After one of many strangest run-ups to launch in smartphone historical past, the Microsoft Floor Duo is right here. Microsoft’s first-ever Android cellphone (sorry, we’re not counting the Nokia X) was introduced and demoed a complete yr earlier than its launch, hinting at what an extended and winding street the Floor Duo took from inception to transport. The {hardware} apparently dates again to plans to revitalize Home windows for telephones, however after that plan fell by, the {hardware} was upcycled into essentially the most head-scratching Android cellphone of the yr.

The Floor Duo gross sales pitch is that foldable show expertise is not prepared but, so do that best-we-can-do-right-now model that options two inflexible, 5.6-inch OLED shows hooked up along with a 360 hinge. Microsoft is looking this a “productiveness” gadget because of it having the side-by-side app functionality of a tablet-style foldable smartphone with none of the janky show expertise. Microsoft’s web site additionally says the Duo was designed to “encourage folks to rethink how they need to use the gadget of their pocket,” indicating that the corporate undoubtedly sees this as a main gadget.

I convey up Microsoft’s gross sales pitch as a result of, boy, is the Floor Duo dangerous at doing the issues Microsoft says it is imagined to be good at. The cellphone feels prefer it was made with none respect to ergonomics, hand dimension, pocket-size, or something that makes a great Android cellphone. It has crippling productiveness issues that negate any profit you might get from the two-screen design, it is extraordinarily awkward in day-to-day use, and it’s extremely buggy. The cellphone is lacking an entire host of options you’ll anticipate for the stratospheric $1400 asking value, and even the {hardware} that’s right here looks as if it is a least a yr outdated.

The Floor Duo looks like a cellphone that was slapped collectively with no plan, and the stories of the cellphone’s historical past point out that is what really occurred. We wish to gently welcome Microsoft to the Android ecosystem, however we aren’t grading $1400 smartphones on a curve. Microsoft wanted to knock this out of the park. As an alternative, the corporate turned in a borderline incompetent smartphone that I actually needed to pressure myself to make use of through the assessment interval.

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Not less than it’s extremely fairly

The primary factor the Floor Duo has going for it’s that it is extremely fairly. It is a minimalist glass sandwich with a classy pearl white and chrome colour scheme that’s only a pleasure to have a look at. The cellphone is completely cracker-thin, and together with the Moto Razr, it is one of many uncommon foldable smartphones that does not appear like an unsightly brick. Should you’ve received two free palms, there’s one thing very cozy about holding the Duo in e book mode and simply casually flipping by one thing. The shock and awe of Microsoft’s design language might be sufficient to make some folks fall in love with the gadget and ignore all its different faults. I imply, not me, after all, however some folks.

SPECS AT A GLANCE: Microsoft Floor Duo
SCREEN Two 1800×1350 5.6″ OLED shows
(401ppi, 4:3 side ratio)
OS Android 10
CPU Eight-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 855
4 Cortex A76-based cores (One 2.84GHz, three 2.41Ghz) and 4 Cortex A55-based cores at 1.78GHz
RAM 6GB
GPU Adreno 540
STORAGE 128GB or 256GB
NETWORKING 802.11b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS,
PORTS USB 3.1 Gen1 Kind-C
CAMERA 11MP
SIZE Open: 145.2mm x 186.9mm x 4.8mm
Closed: 145.2mm x 93.3mm x 9.9mm
WEIGHT 250g
BATTERY 3577 mAh
STARTING PRICE $1400 at Microsoft
OTHER PERKS  Facet fingerprint sensor

The phrase that the majority involves thoughts when describing the Floor Duo is “flat.” The physique of the cellphone shouldn’t be completely flat, however it’s uninterrupted sheets of glass on the back and front of each halves. There is no digicam bump, no curved sides, simply 4 sheets of glass. When closed up, the skin of the cellphone additionally offers off a minimalist look with no lights, cameras, or wordmarks, only a single, reflective Home windows emblem Microsoft emblem. The Floor Duo virtually would not appear like it is an digital gadget. You could possibly simply make a Moleskine pocket book that appears identical to a Floor Duo. In truth, I would wager a Moleskine is the place a Microsoft received the size for the Floor Duo. The “Pocket” model of the little pocket book is 140mm x 90mm, whereas a Floor Duo is 145.2mm × 93.3mm when closed.

