There were many rumors leading up to the Microsoft event about a folding Surface. But instead of getting a real folding, single-folding screen, Microsoft showed us the Surface Neo and Duo, which feature two hinged-connected screens. Sure, they may look a bit archaic compared to the folding OLED screens that smartphone makers are rushing to put on their shelves, but maybe the folding screens are more problematic than they are worth. Using two screens still gives us a taste of a whole new generation of computing, where our devices can take on new forms but do so with less headaches.
Now it is clear that handset makers are cooling the hype around folding smartphones following Samsung's Galaxy Fold issues. It's not hard to imagine why: Making a single flexible screen that can withstand the torture of everyday use is incredibly difficult. Just look at the insane warnings Samsung has put in your Galaxy Fold: keep it away from coins, keys and cards, you know the things we also put in our pockets. Do not exert too much pressure on the screen, even with your nails. And don't forget to keep the fold away from small particles like pocket lint! And don't forget, never twist your phone the wrong way.
These problems are less problematic on devices such as Surface Neo and Duo. Instead of stressing the screen directly by opening and closing it, the hinge is impacted by this force. You can also fold the two Surface devices 360 degrees, allowing them to move from the booklet feel to just a single screen when you need something more compact.
This is something that OLED folding phones simply cannot do. Galaxy Fold has a strange and slim external screen when it is closed. Meanwhile, Huawei Mate X has all its folding screen outside. While this makes it usable when it's “closed,” it also makes your precious screen completely vulnerable. This is particularly bad since folding screens can't be covered with glass foil – apparently they don't fold very well – and you probably won't be able to easily cover them with covers.
Simply put, the use of two separate screens is a great victory for durability. When closed, Surface Neo and Duo look a bit like jewel cases protecting your precious screens. And even though its exteriors are also covered by Gorilla Glass, Microsoft officials say they are still strong enough to fall. And this is not something you want when pressing LTE on all these new devices.
The disadvantage of using dual screens, of course, is that you'll have to live with the hinge and frame in the middle. It's not as easy as a single folding OLED. But based on the demos we saw, the two screens still look very useful. You can easily drag apps to any screen and extend them across both screens if you want a tablet-like experience. Maybe it's just because I'm used to working on multiple monitors, but the interruption between the screens didn't bother me as much.
The Surface Neo and Duo design also allows accessories that may not work easily with a folding screen. There's a slim Neo Bluetooth keyboard that can magnetically stick to the back and rotate whenever you need to type. When you do this, Neo turns the bottom of the still exposed screen into something called “Wonder Bar,” which contains emojis and other shortcuts, similar to Apple's TouchBar. You can also press the keyboard a little so that it is just below the top screen and use the bottom screen as a touchpad. And if you prefer handwriting, you can also magnetically attach the new thin-surface pen to the back of the Neo.
Now, I'm sure we'll find out how to make reliable folding OLED displays. But based on all the problems surrounding Galaxy Fold and the fact that we have only seen one other small company submit a folding, it seems that we still have a long way to go.
And then there is the price issue. The Galaxy Fold sells for almost $ 2,000, is the price of an expensive laptop. We don't know how much Surface Neo and Duo will cost, but I bet they're much cheaper because they don't have unproven screen technology. Neo will also compete with other devices running Windows 10X, Microsoft's new dual-monitor operating system, which should help keep the price under control.
It is also a good sign that Microsoft is taking advantage of the Neo and Duo, which are due to be released by the end of 2020. They are not rushing to be the first like Samsung, and hopefully this will help prevent engineering problems. embarrassing. The leap into every new generation of computing is delicate, and sloppy product launches can easily kill consumer interest. Microsoft may not have all the answers when it comes to dual screen devices, but at least it is dealing with the obvious problems facing folding devices today.
I'm a lawyer, journalist and fan of the Windows platform for about 10 years. I cover events and I am daily aware of Microsoft's world of consumer products.
I respond as executive editor of Windows Club.