Oh Microsoft. Love it or hate it, it was right there, alongside Apple, making the personal computer a household thing back when that was a challenge. Not too long ago, prior to the year 2000, a lot of people weren’t really into computers, so like Apple, Microsoft was constantly working on making its operating system – Windows – as non-threatening, easy-to-use, and functional as possible. And nowadays, while Apple has managed to keep up with the times and achieve similar results with tablets, and most notably – smartphones, Microsoft is not exactly a big name in those two markets.That’s not from a lack of trying. Microsoft was always up for making an attempt. When Apple released the iPod – a super mainstream and user-friendly MP3 player, back when that was a thing, Microsoft released the Zune. Well, it was rushed, it was basically just a reskinned Toshiba product, it did not impress, and most importantly – it failed.
Then Apple released the iPhone. Microsoft’s answer – the Windows Phone! A combo of hardware made by Nokia, running software made by Microsoft – and while I personally loved my Windows Phone long before I had used Android, app developers sure didn’t. And eventually, due to a lack of popular apps, and inevitably – user adoption, Microsoft’s Windows Phone attempts also failed.
And now in 2023 Apple dominates the tablet market, and entire generations of people are growing up with touchscreen devices, most commonly Apple iPads, instead of Windows laptops or computers.
Microsoft, again, tried to compete with that Windows-threatening fact by putting its desktop operating system inside of a tablet and calling it the Surface, and I, again, gave it a shot. And while I liked the idea, the overall experience was not ideal. Sluggish performance, paired with a bloated interface not meant for touch first, plus the fact that most Windows apps are expecting a keyboard and mouse… It’s just not what you want to deal with on a tablet, especially after having used iPads, which don’ t have any of those issues.
So needless to say, the Surface tablets are not exactly even close to rivaling the iPad in popularity. But as with all Microsoft products, they do have a nice place with businesses and diehard fans, to be fair.
The Microsoft Duo – a very Microsoft way of doing something cool in concept, and lackluster in practice. A dual-screen phone for… working on the go?
Microsoft releasing the Surface Duo was the most un-Microsoft thing I would’ve never expected in a million years. Because from what I’ve noticed, Microsoft usually tries to enter an already competitive market once, and when that attempt almost inevitably fails, the once mighty and respected company never takes another shot at it. But in this case, it gave smartphones yet another go by making the Surface Duo, and I’m proud of it for that…
As someone who remains nostalgic about Windows Phone, I was excited when in 2020 Microsoft first announced the Surface Duo – a phone that’s powered by Google’s Android operating system this time, not one that Microsoft made. So it immediately gets all the big, popular apps all Android phones do; no worries there.
Even more surprisingly – the Duo was a dual-display phone, not to be confused with a folding phone. Instead of one big display that folds, it has two, big, separate screens held together by a hinge. Not great for watching movies, obviously, because of the gap between them – but genius for productivity. And way more durable than a phone with a soft folding screen!
Now, it’s no secret that Microsoft loves targeting its businessmen and businesswomen. Because despite occasionally trying to act cool and down with the kids like big boy Apple, Microsoft’s core audience has always been business people.
So a productivity-focused, dual-screen Android phone it was! With a gorgeous design, by the way – and I won’t even play it safe and call that “subjective;” the Microsoft Surface Duo is gorgeous! Thin, light, minimalist, clean.
The software was promising too, Microsoft had tuned Android and given the Duo its own launcher, with square icons, a beloved, familiar and homey Windows 10 wallpaper, and productivity multitasking features. Those included running two apps, one on each screen, which is indeed a superb way to multitask without worrying about cramped space.
And with Microsoft’s office apps, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook, all available on Android, this really was seemingly a perfect productivity phone for working on the go. Why isn’t it in every suited-up business person’s pocket?
Sadly, as you may have guessed by either never having heard of it, or at least never seeing one in real life, even in a store – the Surface Duo was not a winner in the common sense. It wasn’t well marketed, it didn’t reach a lot of influencers and reviewers (we didn’t get one, and I’m “definitely not” bitter about it), and on top of all that – users who actually bought it, for an expensive price of $1,400 or more, mind you, had software issues.
