It's been a little less than 24 hours since the Surface Duo 2 hit the market, but a handful of privileged reviewers are mostly in agreement that the sequel handset is a familiar experience, and not in a good way.
But once you get past all of those spec-sheet corrections, the Duo 2 still suffers from many of the same issues that plagued the first model. This is still very much a work in progress, one that I can’t recommend anyone buying until Microsoft figures it out. - Dan Siefert - The Verge
The biggest problem is that the Duo 2’s camera app still sucks. I thought that with a dedicated rear and front camera setup, the system would no longer have to guess what screen you wanted to use as a viewfinder. But instead of letting users decide which cameras they want to use at any time, Microsoft limits when you can use the rear cameras. If you unfold the Duo 2 so that the screens are more than 180 degrees away from each other, Microsoft disables the triple-sensor module and you’re stuck with the selfie option. - Cherylnn Low - Engadget
When Microsoft released its first Surface Duo handset it did so with the Duo 2 shadowing it, with rumors almost instantly spinning up about fixes and improvements coming to blunt some of the criticism reviewers had for the phone shortly after it released.
Most reviewers noted the software glitches, hardware oddities and overall disjointed nature of Android on dual screens while also acknowledging that software updates and an eventual update to the hardware could rectify these early issues.
Unfortunately, it seems that Microsoft was only able to address half the criticism that were levied at the Surface Duo with a year of development under its belt.
The problem is that the vast majority of apps I use on a daily basis aren't optimized for the Surface Duo 2's screens. These apps, which include Facebook, WhatsApp, Seamless, Google Drive, Instagram, Adobe Lightroom, Slack, Netflix and YouTube, just look strange when spanned across both displays because of the hinge that joins both screens together. The crease on foldables like the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 seem nearly invisible by comparison.
That's the big advantage Samsung's folding phone has over the Surface Duo 2. It essentially serves as a tablet when open and a phone when closed. There isn't as much optimization that has to happen behind the scenes to communicate the benefit of simply having a larger screen. - Lisa Eadicicco - CNET
However, the user experience overall still feels like a work in progress.
Some of the issues that led me to return the original Surface Duo that I purchased last year haven’t been addressed. Chief among them is the way the taskbar jumps from a tight configuration on one screen to loosely span the bottom of two screens when an app is closed, making the simple task of pressing an icon akin to playing Whac-a-mole. There must be a better way to do this. - Todd Bishop - Geekwire
While it sounds like the Surface Duo 2 remains shackled by similar shoddy software development as the original, Microsoft undoubtedly raised its potential ceiling with a heap of hardware improvements and that has been roundly highlighted.
The side volume rockers feel untouched, which is OK. Microsoft correctly combined the power button and fingerprint reader into one, which makes more sense. It's an excellent reader too — fast, reliable. Double pressing that power button when Surface Duo 2 is closed enables the flash to be used as a flashlight; the same function launches the camera when the device is opened. You can turn this off in settings, but it's a crafty touch.
Audio is markedly improved. Whereas before the was a single speaker (in addition to the one for phone calls), there are now two (plus one for phone calls). Microsoft puts one on the top left display, and on the right, it's at the bottom, which helps sound balance regardless of the Surface Duo 2's postures. It's an immersive effect when using both displays. However, on a Microsoft Team's call, they were unusually quiet compared to playing a YouTube video or listening to music on Spotify, which was loud and vibrant. The audio works well when the device is closed, too, and is intended to be used that way if listening to music with no worsening in quality.
Bluetooth jumps from 5.0 to 5.1 with AAC support. Many people had issues with Bluetooth on Surface Duo 1 with inconsistent and deteriorated performance. I had no such concerns utilizing Microsoft's Surface Earbuds, Samsung Galaxy Buds 2, and use with the Tesla Model 3. With the Buds 2, I could walk 25 feet into another room and still had audio playing without missing a beat.
There is now NFC built into the left display to be used for Google Pay. Simply reverse fold Surface Duo 2 with the device unlocked, and you can make a payment. It works as expected.
Being unlocked, Surface Duo 2 works on any network with 5G. 5G can mean anything from blazing fast speeds to slightly faster than LTE, depending on your carrier and location. Using T-Mobile in downtown Marlborough, MA, I pulled 39.9 Mbps down and 54.2 Mbps up, which isn't bad.
If I could rate Surface Duo 2's hardware, it'd get an A+. If you can get yourself to a Best Buy to try a display model, I encourage you to do so.
At the end of the day, the Duo 2 comes is coming in as a mixed bag akin to the original Duo and for a second attempt at a price tag of $1,499 that's probably not a great indicator of its progression.
There are a handful of hardware improvements that should help sustain the longevity of the Duo 2 much better than its predecessor such as the Snapdragon 888 processor, notification panel, triple camera arrangement, rounded glass corners, less dependency on accelerometers, stereo speakers, 5G, and NFC to name a few.
However, Microsoft's Windows-like approach to software on a mobile device seems to continue to hinder the Duo 2' potential wider adoption. While it can push cumulative updates to the device in a similar fashion as it does for Windows, smartphones users tend to need their phones working out of the box with as few updates as possible and right now that doesn't appear to be the case for early Duo 2 experiences.