Foldable phones are a hot topic in the mobile market but they are still far from something that most consumers will be able to use, let alone afford.
By JC Torres
It will be quite a while before flexible screens become reliable and durable enough to meet the standards of those who can afford them. In the meantime, a different breed of foldable phones, those with dual screens, is sparking up some interest, especially with Microsoft’s long-awaited Courier, or Surface Duo rather. That admittedly eccentric and niche phone runs the risk of becoming a spectacular dud unless Microsoft takes the time to learn from LG’s dual screen foray.
The Surface Duo and its Windows 10X sibling, the Surface Neo, embodies the fulfillment of a dream that is more than ten years in the making. Back in 2008, the idea of the Microsoft Courier was not only innovative, it was also revolutionary. Today, it sounds more like a fantasy and a possibly pointless endeavor, especially when the likes of the ZTE Axon M, the LG V50 ThinQ, and, now, the LG G8X ThinQ Dual Screen have shown the limits of can be done.
Of course, Microsoft now has the opportunity to learn from all those and do better. It was, in a way, a stroke of genius to pre-announce the two devices more than a year before they launch. Microsoft can’t really claim originality and the Courier concept has been around for a decade now with barely anyone trying, much less succeeding, in making it work. Microsoft is in a unique position to make it work, but it can also fail terribly if it doesn’t make good use of its time and resources.
The thing that helped spark interest and imagination in the Microsoft Courier was not just the idea of a device with two screens that folds like a notebook. More than just the hardware, it was the experience that presented it as more than just a fancy tech demo. It wasn’t really a general-purpose device, or at least not the way it was presented. It presented a user story that made people stop and wonder how life would be so much nicer if they had that product.
A limited device probably won’t fly today but doesn’t mean Microsoft should just throw in everything it can and advertise it as that. Microsoft needs to have compelling user stories and use cases that will make people actually spend $2,000 or more on such a device. It should go beyond mere multi-tasking, gaming, or even larger screens, especially considering that seam in the middle. And for that, Microsoft will have to make sure that the software is up to par.
Microsoft recently put out its first public call for developers to dip their toes into the upcoming dual screen Surfaces and there it assured both developers and users that regular apps will work just fine on the new devices. While that inspires a bit of confidence in the products, it won’t excite anyone. For that, Microsoft will have to really put in more effort than simply giving developers the tools to adapt their existing apps to this future that Microsoft is envisioning. More