Crack open the Duo and you will find a collection of unusual selections. First there’s the 2 60Hz 5.6-inch shows with a 4:3 side ratio, so they’re means wider and means shorter than most different Android shows. Subsequent you may discover some comically big bezels on the highest and backside of the cellphone, which actually ruins the “digital Moleskine” vibe the gadget offers off from the skin. It is probably not clear why the bezels are so massive. We actually have the expertise to make them a lot, a lot thinner, and as we’ll get into later, the quick, fats 4:3 shows would enormously profit from the additional top. I am going to guess that this is without doubt one of the Floor Duo’s many concessions to thinness.

Just about all of the cellphone bits on the proper half of the gadget. On the underside fringe of the proper half, you may see the USB-C port, on the proper edge there’s the sim tray, a quantity rocker, energy button, and an ultra-skinny side-mounted fingerprint reader. The correct half handles cellphone name obligation, with an earpiece within the prime bezel and a microphone slot on the underside. The internals mirror this format, too: all of the cellphone chips are in the proper half of the cellphone, whereas the left half is nearly all battery. The one factor on the left aspect moreover one other display screen is the cellphone’s solely media speaker, which exits by way of a slot within the prime of the show glass. With a mono speaker, no headphone jack, and a wonky 4:3 show, the Floor Duo shouldn’t be precisely a media machine.

You will discover the one digicam {hardware} in the proper aspect’s prime bezel: an LED flash sits subsequent to a horrible 12MP sensor with a really low cost trying pinhole lens. The 360 hinge permits this to double as each the selfie digicam and the principle digicam, which is intelligent. However in a tool as skinny because the Floor Duo, the digicam by no means had a shot at being good. Most telephones want extra thickness to squeeze in a high quality digicam sensor (the digicam bump), and in the present day most smartphone digicam sensors are thicker than your complete 4.8mm physique of the Floor Duo.

The Surface Duo prototype with a rear camera bump on one half, and a corresponding divot on the other. The final device has no rear camera.
Enlarge / The Floor Duo prototype with a rear digicam bump on one half, and a corresponding divot on the opposite. The ultimate gadget has no rear digicam.

There may be not a marketplace for digicam sensors that match into this skinny of a profile, so Microsoft in all probability actually needed to dig by the business elements bin and accept something that might match. We all know Microsoft kicked round a number of concepts to attempt to repair this. One early Floor Duo prototype has a digicam bump on the rear of 1 half of the gadget, with a divot on the opposite half so the cellphone can nonetheless fold flat. The corporate additionally has a patent for a digicam lens that might match into a skinny profile after which develop taller when it was in use, like an old-school point-and-shoot. Ultimately, we received no digicam bumps and no fancy digicam tech, only a skinny, clean gadget and a compromised digicam.

The Floor Duo hinge feels precisely like a laptop computer hinge. It is stiff sufficient to remain wherever you set it however nonetheless straightforward to maneuver round. Like a laptop computer hinge, there’s steady resistance all through your complete motion with actually no help in any respect, so you will not be flipping the cellphone open or closed, and you will at all times want two palms to open the cellphone. The hinge folds all the best way round, so you possibly can flip your dual-screen cellphone right into a single display screen by folding one show all the best way again. It is simple to modify sides on this mode, too—simply double faucet on the show you need to mild up. You are able to do no matter you need with the hinge: maintain the cellphone like a e book, flatten the cellphone out in opposition to a desk, prop it up like a tent, or flip it right into a mini laptop computer.

