Microsoft’s Exciting Surface Duo will challenge Apple’s boring iPhone 12

Microsoft has confirmed the release details of the Surface Duo. The Android-powered dual-screened device has been the subject of much speculation since it was introduced to the world in October last year – a provocative move that could have sparked much more discussion around the device before it was possibly launched.

Now there’s an even more provocative move … Microsoft is going head to head with Apple.

Although Apple’s Tim Cook did not announce the day before the launch of the iPhone 12, the signs all point to Tuesday, September 8 (the other option is September 15). With Microsoft’s retail launch opening two days later on September 10 (probably the day before the traditional Friday pre-iPhone pre-orders) when the media is looking for the obvious challenger to place next to the champion, is Microsoft right there waiting.

Traditionally, this role was taken over by Samsung and the Galaxy Note range, but with the South Korean company relocating the Samsung Unpacked event in early August, a month is as good as a lifetime in digital news cycles. When it comes to handset reviews, the phablet is more likely to get a look, but at first glance, the two latest devices will no doubt get the headlines.

Both of these will be seen as ‘new’ devices, although by going with a conventional phone form factor, the iPhone could be seen as the more boring step forward, with Microsoft the more radical step.

The Duo is not only the newer and more radical device, but also of a new player in the market. This would see Microsoft as the underdog, and engage in the fight against a company that expects it to outsell. I think it’s safe to say that more iPhones will be sold than Duos, but the perception here is important. Everyone loves the underdog story in a head to head.

The problem with going head to head is that, regardless of the size of Microsoft’s company, Microsoft is the broker for mobile apartments against a parade of elephants in the room. The iPhone 12 handsets will be faster, more reliable and cheaper.

The first online benchmarks for the presumably named A14 Bionic chips are coming out now, and Apple is looking forward to the silicon competition, with the A14 showing a fifty percent increase in CPU power and a 40 percent increase on the GPU compared to last year A13. That performance would beat the performance of the SnapDragon 865, this year’s go-to flagship chip for Android handsets.

The Surface Duo runs SnapDragon 855 from last year, so it will comfortably lose all ‘raw performance’ comparison.

By reliable I do not mean as far as construction is concerned (although I expect that the delays caused by the likes of iFixit shortly after the respective releases will assess this area) I mean in terms of how things behave on screen. The paradigm of using iOS is nicely set up so that every existing user on the OS can be trusted to do what they want. Anyone coming from Android will find enough similarities (especially in individual apps) to make the transition smooth.

The Surface Duo? That will be a little more interesting. Yes, it’s Android, so it will have a lot of confidentiality, but how will this work across two screens? How are the gestures to switch between full-screen apps, dual-screen apps, changes around the hinge and handset orientation … there are a lot of questions about that. No doubt reviewers will help guide the reaction, but for many it will take time with the Duo in their hands to convince them that the UI is reliable.

Finally, there are the costs. At $ 1399 for the entry-level model, this is not a cheap device. Microsoft does not have the same economies of scale that Apple can command for the iPhone 12. Due to the nature of having two monitors – one of the most expensive components in a mobile device – compared to almost any screened smartphone, the Surface Duo has a lot larger accounts of materials. You should then consider the price of the entry level, you get a device with only 6 GB RAM and 128 GB storage (a bulk up to 256 GB storage adds $ 100). You also miss 5G and NFC, regardless of the model you buy.

There is no doubt that Microsoft is looking to define a new space with the Surface Duo. The challenge will be to communicate that to consumers. The long campaign of the introduction of 2019, through prior orders opening today, to the retail version next month, has hopefully built a foundation. Now the Surface Duo will be standing next to the iPhone and asking the world to think differently.

Microsoft is running for the gates here. Let’s hope their pitch is good enough.

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