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Photo: Microsoft

With Surface Duo, Microsoft has re-entered the phone business (sort of), with a dual-screen device running Android. The unique hardware and software combination makes it more than just a curiosity, even if it's likely to be a niche player at best.

Why it matters: Microsoft isn't going to suddenly become a major player in mobile hardware, but the Duo does give the company a novel option for Microsoft loyalists.

Details: Teased a year ago and formally introduced last month, Surface Duo becomes officially available today, starting at $1,400. AT&T will sell the device directly, while an unlocked version that works on all three major carriers will be sold by Microsoft, Best Buy and other retailers.

What's hot:

  • The design is elegant, useful and seemingly hearty: Of all the new crop of folding devices I've used, Microsoft's is the first that doesn't feel delicate and precious but rather built to be used.
  • Two screens makes for great multitasking. I enjoyed more easily moving among my mainstay apps: Slack, Outlook, Twitter and the browser.
  • It's first-class Android. By partnering with Google, you really do get the best of Android in terms of Google's apps and access to the Google Play store combined with all of Microsoft's mobile apps.

What's not:

  • The camera is the Duo's glaring hardware weakness. There's only one small sensor, and you have to fold your phone one way to take selfies and another to capture what's in front of you. That makes Surface Duo ill-suited for candid shots and results in an overall subpar camera experience.
  • Few programs are optimized for Duo's two displays, so you're usually just running one program in each screen. Over time, it would be nice if more programs make full use of the dual screens, as Microsoft has for some of its own programs, like Outlook, and Amazon has with its Kindle app.
  • The phone supports all the major LTE networks, but lacks 5G support. That's not a huge issue today, but could prove frustrating over the life of the device.
  • Surface Duo suffers from the same price problem as other multi-screen devices: It costs as much as two phones put together.

Go deeper

Ina Fried, author of Login
Nov 20, 2020 - Technology

Cloud gaming services use iPhone's web browser door

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

One of the biggest trends in gaming is the ability to play console games wherever you are, on whatever type of device, thanks to the magic of cloud streaming. The tricky part has been finding a way to bring such gaming to iOS — since Apple wants to review and approve each game as a separate app.

Yes, but: Google, Nvidia and Microsoft have decided to work around, rather than with, Apple's rules. In recent weeks, all three have announced plans to bring their game services to iOS via the web browser — the one big opening in the wall around Apple's garden.

CCP releases two jailed Canadians after Huawei CFO deal with DOJ

Photo: Sheldon Cooper/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Two Canadians imprisoned by the Chinese government for over 1,000 days have been released and are expected to arrive in Canada on Saturday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday.

Why it matters: Their release comes hours after Huawei Technologies CFO Meng Wanzhou reached a deal with the U.S. Department of Justice that resolves the criminal charges against her and could pave the way for her to return to China.

Updated 13 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Arizona GOP's private recount of 2020 election confirms Biden's win

Contractors working on behalf of the GOP examine and recount 2020 ballots at Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix in May. Photo: Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images

In an odd coda to the 2020 election, private contractors conducting a GOP-commissioned recount in Arizona confirmed President Biden’s win in Maricopa County.

Why it matters: The unofficial, party-driven recount has been heavily covered on cable news as part of former President Trump's continued effort to sow doubt about the election result.