Microsoft is still struggling to learn what exactly it takes to be a successful Android manufactuer. The company’s first self-branded Android phones, the dual-screened Surface Duo and Surface Duo 2, have tried to resurrect Microsoft’s mobile ambitions after the death of Windows Phone. They leave a lot to be desired, though, and the first version went through some embarrassing fire sales. An ongoing knock against the devices has also been Microsoft’s very slow OS updates. Unlike, say, Windows and Windows Update, Google’s expensive and labor-intensive Android update process puts the responsibility for updates on the hardware seller, and a big part of being a good Android OEM is how quickly you can navigate this complicated process. Microsoft is proving to not be good at this.
This week, Microsoft announced the Surface Duo and Surface Duo 2 are finally getting Android 12L, an OS update that came out in March. That puts that company at a more than seven-month update time, which is worst-in-class for a flagship device, especially for one costing the $1,499 Microsoft is charging for the Duo 2. The company took a prolonged 14 months to ship Android 11 to the Surface Duo, so at least it’s improving!
Android 12L features a bunch of changes aimed at big-screen tablet devices, but the awkward in-betweener Surface Duo seems to settle on the phone interface. The dual-pane notification panel isn’t here, nor is the (ironically very Windows 11-like) taskbar at the bottom of the screen.
Microsoft says the Surface Duo skin build tries to make Android look more like Windows 11, with “unified iconography, colors and UI controls,” making Microsoft’s Android phone feel like “an integral part of the wider Windows ecosystem.” One highlighted new feature is a pen menu, where a click on the top of the Surface Slim Pen 2 will open an app shortcut drawer. There’s no word on when Microsoft plans to ship the 2-month-old Android 13.