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Purchasing a Microsoft Surface Duo 2

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19/11/2021

Microsoft Surafce Duo 2

I've had the thing for a week now, and have some observations -

Location/Language

I'm in the EU but want an en-GB phone UI, and having been burnt by locale restrictions before I was worried that I'd have to purchase the thing from Microsoft's en-GB store. Happily Microsoft lets you set your locale and language to anything you like so... yay! Also, all Surface Duo 2's purchased in Europe ship to the buyer from Ireland, so you can buy locally and avoid import taxes if you want an en-GB phone UI. Yes, the paranoia is real -- too many have been burned by Brexit 😶

Hardware

I wanted a pen, and so I included the Surface Slim Pen 2 in my order. What escaped me was that the pen needs a charger. And of course neither the Surface Duo 2, nor the Surface Slim Pen 2 includes a charger!

If you want the pen, remember to get something that can charge it. Microsoft's web site doesn't tell you. Beats me why they don't sell pen and charging cradle as a single SKU.

I've read much about Microsoft GamePass working on these things, too. I have two Xbox controllers at home but turns out they're not Bluetooth. And so unless you have one already, make sure to find a Bluetooth (not just "wireless") Xbox controller if you want to use one with the Surface Duo 2.

The UI

The user interface is vanilla Google Android with some apps from Microsoft. Of course with the exception of some UI changes to manage two screens - like a fast tap-and-hold on the right side of the right screen for "back"). Having gone through the entire Windows Phone cycle this (Android on Microsoft hardware) is disappointing. Windows Phone remains streets ahead of Android and it's a shame Microsoft was unwilling to make that work.

As mentioned I've had the device for a few days, and I'm slowly getting used to working with the two screens. Beware of swiping left or right on an app to try moving it to another screen or closing it (I almost deleted some emails doing this). Swipe up from the buttom to close an app. It takes a bit of getting used to...

Best part about the UI? Outlook (mail) on the left screen, calendar on the right. Epic UX!

Storage

The Surface Duo 2 doesn't have external storage (SSD), so you're left with Internal storage. I don't stream music so I dumped my entire collection onto my Surface Duo 2. This is ok, the collection is only ~80Gb. Something to keep in mind though, 'specially when you add video. Speaking of video - the camera is... rather rubbish.

Final Thoughts

It's been a long time since I've been excited about phone hardware (the last one was the Nokia Lumia 1520 -- the best phone I've ever owned). The Surface Duo 2 has me pretty excited though.

Next steps are removing some of the Google apps (off the top of my head Gmail, Chrome, Drive, Google TV, Maps, YouTube, and Photos). Not a Google fan.

When the Google apps are gone I'll focus on securing the Surface Duo 2. I've already installed F-Droid and NetGuard.

Parting thoughts. It's been 8 years since Nokia released the Lumia 1520. It was the last device I ever wrote software for, and the Surface Duo 2 is the first device since then that has me thinking about porting Interact to it...

Notes

Camera

Start camera - double-click/push/press power button

Switch between portait/landscape - flip phone over quickly (assumes phone fully-folded open, ie. both screens facing out.


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