Microsoft only gave a tentative holiday 2020 availability date for the Surface Duo last fall, but now we’re hearing that the first Surface phone may launch a lot sooner than that.
Multiple sources have confirmed to Microsoft aficionado blog Windows Central that the device is ahead of schedule, stating that a launch could happen by this summer. That could put it months ahead of the original anticipated availability time-frame.
Senior editor Zac Bowden explained that both the hardware and software have been finished, and that Android 10 has been completed since August 2019. Right now, Bowden says that Microsoft is tidying things up with “top-level OS customizations” and “in-box app experiences.”
According to the site’s sources, Microsoft expects to have the software ready by early April. If this timeline is met, then the device could be ready for developers and the earliest of adapters by summer. This could mean that the Surface Duo may be ready for purchase alongside the rumored Surface Book 3 and Surface Go 2 refreshes that are expected to happen this spring.
Though Microsoft is accelerating the Surface Duo’s launch schedule, it’s believed that the device may have been incubated and ready for several years now. Prior to Microsoft’s launch announcement of the device last autumn, reporting said Microsoft already had the hardware ready, and the company originally planned on releasing the dual-screen phone with Windows Core OS under the Project Andromeda codename.
However, it appeared that Microsoft had scrapped those plans, opting instead to go with Android instead. Because of this switch and the hardware’s long development cycle, the Surface Duo will debut with some compromises. The bezels aren’t as slim as on today’s flagship phones, and the omission of 5G network connectivity is glaring in 2020.
Additionally, the Snapdragon processor is at least a generation behind compared to high-end phones launching this year from competitors. The accelerated launch timeline could help to make the Surface Duo’s hardware appear less stale when compared to other Android flagships launching this year.
Given the older specifications for a flagship phone, Microsoft wants to perfect the software to attract consumers to choose its dual-screen form factor over competitors, including the Huawei Mate X and XS, Samsung Galaxy Fold, and Samsung Galaxy Z Flip. In the past, it was reported that Microsoft had originally delayed its Surface Phone endeavors because the device didn’t offer a compelling use case for the form factor.
There are still other uncertainties that could affect the final launch date for the phone, especially given the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus. The spread of the novel coronavirus could — as Microsoft had recently guided investors — affect electronics manufacturing in the region, and this may in turn affect the company’s launch plans for its first smartphone since shuttering its Windows 10 Mobile devices years ago.