The original Surface Duo

While the Surface Duo 2 has the same basic design as the original (above), new leaked images show some big upgrades in the camera department.
Photo: Sam Rutherford

Last year’s Surface Duo was a bold attempt by Microsoft to spearhead a new type of mobile device, but like a lot of first-gen products, it didn’t quite hit the mark. But now a second model appears to be on the way and new leaked pics depict a device that trades out some sleekness for a more capable design.

Leaked pics of the Surface Duo 2 first appeared on a largely unknown YouTube channel late last month, and while the video’s text-to-speech narration and ambiguous sourcing don’t inspire a lot of confidence, the folks over at Windows Central claim these images are legit, potentially giving us a sneak preview of what’s to come later this fall.

While keeping the same general design including its signature hinge and dual displays, the big change on the Surface Duo 2 is a larger new rear camera module that includes wide, ultra-wide, and telephoto lenses. This new camera module should give the Surface Duo 2 a big boost in camera quality (which was one of the weakest aspects of the original), though its bulky shape protrudes significantly from the back and the phone and detracts from the original Surface Duo’s super sleek and elegant appearance.

Now I get that Microsoft may have been forced to make a move like this because the quality of the original Surface Duo’s photos fell far short of what people have come to expect from a premium device (especially in low light), let alone a phone that cost nearly $1,500 at launch. However, not only does that big camera module make the Surface Duo 2 look a bit awkward, but it may also make the phone harder to use, with the size of the camera bump looking as if it will prevent the Duo 2 from opening a full 180 degrees when transformed into tablet mode.

On the original Surface Duo, Microsoft’s designers made a huge effort to create a device that was extremely streamlined regardless of which mode the phone was in, and with the leaked device depicting what seems to be a prototype model, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the final version of the Surface Duo 2 sporting a somewhat less obtrusive rear cam.

Leaked Surface Duo 2 picture

Elsewhere, the Surface Duo 2 also looks to include a handful of tweaks and improved features including a fingerprint sensor that’s built into the phone’s power button, slightly larger displays thanks to decreased bezels, a USB-C port that’s now centered on the right half of the device, and new support for NFC, which Microsoft didn’t include on the original Duo.

The Duo 2’s specs are also rumored to include a significant refresh with Microsoft opting for a Snapdragon 888 chip with support for 5G and possibly more RAM as well. Unfortunately, it remains to be seen if Microsoft will be able to include things like wireless charging or an official rating for water resistance, which have become standard features on most high-end smartphones.

Finally, in addition to standard gray, it appears the Surface Duo 2 may also be available in black this year, sporting a frosted glass body instead of the glossy finish Microsoft used on last year’s device.

Currently, the Surface Duo is expected to make its official debut sometime later this fall (probably in September or October). And while these upgrades should go a long way towards making the Surface Duo 2 a more competitive device compared to other premium phones, the real test for Microsoft will be how it has improved the Duo 2’s software, which showed a lot of promise but was mired by a number of bugs and the lack of a major OS update, with the original Surface Duo still running Android 10.