One wonderful factor in regards to the hinge mechanism is that there is not any padding of any sort for while you shut it, but the closing course of nonetheless feels protected, comfortable, and gentile. The Galaxy Fold and Moto Razr have both rubber ft or an enormous plastic bezel to guard the display screen from being slammed closed. On the Floor Duo, there are not any bumpers in any respect, so closing it means you’re urgent one slab of glass in opposition to one other. You may anticipate to listen to a shattering noise after an enthusiastic shut, however it feels just like the hinge is performing some cushioning work, and also you by no means really feel like it’s important to be gentile closing the cellphone.

Microsoft went all out to make the Floor Duo as skinny as humanly doable. Should you measure the Floor Duo when it is open, it qualifies as one of many thinnest smartphones of all time at simply 4.8mm thick. You’d have to return to the thinness craze of the mid-2010s to search out something as paper-thin because the Floor Duo—the 4.75mm thick Vivo X5Max, which I feel nonetheless holds the title of “world’s thinnest smartphone.” (It even had a headphone jack!) The Floor Duo is perhaps the world’s second thinnest smartphone, or possibly even #1, because it would not have a digicam bump just like the Vivo X5Max.

The internals of this cellphone are actually unimaginable and present Microsoft pulled out all of the stops to get as skinny as doable. In a standard, fashionable smartphone, the purpose is to cut back the motherboard space for an even bigger battery, and producers have began setting up motherboards like a multi-story home. Not solely does a single board have chips on the highest and backside aspect, producers have began stacking up a number of layers of circuit board. One thing like an iPhone 11 has three planes of chips. The underside has a single-sided board that may be pressed in opposition to the again of the case, then a double-sided board is stacked on prime of that. The Floor Duo is the exact opposite: It has a massively massive motherboard that’s really single sided. Each single chip is on one aspect of the board, and the bottom is flat, decreasing the peak as a lot as doable.

Whereas the push for thinness within the mid-2010s was a pointless gimmick, for foldables, thinness is a significant component for portability. This factor has to go in your pocket, in any case. Folding in half means it grows to double the thickness. Nonetheless, Microsoft’s obsession with thinness means the cellphone continues to be solely a svelte 9.9 mm when it is folded up, which continues to be solely on the high-end of regular smartphone thickness. Staying within the realm of smartphone thickness is a pleasant enchancment over the brick-like type issue of another foldables. The Galaxy Z Fold 2, which made no concessions for thinness, is 16.8mm when it is folded up—that is principally two regular smartphones stacked on prime of one another.

Microsoft didn’t fairly assume out how the thinness of the gadget would conflict with its materials decisions, although. The perimeters of the gadget are plastic, and whereas it appears to be like and feels positive, skinny plastic is not very robust. The whole lot is ok till you get to the USB-C port, which, for the reason that port is nearly as thick as your complete cellphone, has solely the tiniest sliver of plastic surrounding it. It is alarming how a lot you possibly can transfer the plastic simply by pushing it along with your finger. There are already stories of the plastic across the USB-C port cracking and breaking off, and I’ve little question I may snap it with my finger. Half a millimeter of plastic (I measured) is not sturdy sufficient for something, not to mention a high-stress level just like the USB-C port. Did I point out but that there is not any wi-fi charging?

One odd factor in regards to the Floor Duo is that it sort of feels like you might decide it aside along with your fingernail. The plastic sides do not wrap across the interior or outer glass in any respect, leaving the edges of the glass panels uncovered. There’s really a niche between each panes of glass and the plastic edges, and you may simply stick a chunk of paper in there, or perhaps a fingernail. It is an odd technique to make a cellphone, the place usually the glass could be recessed into no matter materials the edges had been made out of, and any gaps could be impenetrable. If Microsoft had wrapped the plastic edges up across the glass, like regular, the realm across the easily-broken USB-C port could be about twice as thick, whereas the general cellphone would not have been any thicker, which looks as if a good suggestion!  Clearly, after this description, the cellphone is under no circumstances waterproof.

Along with lacking wi-fi charging and water resistance, the Floor Duo additionally would not have NFC, which is an enormous omission for a $1400 gadget. There’s additionally solely a 60Hz show, when most different telephones on this value vary will provide 90 or 120Hz shows, providing a a lot smoother interface.

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