Microsoft Surface Duo, dual-screen Android device experience
By Mike Irving - Published: 22/11/2021

The Microsoft Surface Duo is a very versatile dual-screen device, that can operate landscape, like a book, portrait, like a wall chart, or in single screen mode.

For the most part, I've been holding it like a book, landscape, screens to the left and to the right.


Side by Side Apps

In this mode it is easy to open an app in each screen, tapping on the home screen icon from the relevant screen.

Microsoft Surface Duo - side by side apps


Switching and Closing Apps

Swiping up slowly from either screen will put the current app into a list of open apps to switch to.

To terminate an app, once in list view, fling the app to the outside of the device (so to the left on the left screen, to the right on the right screen).

Microsoft Surface Duo - switch between apps


You can do this with ease, easily switching your apps, and opening new ones from either the home screen or the quick launch icons.

Microsoft Surface Duo - terminate apps


Changing Screens, going Dual-Screen

Changing screens is also easy, swipe up an app from the bottom of the screen, but keep your finger held down and move across to the other screen. The target screen will gain a grey highlight to indicate you are wanting to move the app to it. Let go to finish.

Microsoft Surface Duo - move to the other screen


Targeting the middle of the screen will indicate to the device that you want the application to use both screens, as shown.

Microsoft Surface Duo - target both screens


The Dual-Screen Experience will vary, application to application.

For some apps it will take the form of sub-pages appearing on the second screen.

Microsoft Surface Duo - sub page navigation


Switching to Single Screen

Closing the device with the screens facing outward will switch the device to single-screen mode, with the experience then like that of other large Android 'Phablet' devices.

The Surface Duo will decide which screen you intended to use.

Microsoft Surface Duo - single screen mode


If it gets this wrong, Double-tap on the other screen to switch screens, as prompted.

Microsoft Surface Duo - switch screens


Likewise, you can use the lock screen from single screen view.

Microsoft Surface Duo - single screen lock screen


I have found app screens can get a bit lost when you switch to single screen and back, but you can soon find what you want again from the multi-tasking list.


Portrait Mode

I have done most of my experimentation in Landscape Mode, as it feels more familiar to me, based on using PC and iPad devices in Landscape mode for many years.

However, this does mean you generally see one app on one screen, or one page on one screen, one on the other.

Microsoft Surface Duo - landscape mode


To switch to Portrait mode, simply roatate the device.

Microsoft Surface Duo - portrait mode


Apps in Portrait mode can feel more like you are using any other smartphone, albeit a huge one, with the app displaying from top to bottom.

Microsoft Surface Duo - Microsoft Word


This really comes into it's own on apps that require a keyboard, such as editing a Microsoft Word document in the Microsoft Office app.

Microsoft Surface Duo - Microsoft Word, with keyboard


The keyboard occupies the bottom screen, and by folding the screen half way, you'll create yourself a mini-laptop experience. Great for documents.

Microsoft Surface Duo - half folded


This could potentially be great for games too. Action on the top screen, controls on the bottom.


I'm having a lot of fun with this device. In next article we will look at the Surface Pen.

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