This can be very uncommon for a product to really turn out to be higher months after it was launched. However Microsoft’s oft-forgotten Floor Duo 2, which launched in October 2021 with a hefty price ticket and a laundry record of bugs and points that made it very irritating to make use of, has damaged that development. Actually, the Duo 2 has improved a lot that it is now considered one of my favourite cell units, even when it is nonetheless bizarre and distinctive sufficient that I am unable to actually advocate it to most individuals.
In case you forgot, the Floor Duo 2 is a foldable cellphone with two giant screens linked by a hinge. Not like Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold 3, which takes a single tablet-sized display screen and folds it in half to slot in your pocket, the Duo 2’s two screens really feel extra like two giant telephones connected collectively and use the identical software program. You possibly can simply run two apps aspect by aspect as when you had been holding two telephones on the similar time, or you may run a single app throughout each screens to imitate a small pill. Each halves of the cellphone are skinny sufficient to fold collectively like a e-book and slot in a pocket comparatively simply. Pair it with Microsoft’s Floor Slim Pen 2 and you have a transportable digital pocket book that may work simply as properly for taking notes, studying an e-book, or composing an e-mail.
Once I reviewed the Floor Duo 2 final yr, none of its good design or book-like options mattered. The system was successfully damaged, held again by software program bugs that made it irritating to kind on, irritating to make use of, and finally disappointing. It was a $1,500 novelty that might enchantment to solely essentially the most seasoned Microsoft model stooges who had been prepared to place up with its many flaws so they might have the never-launched Courier system they dreamed of greater than a decade in the past.
However remarkably, Microsoft has not given up on the Duo 2. Actually, the corporate has constantly launched software program updates month-to-month to deal with the numerous points the Duo 2 had at launch. A few of these updates consisted of straightforward safety patches and minor bug fixes, whereas others, such because the current June replace, included extra vital fixes and new options. Crucially, Microsoft addressed the contact latency points that had been widespread at launch and made it very troublesome to kind on the Duo 2’s digital keyboard — and even navigate the interface.
Realizing that Microsoft has addressed a lot of my authentic complaints with the Duo 2, I took benefit of a current worth lower (the cellphone can now be bought for $1,000, which continues to be costly, however considerably lower than the launch worth) and a beneficiant trade-in supply. and purchased one myself. The objective was to see if I might get a greater thought of what Microsoft is attempting to realize with this system when notable bugs get in the best way.
And reader, I can lastly say I get it. The Duo 2 is essentially the most distinctive cell system I’ve used, permitting me to do issues I simply can’t with a conventional smartphone. It additionally does sure issues, like multitasking and studying ebooks, higher than the Z Fold 3’s single giant display screen.
Over the previous month, I’ve used the Duo 2 for studying many books within the Kindle app, which takes benefit of the twin screens to supply a extra book-like expertise than another system. I managed my inbox and calendar on the similar time; I edited Google Docs whereas monitoring a Slack dialog. I used the Slim Pen 2 to take handwritten notes in OneNote. I’ve learn quite a few articles in my Pocket queue the place the app has been stretched throughout each screens and the Duo 2 has been became portrait mode. I’ve watched so many movies on each screens that I do not even discover the small hole anymore. There’s one thing undeniably satisfying about finishing a activity on the Duo 2, then folding it like a e-book and slipping it into my pocket.
The Duo 2 hasn’t changed my major smartphone as I take advantage of it for a wide range of duties: messaging, calling, pictures, good house management, music, and cell funds on my iPhone; studying, multitasking, taking notes and YouTube on the Duo 2. I’ve but to take a name on the Duo 2 as a result of until you are utilizing wi-fi earbuds it is terribly inconvenient to do that. More often than not, I’ve used the Duo 2 precisely like an iPad Mini, besides it folds in half and matches in my pocket. It isn’t even proper to name this system a “cellphone” based mostly on how I take advantage of it. (Microsoft tried to place the unique Floor Duo as one thing apart from a cellphone at launch, however moved away from that advertising and marketing with the Duo 2.)
Microsoft has made the Duo 2’s digital camera app sooner and extra responsive, however I’ve by no means used it to take footage. It is simply too clumsy to take footage, and that is what I’ve my iPhone for. Actually, I would choose it if the clunky rear hump and digital camera had been gone altogether and the Duo 2 retained the sleeker traces and skill to fold flat in opposition to itself that the primary Duo had.
Apart from being a clunky digital camera, there are different issues concerning the Duo 2’s design that make it a problem to make use of as a major cellphone. There isn’t any fast option to verify notifications or do something with one hand – you to have to open the system to make use of it. (The current addition of third-party chat app notifications to the “hinge display screen” within the June replace would not change this truth.) It is a way more intentional system than flat telephones that may be simply unlocked and used with one hand while you need to kill a while in line on the grocery store. Samsung’s Z Fold 3 is a a lot better standalone system for changing each a cellphone and a pill, just because you may nonetheless use it when it is folded.
The Duo 2 can also be removed from a sturdy system. Whereas I have not damaged something within the final month – and I’ve used it once more, it lacks each water and dirt resistance, so you do not need to get it moist. The design makes it extraordinarily troublesome to arrange a case and preserve the flexibleness of the hinge. (I’ve resorted to Microsoft’s Floor Pen charging dock and bumper together with a Dbrand pores and skin.) Although it is folded shut once I’m not utilizing it, it is not one thing I’d simply throw in a pocket with keys and unfastened change. for concern of one thing getting caught within the hinge.
The software program additionally has quite a lot of room for enchancment. Except for the Kindle app and Google Play Books, the one apps that may actually work properly throughout each screens are these made by Microsoft, regardless of the Duo 2 being out for eight months now. There are nonetheless occasions when an app or hyperlink opens on the display screen apart from what I anticipate, or gesture to an app in full display screen fails. Pen enter into something apart from Microsoft’s personal apps continues to be awful. I do not suppose I’ve ever used the drag and drop characteristic as a result of it is supported in so few apps that it is not price remembering that it exists.
Issues could get higher with the upcoming Android 12L replace, which is designed to enhance the expertise on foldable units just like the Duo 2 and Fold 3. However I suppose even after that replace I nonetheless have most apps on a single display screen.
All that’s to say, regardless of the updates and bug fixes, the Duo 2 nonetheless will not be a cellphone for everybody and even most individuals. It’s best suited as a secondary system for particular duties, simply as an iPad or pill is secondary to your smartphone. Even with the current worth lower, it is nonetheless costlier than an iPad or different small pill. It’s only preferrred for individuals who admire taking it with them in additional locations on the go, even when they have already got one other cellphone of their different pocket.
There are rumors that Microsoft won’t launch Duo 3 this yr, however will preserve it in 2023. That will give it extra time to troubleshoot and keep away from the bug-filled launches that plagued each the unique Duo and Duo 2. Microsoft might additionally handle the points of the Duo design that make it troublesome to make use of as a major cellphone (a touchscreen on the surface would go a good distance right here). Possibly it will probably discover a option to connect and cost the pen with out resorting to a loopy and costly add-on case. A current patent software from the corporate proposes a Duo-style system that makes use of a single panel that folds 360 levels as a substitute of two separate shows connected with a hinge. I am unsure what drawback that will resolve apart from eliminating the hole between the screens when watching video, but it surely certain would look cool.
Anyway, if Microsoft stays dedicated to the Duo type issue and retains repeating it, I will keep watch over it. The Duo 2 has gone from one of the problematic units I’ve reviewed to considered one of my favorites, and I am excited to see the place Microsoft takes it subsequent. Within the meantime, I’ve another e-book to complete.
Images by Dan Seifert / The Verge