WW 685: It's Not a Phone

Beep boop - this is a robot. A new show has been posted to TWiT…

What are your thoughts about today’s show? We’d love to hear from you!


Didn’t catch the show (though I may watch it later) but the Surface Duo really intrigues me. The price tag however, doesn’t.

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I suspect a lot of people are “fold curious” but I suspect most people who buy this abomination from MS are going to suffer buyer’s remorse. Some of of the obvious shortfalls:

  • costs twice as much as it should for a “first gen from a manufacturer” device
  • bad battery life
  • difficult to type on it with both screens active
  • too big to be pocketable for many
  • bad camera if intended to be your primary camera
  • reliant on success to get more usefully compatible applications
  • no NFC is just dumb, how much did that save them?? pennies?
  • low RAM for what is essentially acting like two phones (which is intended to run twice the number of apps at once)
  • only one speaker? On tablet/tentable device? The iPad has two or four!

From https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2020/08/microsofts-surface-duo-is-1400-and-comes-with-a-tiny-3600mah-battery/


I don’t think they will sell many of these, but the question will be whether or not they are on to something with the vision of a mobile productivity device they have in mind. If they simply wanted to sell a lot of flagship devices it wouldn’t be hard to put that together with someone like Foxconn’s experience; the fact that Microsoft didn’t go that route clearly signals a very different strategic consideration. To the extent it satisfactorily scratches that itch for the target consumer it is going after, Microsoft will consider it a success.

With regards to the specific design, I can only assume that many sacrifices were made to keep the device as light and thin as possible, so as to not feel overwhelming in hand or excessively bulky. All designs are about trade-off’s. It is really easy for us on the outside to take potshots and to cite all the features a particular device is missing, but we should always try to start from the assumption that we have a very incomplete understanding of the parameters within which the creators were operating.

Putting aside the Duo, a recent thread in another forum laid out a simple list of seven or so features that every phone should have. Any one of them was fine in isolation, but taken together they would have presented serious design challenges and/or forced the retail price into the stratosphere (e.g. having a bezel-less design makes it harder to have a front-facing flash and dual front-firing speakers; having a 5000mAh battery is going make the phone thicker/heavier). The trick for designers-- and ultimately consumers-- is always to understand the trade-offs you’re willing to make. Fortunately on the Android side, there are many options.

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Paul and Mary Jo - I love you guys and I respect/trust your analysis on all things Microsoft, but the fact that you’re excited about using the Duo as a teeny-tiny laptop made me lol! I think you might be missing the point.


@Leo 's interpretation of “a laptop for smurfs” solidly lodged the name Microsoft Smurface in my mind.


My only real hesitation about the Duo is battery life; although coming from a Pixel 4 it might be an improvement :grin:

If they do make this available in Australia I might end up ordering it, depending on the reviews on the battery life and how much it ends up costing here.