Microsoft unveiled its Surface Duo device at the company’s hardware event back in October. The dual-screen device includes two 5.6-inch displays (1350 x 1800) that fold out into an 8.3-inch overall screen. While we saw a lot about the hardware back in October, Microsoft didn’t let anyone play around with the Android software and apps that power the Surface Duo. That’s all changing this week, thanks to Microsoft publishing its Android emulator for developers.
Zac Bowden managed to play around with the emulator and navigation gestures, and Jonas Daehnert — known as PhoneDesigner — has overlaid that footage onto the Surface Duo itself to give us a much better idea of how these dual screens will work in practice.
In the nearly two minute video you can see how apps and Android’s built-in settings will open on a single display fullscreen. Microsoft is making it a user choice to span the apps across both displays, and advising developers to start testing their apps and optimizing them.
While apps and settings menus open fullscreen, you can also see how Microsoft is reflowing how pinned apps on the Android home screen span across the two displays. Once an app is launched, the apps immediately flow onto the opposite display so you’ve always got access to open more. The Android task manager also only appears on one display, allowing Surface Duo users to drag and drop apps onto the second one.
Now that developers can start building Android apps that are optimized for both displays, it will be interested to see just how many really take advantage of having an extra screen. Android tablet apps have been notoriously bad in the past, but Microsoft’s approach means they’ll mostly just run on a single display fullscreen, so you can use them side-by-side. That should, by default, make the experience pretty manageable out of the box, but there are more complicated apps that you’d want to span across both displays that will require some work to avoid the seam in the middle.
Developers can download the new Android emulator from Microsoft and start getting apps ready. It’s optimized for the Surface Duo, and a similar emulator will be available for Windows 10X next month to get Windows developers ready for the bigger Surface Neo hardware. We’re also expecting Microsoft to detail more of its dual-screen plans during a developer webcast next month, and at the company’s Build conference in May.