The first-ever Microsoft Android phone arrived yesterday, and I have to say I’m impressed with the device. It’s been about 72 hours since I received it so I thought I would give you my first impressions.
Table of Contents
Surface Duo Pros
Great unboxing experience
Microsoft did a great job on the packaging and presentation of the phone. It’s sleek, small package feels like you are going to love your new phone. I had zero issues digging in and getting the phone out of the box for the startup.
The minimalist feel makes it a little confusing to understand precisely what I was supposed to do with the bumper that ships with the Surface Duo. I was happy to see this in the box as I think it would get scratched or broken within a few days without it.
Premium device & doesn’t feel huge
I’m blown away at how this phone feels no different than my iPhone Xs Max in my hands (when closed). I thought I was in for a feel more like an Amazon Oasis or iPad mini, but not at all! It feels great in your hands, and I had no issues just putting it in my shorts pocket last night when I went to dinner. It’s a little shorter than my iPhone and a little wider. If you carry a max sized phone today and you are worried about the size of the Surface Duo, move on from those worries because they are not real. Here are some pics that I took to give you an idea of the device compared to others:
I’m in love with these screens!
Those screens tho’
Having two screens and the flexibility to use them with different apps or with single apps that are aware of the size is impressive! This is why I bought the phone, and the Surface Duo delivers! One thing I love to do is watch YouTube videos while I read articles on my phone. In the past, this experience required me to listen to YouTube in the background while I was reading and fast switch if I wanted to see the video, but not anymore! Now, I can bring up YouTube on one screen and Edge on the other! It’s a great experience, and I’m in love.
Having two screens and the flexibility to use them with different apps or with single apps that are aware of the size is impressive!
Office 365 is amazing
This experience is why you buy this phone. If you live a full-on Office 365 lifestyle including Teams, then honestly, this phone will supercharge your life! The dual-screen experience is fantastic, and all of the applications are perfect for this phone. Microsoft ships the phone with some pre-built dual-screen shortcuts like “Share” Teams/Office, “Plan” Outlook/ToDo, and “Learn” Edge/OneNote. These open each of the apps together with one touch, and the experience is impressive. You can also create your own, so you can speed your opening of two apps you want to use side by side on those huge screens.
I also want to clean my inbox again
The Outlook application is amazing and the integration with the two screens makes for a pleasant email reading experience. By tapping the app, and dragging it to the middle of the two screens Outlook goes into the dual-screen mode. From there I see the same experience as in the full desktop or web application. I can see a list of emails on the left screen and a full preview pane on the right side. This is an amazing experience and gives you the full feeling of a real email client. If you click on a web link in the preview pane, then Edge replaces the preview pane and Outlook goes to a single screen mode on the left screen. The website you just clicked on opens in Edge on the right, but as the user, you still see your email client on the left! On a single screen phone, you lose the Outlook app on the screen to the link you clicked. When done with the website, just tap/hold Outlook again and drag back to the middle of the screens to go back to dual Outlook mode again.
By tapping the app, and dragging it to the middle of the two screens Outlook goes into the dual-screen mode. From there I see the same experience as in the full desktop or web application.
Surface Duo Cons
Setup was clunky
The setup experience wasn’t nearly as lovely as the unboxing. When I first turned on the phone, I was greeted by the Microsoft logo, but that experience was over after booting, and I immediately knew I was back in Android.
The first issue I had was the phone didn’t immediately show any WiFi networks. After a couple of minutes, I manually had to enter my SSID and even select the type of WiFi authentication to get connected. Once it connected to the network, I was fine to continue, but for a phone that costs over a thousand dollars, not to be able to see WiFi out of the box gave me a sense of dread.
Next, I had to log in with a Google account to get the phone started. That feels weird since this is a Microsoft phone, but understanding that is the only way I can get it up and running, I complied, remembering that I can’t live life without my YouTube Premium I figured I wouldn’t have to go through this process again. After a few screens, I was then presented with a Microsoft Account sign-in page. Also, this makes sense but shows how losing the battle to Android forces Microsoft users into a dual account experience to get their phone even booted for the first time. This was annoying, and also again a bit confusing since I have many Microsoft Work and Microsoft ID accounts. Multi-factor also is very irritating when installing a new phone, forcing me back and forth from the old phone to Surface Duo to get MFA pushes approved and text messages with codes even to get the phone started.
The bottom line here is muggles will struggle to get this phone even booted up and signed into their accounts. Once they get their accounts running, the Office 365 apps do a great job of picking those accounts up, and using multiple accounts was easy in most apps with the ever-present and annoying Teams Org change situation that plagues anyone that doesn’t work for only one company.
Interface learning curve
The interface is incredible, but coming from an iPhone, Android is different, if not harder to use. When you add in all of the different ways you can hold this phone, it takes brain effort to use. It’s not hard, but muscle memory has to be replaced by a cognitive effort to understand how to minimize apps, find apps you have installed, and configure the device. I’m sure after a week, I will be used to it, but I feel like I’m spending a lot of time “fighting” with the interface to minimize or resize apps. Maybe there are some launcher bug fixes that Microsoft will bring out to get the phone to a better state. It’s not broken, but it’s not fluid right now.
Scared to drop
I’m scared I’m going to break this phone. I spend a lot of time outdoors, and I don’t feel like this phone is as durable as my iPhone. That’s not to knock the phone, I mean, it’s a workhorse at doing Office 365, but it won’t be going on a fishing trip with me.
That means I need two phones, but this phone uses a regular sim, and my iPhone uses a micro-sim. I’m not sure how to say this, but do I need a work phone and a hobby phone? With my outdoor lifestyle, I’m not sure how I am going to reconcile that?
Expensive, and I went cheap!
This phone was expensive, and I bought the cheapest one (128GB), without a support plan in case I break it! Yikes, I paid $1,500 for a phone that if I break, I’m done (see my comment above).
I think this phone is excellent if productivity in the Office 365 universe is for you, but I also think I could have bought my daughter a new MacBook for that price.
This is a phone for rich office types that live and die the Microsoft workflow day-to-day. It’s worth the money if you are always on email, looking at PPTs and in Teams calls when you can’t be at your PC.
I think this phone is worth the money more so than a new iPhone. I’ve had my iPhone Xs Max (hand-me-down from my wife) for nearly two years. Her iPhone Pro doesn’t do anything more than mine does. Yes, it does it faster and takes excellent pictures, but that doesn’t provide any value to me to get more work done, plan my days, or get through my email.
To me, the money for this phone was worth it in terms of productivity. It’s the first Android phone that makes me feel like I could go back to being “green” to my friends on SMS. I can see myself using this phone every day and getting more done. I’m so in love I’m going to swap out my SIM and go full phone with it. I plan to do a long term use of the phone and report back to you the experience. Expect Car and Driver style, long term test drive reports from this Surface Duo user.
My advice, if you live the Office 365 life, order one and you will be happy.