I am sitting here with 3 phones in front of me: Pixel 6 Pro, Galaxy S21 Ultra and the Surface Duo 2. All 3 phones are attractive to me in their own ways and over the last week or so, I’ve been using the Duo 2 as my primary device.
Let me preface this by saying, like Paul, I pretty much need the absolutely best camera as I can get. And for the past year, that has been the S21 Ultra…a camera that has surprised this long time Lumia and then Pixel camera fan. But more on that in a moment.
I picked up the Surface Duo 2 a few weeks ago out of curiosity. I remember Mary Jo talking about the software quirks and even after the “December Update”, I still encountered them…mostly the Camera App crashing the OS and sometimes app animations getting stuck. I did a post December Update factory reset and it seems to be fine.
The hardware is pretty awesome. It just looks amazing and feels good in the hand. I put a subtle D-Brand skin on the front, back and around the camera lenses and it makes it a little “grippier”. The screens are nice and bright and the colors look pretty amazing. The glance bar is nice but as most people say, it needs to do a little more. I don’t think I’ll put a bumper on it. I do like the fact the phone is generally protected when you have it shut so perhaps less micro scratches from my jeans pocket. Side note, I’ve paired my Surface Earbuds with them and they work great…these are some really nice sounding earbuds.
When in the car, things are a little challenging…I don’t text and drive but I do like to change my media from time to time. You have to have the phone either folded back (risking scuffing the other screen or leave it flat with both screens open. So it is a little odd.
It took me a while to get used to the gestures, which are very similar (if not almost exactly) to stock Android gestures. There are some differences on how to close apps out and bringing up open apps seems a little quirky.
I am really liking the form factor and the ways I can use both screens or SPAN certain apps. It certainly has changed the way I use a smartphone and I honestly feel a little more productive with both work and hobbies. I am a certified storm spotter and those December tornadoes that ravished Kentucky literally began forming right over my neighborhood in Arkansas. I had RadarScope open on one screen and my storm spotter chat app on the second screen. It was very useful during these terrible storms. I think it would also come in handy the next time there is a live announcement of products and I can watch it and enjoy Paul’s Twitter comments on the dual screens.
The cameras…well, it is inconsistent. It has taken great shots, some truly awesome shots. But it does struggle mightily in low light. And yes, I loaded G-CAM on it but I feel I shouldn’t have to resort to using it…that said, it does help in low light situations. Let’s say I’ve been more impressed with the camera than I thought I would but it for sure isn’t up to par as a Pixel or S21 Ultra. I am going to Silver Dollar City’s Old Time Christmas and their 6.5 million dazzling lights…I do not trust the Duo 2 to take the best shots of this event, so the Pixel or S21 Ultra will make the trip as well. That said, I will sure give it a try and see how it does in the dark with those lights.
While I don’t do a lot of mobile gaming, this indeed could be the “XBOX Phone.” When you can use the second screen as a controller, it feels like a completely new device. And pairing an XBOX controller is very easy and you can put in tent mode for some quick gaming sessions.
My smartwatch of choice is the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic…as expected, the ECG won’t work on the Duo 2 because that app (Samsung Health Monitor) is only available from the Galaxy Store…side loading the app has not worked for me. Also, it is odd that the phone’s DND will not sync with the watch’s DND and you can’t set a schedule for the watch…just on and off. Otherwise, it is fully functional.
Other notes…I wish it had Wireless Charging and this is a phone you do not want to get wet much. I also turned off the fold to answer as without a smartwatch, you can’t see who is calling, even with “peek” which does nothing but show the time.
In my honest opinion, I think the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra paired with my Galaxy Watch 4 Classic, Galaxy Buds Live and the great wireless charging trio pad make for a complete experience where I have to make very few compromises, if any at all. It all works flawlessly and the Ultra’s cameras are so very good. For those who worry about “Duplicate Apps” or the “Samsung Ecosystem”, that is really a non-issue anymore. You can hide those duplicate apps and Samsung has gone a long way to remove ad’s and bloat from their apps/phones. And Samsung Health is actually VERY good.
But I can’t quite let go of the Duo 2 just yet. I like this new way to use a smartphone and I can, for now, get around the camera deficiencies to continue using this very intriguing device.