Recent Microsoft job listings suggest next Surface Duo could be 5G, use AI to improve picture quality

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Microsoft’s dual-screen Surface Duo received praise for its premium design and productivity focus, even though it missed the mark on other important things like connectivity and picture quality. Surface devices have never been known for their top-of-the-line specs, but it’s safe to say that many early-adopters found the $1,400 launch price hard to justify considering the lack of NFC, 5G, and a competitive camera.

According to recent job listings spotted by Windows Latest, the successor to the Surface Duo could address some of the 1st-gen device’s shortcomings, especially the lackluster camera. One job listing for a Principal Android Camera System Architect/Engineer mentions the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve picture quality.

The candidate will develop pipeline architect features that integrate output of the hardware ISP and supplemental image processing algorithms utilizing computational photography and AI/ML algorithms from various partners. Understanding the processing blocks (CPU, GPU and NPU) capability and optimizing feature integration for power/performance and seamless customer experience will be key. You will help define the camera architecture and work with partners and algorithm development engineers in the development of deep learning and AI features.

Google was probably one of the first manufacturers to use AI in a pretty big way to improve picture quality on its Pixel smartphones, and it has been quickly followed by other smartphone manufacturers. The Surface Duo's slim profile likely didn't allow Microsoft to put the best sensor in the first-gen device, but AI will hopefully be able to improve things in the Surface Duo 2. However, AI alone likely won't do miracles when we see Samsung putting no less than 5 different sensors on the back of its Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra.

Another job listing for a SW/FW Engineer mentions 5G connectivity, something that the first Surface Duo doesn’t support. Pretty much all high-end smartphones released last year had support for 5G, and it would be very surprising if the Surface Duo 2 didn’t include it. Here’s what the job listing says:

Job responsibilities will encompass working across a team of high impact individuals who are designing and coding RF drivers, RF board bring up including LTE and 5G technologies, factory tools, modem protocols, mobile operator certifications and PTCRB/GCF certifications on Surface Duo devices. The job is highly dynamic and involves working across various disciplines to successfully deliver the product with the Surface Duo experience and quality.

Microsoft's Surface Duo has just started shipping in four new markets in addition to the US, and it could be some time before we see a Surface Duo 2. It certainly took some time for previous Surface products to really mature: The Surface Pro line only made a big leap forward with the Surface Pro 3, which came with a bigger screen and a slimmer design. It's still early days for dual-screen devices like the Surface Duo, but the next version will need to really nail the fundamentals if Microsoft doesn't want this product to end up like the Lumia line.

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