surface duo 2 rumors: can microsoft's foldable improve enough for us to recommend it?

© Provided by CNET Microsoft's Surface Duo launched in 2020, and rumor has it the follow-up foldable is coming this week. Scott Stein/CNET

Microsoft's annual Surface event is happening this Wednesday (here's how to watch the event live), where it's expected to launch a bevy of refreshed hardware products ranging from Surface Pro 8 to the Surface Book and a next-gen version of the Surface Duo. If you remember, the launch of the Surface Duo marked the software giant's re-entry into the competitive hardware category.

Last year's Surface Duo was essentially a first-gen experiment -- a phone CNET couldn't recommend buying unless perhaps you were a highly curious individual with deep pockets. The first-gen device took the form of a two-screened Android device (yes, Android) joined together with a hinge that allows it to open up like a book. Microsoft says the two screens are designed for productivity. In reality, the experience was decidedly different, and it left CNET's Scott Stein yearning for his "comfy old phone" back.

surface duo 2 rumors: can microsoft's foldable improve enough for us to recommend it?

© Richard Peterson/CNET

Read more: Microsoft Surface Duo vs. its foldable rivals: Galaxy Z Fold 2 and Razr specs compared

So what's in store for Microsoft's 2021 follow-up, the rumored Surface Duo 2? Read on for all the rumors we've heard so far and what we think we'll see at the Microsoft Surface event later this week.

Camera: Surface Duo 2 might get a camera bump

One of the biggest rumoured upgrades to the Surface Duo 2 (unofficial name) is expected to be found on the camera bump. (Yes, rumour has it that a camera bump will be present this time around, changing the back of the phone.) A Windows Central report points to a rear camera bump with a trio of cameras: A 16-megapixel ultra-wide, 12-megapixel telephoto and 12-megapixel standard, plus a time-of-flight sensor for depth. 

Remember, the original version featured a single 11-megapixel camera on the inside, which can become an external camera if the Duo displays are flipped around. It's exceedingly rare for a flagship phone to feature just one rear camera, and it appears, at least for now, Microsoft has taken note of that.

Processor: Flagship-level chipset expected in the Surface Duo 2

The Windows Central report also believes that the new Duo 2 will incorporate a Snapdragon 888 processor, meaning it'll get a top-of-the-line processor matching the ones built inside this year's Samsung Galaxy Fold 3 and Galaxy S21 Ultra. The original Duo featured a Snapdragon 855, which is a step below the Snapdragon 865, or the flagship-level chipset that powered some of the best Android phones from 2020.

surface duo 2 rumors: can microsoft's foldable improve enough for us to recommend it?

© Provided by CNET Richard Peterson/CNET

Display: Bigger screens, higher refresh rate

Based on the latest whispers creeping out of the rumour mill, it doesn't look like there'll be a massive design overhaul to grace the next Duo. As I said earlier, the biggest upgrades will likely come to the camera module, but there could be a couple of display tweaks too. According to that Windows Central report, Duo 2 will incorporate dual 5.8-inch screens with a "high refresh rate." Specific refresh rate numbers aren't floating around as far as I've checked, but if this rumour pans out, it should be higher than the 60 Hz panel used on the original Duo. 

Software: Android 11 maybe?

With Android 12's full release just around the corner, I'm hoping the Duo 2 will ship with Android 11, though there's no word yet on whether that'll come to fruition. While the first-gen Duo got a swathe of security updates, it never received Android 11, which is the Google-developed software that ran on pretty much all other flagship phones released last year. Instead, Duo relied on Android 10, but even then the experience was buggy (to put it mildly). CNET's Scott Stein, who got some hands-on time with the device, said the software was plagued with a "persistent lagginess" and that a problem with the screen's orientation threw off the entire experience for him. 

Price: Microsoft is expected to stand pat

There's no word either on the price of Surface Duo 2, but the original launched at $1,400 (about £1,070 or AU$1,960). Given that this iteration is rumoured to ship with the latest specs and more features, Windows Central has reported that Microsoft will stand pat on prices, citing unnamed sources. In the weeks leading up to Microsoft's Sept. 22 event, the company had slashed the price of the original model. In early August you could get it for as low as $400 from Woot, and even now you can get it half off the original price directly from Microsoft. All this is a tell-tale indicator that come Wednesday, we could see the Surface Duo 2 make an appearance. 

Check back later this week for everything Microsoft Surface, and in the meantime, here's everything we expect to see at the 2021 Surface event, including a possible overhaul of the Surface Book and a new Surface Pro 8. And here's how to watch the Microsoft Surface event live on Sept. 22. Plus, why Microsoft doesn't consider the Surface Duo a phone.

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