Microsoft announces Surface Duo will arrive on September 10

Linda J. Dodson

It also will not feature 5G connectivity, while still having a price higher than Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold 2, which does come with enhanced connectivity.

Microsoft is pitching the Duo as a more useful tool than a conventional smartphone, since it enables users to multitask with two separate apps or web pages at a time. CEO Satya Nadella, for instance, uses one screen to take notes and the other to read a book on Amazon’s Kindle app.

Inside, the device will have 6GB of RAM and a Qualcomm 855 snapdragon processor. However, its camera technology is expected to be limited compared to other high-end devices.

Microsoft missed out on staking a claim to the smartphone market. It failed to realise the potential of Windows Mobile, its smartphone operating system, while Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android dominated sales.

An ill-fated attempt to buy Nokia’s Mobile division saw it spend €5.4bn (£4.8bn) to expand its efforts to build smartphones in house. But the effort failed and saw a multi-billion dollar write-down before the division was sold just three years later.

Microsoft announced the new Duo last October, marking a shock return to the market it had disowned when it discontinued its Windows Phone operating system. 

The new phone is being positioned as a device for remote working, with Windows apps such as Outlook and Office that have been set up to work across the two screens.

Panos Panay, Microsoft’s chief product officer, said: “Smartphones with a single screen aren’t designed for you to easily do multiple things at once… Just like using two monitors at your desk, having two distinct screens lets you open up two apps side by side… so you can get things done quicker.”

The announcement of the new phone marks the latest play by Microsoft to bolster its efforts the smartphone space. 

It recently announced a number of deals with Samsung to enable the South Korean firm’s mobile phones to work across to Windows PCs. Meanwhile, its Xbox division is launching Xcloud, an app for streaming video games on smartphones.

It remains to be seen how many consumers will be willing to pay for Microsoft’s pricey innovations in a recession and pandemic. Samsung this summer also unveiled top-of-the-line new Galaxy phones that will cost roughly $1,000 to $1,300.

But Apple is enjoying success with a far cheaper iPhone in the $400 range that it released in April. Google is also rolling out an inexpensive Pixel phone at nearly $350 that has many of the same features as its more expensive model.

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