Microsoft has sent CNET’s Scott Stein a fancy hands-on version of the not-yet released Surface Duo Phone — but with the black screens replaced by clear plastic. The device obviously doesn’t work, but the plastic lets us see inside the device and, best of all, see how the hinge works.
I gotta admit, it’s a cool looking device. The price tag, while steep, accurately reflects what it would cost to buy two high quality screens with the brains and battery of one smartphone.
Back in 2004, I remember opening up an absurd two-screen device that I felt was sure to fail. It had a stylus. It promised twice the viewing area for whole new experiences. I thought it was insane. It was the Nintendo DS, and I soon realized it was a lot more amazing than I expected.
I think about that Nintendo DS whenever I see a product with dual screens or folding screens. But I think about it the most when holding a nonworking shell of the Surface Duo for the first time. I've seen the Galaxy Fold, and the Moto Razr, and all the other dual-screen laptops and tablets that seem to be sprouting up like weeds. The Duo seems a lot more like a Nintendo DS or some sort of magic Moleskine. It's tiny. But not that tiny. It depends on whether you're perceiving it as a tablet, a phone or a funky digital book.
The charging port is horribly misaligned from everything on the bottom of the device. This really bothers me. There’s only one front-facing camera on the entire device, but if you flip the screens around 180 degrees it becomes an “external” camera — not sure what the screen facing your subject displays, but maybe it just serves as a giant soft flash? The Kindle app will support two-page reading, so basically you can hold it just like a real book. Despite the comparisons to a Nintendo DS, this is clearly a device intended for business use, and priced as such. But I like the hinge design, and I like the overall appearance of the device. I think Microsoft might be onto something here, it’s just too bad they — Microsoft, the company that makes Windows — has to rely on Google for Android support. That just feels very wrong.