Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

Microsoft’s Surface Phone has a feature that many Android handsets lack

Published Aug 14th, 2020 7:31AM EDT
Surface Duo Price
Image: Microsoft

If you buy through a BGR link, we may earn an affiliate commission, helping support our expert product labs.

  • After revealing the Surface Duo price and release date, Microsoft made a surprising announcement regarding its new Android endeavor.
  • The Surface Duo will receive three years of Android updates, which matches Google’s guarantee for the Pixel but also Samsung’s recent decision to support some of its Androids for three years.
  • Not many Android handset makers are willing to provide steady Android updates to their devices, which remains one of Google’s main Android weaknesses.

Microsoft earlier this week revealed the price and release date of its first Android handset ever, the Surface Duo that was unveiled almost a year ago. The device is a different take on the foldable phone concept, as Microsoft is using two standalone displays connected by a 360-degree hinge to deliver a smartphone with a larger overall display than traditional smartphones. The handset is hardly perfect, featuring last year’s best mobile chip but lacking the allure of other Androids. It’s got no 5G support and no NFC, and the single camera might not measure up to your mobile photography needs. It’s also expensive, starting at $1,399, compared to other 2020 flagships. But the Surface Duo does target a specific set of consumers. Buyers who need both Android and Windows in their lives might benefit from this particular contraption, especially if Microsoft will be able to make Windows shine on an Android device.

What makes the Surface Duo interesting is a detail that’s just come to light, a feature that many of the traditional Android handset makers aren’t willing to guarantee: Updates.

Microsoft told The Verge that “Surface Duo will be supported with OS and security updates for three years.” That’s an incredible thing to advertise for a company that’s making its first-ever Android phone. And for a company that doesn’t control the Android release cycle.

It’s usually Google that would reveal details about guaranteed Android updates for its Pixel phones, not the other handset makers that use the operating system on their phones. And Google was never able to match Apple when it comes to software support for mobile devices. One of the best things about the iPhone is that it’s made to last longer than any of its counterparts, both when it comes to performance and updates.

In a surprising move a few weeks ago, Samsung promised to support three generations of Android updates on certain Galaxy phones, a first for the company. The guarantee applies to the S, Note, and Z series, but it was still great news to buyers.

Samsung hasn’t been at the forefront of Android updates, not even after Google made it easier for Android handset vendors to access new versions quicker and release their own updates in a more timely manner. As before, Android updates aren’t solely in the hands of Google or its partners. Carriers also have a say in the whole thing, which can further delay releases.

The fact that Microsoft is willing to go down the same route as Google and Samsung is certainly refreshing, and could motivate others to follow suit. Of course, when you only sell a single phone that targets a particular niche of buyers, it’s easy to guarantee updates. But Microsoft’s commitment shouldn’t go unnoticed. With three years of updates, that $1,399 price tag might be easier to swallow. The question is, how well will a Snapdragon 855-powered Android device behave on Android 14 three years from now.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.