And the camera was described as a cheap webcam, failing to impress or even remotely hold up to the competition, which was likely a result of the phone’s ultrathin design. Eventually Microsoft released a Duo 2 that improved on that, adding a camera bump and bigger sensors inside, but again – that second Duo model didn’t exactly make waves either. And here we are, in 2023.
Folding phones are basically mainstream now, at least to the extent that everybody knows what they are, and a lot of people want one. The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 remains my favorite smartphone ever released, and its successor – the Galaxy Z Fold 5 is just around the corner.
But hey, Samsung came and took over the folding phone market like an absolute champ, so let’s look at an underdog instead. An underdog that has far less global reach than Samsung, and way, way less credibility than Microsoft, at least in the west. And that character goes by the name Oppo.
The Oppo Find N2 – about a perfect folding phone, off the bat. But marketing is what matters the most in this tale.
While Microsoft keeps struggling to make a mark on the smartphone market with its dual-screen phone, and the few users and reviewers who got their hands on it were generally not impressed, Oppo stepped up to Samsung and released the Find N, and now the Oppo Find N2 folding phones. And boy, oh boy, kids… that one’s a winner.
Not only is the Find N2 actually improving upon king Samsung’s folding phone design, by having a much less noticeable crease in the middle of its folding display, and arguably a better, more comfortable, wider aspect ratio when folded, but its display is actually the best one ever put on a foldable. We measured it! check out our Oppo Find N2 review to see how it stacks up against the Z Fold 4, which was already ahead of the curve itself.
And unlike Microsoft’s Duo, the Oppo Find N2 actually reached a global audience, despite the fact that it’s currently only sold in China. Why? Well, Oppo knows marketing matters. People need to learn about your new phone, need to see reviews, benchmarks. Oppo was clearly proud of its phone, as it should be, and made great efforts to put it in as many reviewers’ hands, including ours. And yeah, reviewers loved it; we loved it. And in turn, a lot of consumers learned about it.
The Oppo Find N2 is everything the Surface Duo needed (and tried) to be
So it’s fair to say that if Oppo manages to release the Find N2 globally, it would get more sales than the Microsoft Duo (both models), and a lot more at that. Not just because the Find N2 is a good product, but because Oppo actually made efforts to show it to the world, instead of arrogantly expecting the world to come to it. So it begs the question…
What’s Microsoft thinking? That its name carries weight in the smartphone world? This isn’t Apple or Samsung… Efforts have to be made, in order for the Duo to get the recognition it deserves. Because it does!
Again, I’m actually a fan of the Microsoft Surface Duo, or at least its concept, and want it to succeed. However, Microsoft not doing enough to promote it, and just expecting the world to go buy it, because it carries the Microsoft brand name, is ridiculous. If Oppo, which is basically an unknown entity in the west, can not only make a more polished product, but get it into everyone’s hands, then surely Microsoft, worth nearly 1.8 trillion dollars, can do it too, no?
It seems to me that Microsoft keeps repeating the same mistakes it often did in the past– it assembles a good, passionate team of people to design and develop a promising project quickly, in order to compete in a booming market. That team does its job, but then Microsoft doesn’t bother putting aside enough of a marketing and distribution budget, because… stinginess, I guess? This is all but mere speculation, although you ask anyone familiar with Microsoft’s business practices, and you’ll likely hear similar theories.
And this sucks, as I feel bad not only for the talented people who worked on the Surface Duo and Duo 2, but I feel bad for us – the consumers, too. This could’ve been quite the awesome alternative to folding phones for us all, had it been more popular, more widely available and less initially rushed.
But it’s time to hear your thoughts – do you like the Surface Duo, and the idea behind it? Do you own one, or at least know someone who does? Or do you believe the whole dual-display phone concept is inferior and doomed to failure, compared to folding-screen phones like the Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Oppo Find N2?