Microsoft released the Surface Duo late last year, marking the company’s first serious foray into Android smartphones. The device brought an innovative dual-screen form factor, but the $1,400 price tag was far too high considering the state of the software and the older hardware. Microsoft hasn’t done much to improve the Duo, save for a recent $400 price drop. Third-party retailers are going further — the Duo is now available for about half of its original price. I think that constitutes a fire sale.
It’s starting to feel like Microsoft’s late 2019 Surface event was held atop an unconsecrated cemetery. Microsoft announced three major products at that event: the Surface Neo, Windows 10X, and the Surface Duo. Microsoft delayed the dual-screen Neo laptop, and Windows 10X went through a number of changes before it was reportedly shelved in recent weeks. That leaves the Duo, which launched on time to lukewarm reviews.
I held out hope that Microsoft would do something interesting with the dual-screen form factor. After all, foldables like the Galaxy Z Fold2 are the most interesting thing happening in mobile right now. However, the Duo has barely improved in the last seven months. Some of the bugs that were there at launch are still present in the latest software, which by the way, is still based on Android 10 instead of the latest Android 11. Microsoft has not provided the kind of update support I’d expect for a $1,400 phone. Unsurprisingly, no one is paying that much for it.
Microsoft now sells the device, which rocks a Snapdragon 855 from 2019 and no 5G, for $1,000. You don’t have to look far to find the Surface even cheaper, though. It’s dropped below $800 on Amazon, and some deal-oriented retailers seem to have gotten their hands on a lot of unsold stock recently. Those sites have dropped it below $700, making it half off the launch price. Microsoft’s only flagship smartphone should not be on clearance sale after half a year, but here we are. The Duo was always going to be a tough sell at $1,400, but the company didn’t do anything to justify it.
Lest you think I’m trying to get you to buy a phone: I don’t think anyone should buy the Surface Duo, not even for half price. There are some cool experiences to be had with the Duo, but they’re not worth $1,400. They’re not even worth $700 until Microsoft can offer the level of support and polish that established Android OEMs do. At this point, I would not be shocked if Microsoft washed its hands of the Duo and moved on. Maybe that means another Android phone, but it might also mean giving up on yet another mobile device ecosystem. Even LG, which has been making Android phones since the beginning, had to admit recently that it can’t compete. That doesn’t bode well for Microsoft’s chances.