phones have made it to the market, including the Galaxy Fold and Galaxy Z Flip. Chinese brands like the Huawei Mate X and Oppo Reno 10X Zoom are also on the market, but not sold directly to US consumers in official stores.