Sunday 20 October 2019

Microsoft surprises the tech world with new phone

Microsoft Surface Duo phone (left) and Microsoft Surface Neo (right) Pic: Adrian Weckler
Microsoft Surface Duo phone (left) and Microsoft Surface Neo (right) Pic: Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler in New York

Microsoft has announced a dual-screen Android tablet that doubles as a phone.

The Surface Duo won’t be available until late 2020, but the company unveiled the product at its annual Surface product launch event in New York.

Laid out in full, the Duo device is an 8.3-inch tablet. But it can be folded into two 5.6-inch screens that can run different apps.

As such, it’s just about compact enough to fit into a pocket or a handbag.

It’s a major step in the direction of phones for Microsoft, which had to cancel its smartphone line of Lumia devices after a disastrous hook-up with Nokia almost ten years ago.

“We know that you’ll be more productive on two screens. But it has to fit in your pocket or your bag,” said Panos Panay, Microsoft’s chief product officer, who unveiled the device.

It’s also a ground-breaking partnership between Microsoft Google on a hardware device.

The Duo was one of two future products the Microsoft unveiled today.

It also announced the Surface Neo, a 13-inch tablet that folds into two 9-inch screens with a Bluetooth keyboard that flips around to turn it into a mini-laptop.

It is designed for people who need productivity on the go, but who don’t have much space to store a device and who also like to consume some TV episodes on the move.

The gadget conjured memories of the company’s previous ‘Courier’ product concept.

No prices for either the Dup or Neo were announced.

Otherwise, Microsoft announced a slew of other new laptops and Surface devices that are available immediately.

It unveiled its own Surface Earbuds, a pair of wireless in-ear headphones that have touch-sensitive exterior panels that can be used to control playback of music. The Earbuds also use their microphones as a transcription aide. When a user speaks out loud, the Earbuds are capable of transcribing the speech into text. Microsoft also says that the feature will also allow for translation into other languages.

Microsoft says that the Earbuds have an all-day battery life. However, they are set to be priced considerably above Apple’s AirPods (€180) at above €250. The pre-tax price in the US is $249.

Microsoft also updated its laptop and two-in-one laptop-tablet ranges, while introducing some extra models.

The expected Surface Pro 7 was joined by a new Surface Pro X, with higher power and space for a new, thinner Surface Pen above the keyboard.

The Surface Pro 7, which has a detachable keyboard, adds USB-C while the new Surface Pro X squeezes a 13-inch screen into a 12-inch frame due to its thinner bezels. The Surface Pro X is also slightly lighter and thinner than the Intel-based Surface Pro devices and includes new silicon based on Qualcomm’s design.

Microsoft says that the Surface Pro 7 starts at €919 (without the keyboard) while the Surface Pro X starts at €1,169 (without keyboard), although this does not go on sale until November.

Meanwhile, the new 13.5-inch Surface Laptop 3 now also comes in a 15-inch variant and an AMD Ryzen processor.

Microsoft says that it’s the fastest laptop on the market, claiming that it is three times the speed of Apple’s current MacBook Air.

The Surface Laptop 3 has a new fast-charging facility that brings it to 80pc in an hour.

Microsoft says that the Surface Laptop 3 will cost €1,169 while the 15-inch model will cost €1,399.

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