Surface Duo has all the prerequisites for a new PC category ̵1; something more than a smartphone. It’s a multitasking workhorse you bring with you, but that does not mean it is perfect. As all first generation devices are prone to, the Duo has some disappointing omissions. And if you want the best, most complete smartphone experience with the Surface Duo, you need a smartwatch.
I do not even use smartwatches anymore
Call me a curmudgeon, but apart from occasional tests for my job at Review Geek, I often do not see the point of smartwatches. I fall into the group of people who see them as redundant extras to keep track of and recharge that replicate features in something you already carry. I have not used one regularly in several years – not since my smartwatch was discontinued (more on that a bit).
Smartwatches let you see notifications from your smartphone, respond to text messages, make payments, play with apps and do simple things like check the weather or make a call. Other than maybe heart rate tracking on some smartwatches, that’s all you can do with your smartphone.
Most smartphones anyway. You see, all of this applies to any tablet phone you can buy right now, from iPhone to Google Pixel, and it may even apply to most folders. But that argument does not hold water with the Surface Duo. No, Surface Duo can not do any of the basic things you take for granted on your regular smartphone.
What time is it? Who is calling? Check your Smartwatch
I’m in my late 30’s, so I remember when I had a regular old watch. No fancy electronics or internet function (which internet?) – just a clock that tells time. But like most, I stayed a long time ago, thanks to phones. When I need to check the time, I do not look at my wrist. I’m checking my phone. It’s there, slightly peasy.
But Surface Duo does not show the time so easily. The duo’s claim to fame is a dual screen system that closes like a book. It can turn thanks to a 360-degree hinge, but you close it and cannot see the screen when you are not using it. That is the crux of the matter. This means that you can not control time or notifications and even see who is calling without partially opening the phone to get to the Duo’s top position.
In addition, the phone does not have an NFC chip, so you can not make contactless payments. You may not have used contactless payments regularly before, but they are more important than ever thanks to the global pandemic. We are currently living in an era where the new goal is not to touch things, especially in public places.
Touching a credit card machine’s PIN or handing over your card to a stranger is the last thing you want to do right now. You do not know who touched the machine last, how often someone cleans it, how safe the employee has been or a few dozen other factors. The science of how long COVID-19 lives on which surfaces are still cloudy, so the best option is not to touch anything.
Contactless payments, on the other hand, remove all this uncertainty. Instead of handling physical objects or interacting with strangers, you can keep your contactless payment solution close to a reader and pay. It can be a card, a smartwatch or a smartphone with NFC.
More shops and restaurants are using the technology, and it is not uncommon to go through a fast food run with a payment machine hanging out the window. You may not find contactless payment options everywhere, but having the opportunity is better than not at all. On its own, Surface Duo cannot make contactless payments. It does not have the hardware.
But there is a fairly simple solution to get back the features that Microsoft skipped: Use a smartwatch. That’s right in the name; you can check the time from your smartwatch. You can see your text messages, even calls. All without digging a phone out of your pocket and opening it to the source of the notification noise. Sounds much better on the go or in the car. And you can travel without worrying about handling your card or touching a potentially infection-carrying machine.
While on other smartphones you can argue that a smartwatch replicates features, on the Duo it replaces the missing features of smartwatches. You would think that with the choices Microsoft made, the company would have a smartwatch to use with the Surface Duo. But it does not. At least not anymore.
Getting the band back together
Did you know that Microsoft had a smartwatch? OK, technically it was a fitness band. But it might as well have been a smart ride; it did almost everything that modern smartwatches do. Microsoft Band, versions 1 and 2, had a small number of apps, the ability to display notifications and even respond to lyrics.
I had both versions, and I can safely say that you could type it pretty well despite the small keyboard. Or you can use Cortana. I paid for Starbucks with the band and I trained with the band. And of course I checked the time with the band. It was not super comfortable, but it was super functional.
Microsoft broke the tape and ended my short business with smartwatches. It’s a shame because the band worked with Windows Phone (remember them?), IOS and Android. The last bit is the most important part of this scenario.
What the Surface Duo needs is a Surface smartwatch. Something specially built for the Duo to enhance and enhance it, giving you back the missing features. Microsoft has the chops to build good hardware, and it even has a vision. You can see it in the “Productivity vision in the future” video that the company created in 2015. Stay tuned and you will even see an exciting idea about smartwatches.
But that video asked, “how can the future be in 5-10 years” and given that we are 5 years behind that video, it is obvious that Microsoft’s vision is a way away. So we have to settle for another smartwatch.
The best smartwatch for Surface Duo
Surface Duo needs a smartwatch for the best possible experience. But which one should you get? That answer is a little tricky because we can not just say “get Microsoft.” Surface Duo runs Android, and although you might think that a Wear OS watch is the obvious answer, we do not agree. Even if you manage to get one for $ 15, you will still regret it.
It leaves two profitable options that give you time, messaging, text messaging, phone calls and contactless payments. You also get training functions. The first smartwatch you should consider is a Galaxy Watch, whether it is Watch 3 or Active 2.
You might think that Galaxy branded smartwatches only work with Samsung phones, but that is not true. It works with any Android phone. You have to download the Galaxy Wearable app, but you get all the features you would expect from a smartwatch when you do.
Of the two, the Galaxy Watch 3 is the more expensive device. It’s about having a physically rotating frame for navigation, leather straps and a trip sensor. It’s newer than Active 2, so it can also see support for a longer period of time.
A close Apple Watch experience
However, if you want to save some money, Active 2 is a good choice. Function by function, it is almost identical to 3 o’clock, from ECG scans to GPS, they share almost identical sensors, save the trip sensor at 3 o’clock. You go down to silicone tape and lose the physical frame rotation, but Samsung built a software equivalent in Active 2 .
A cheaper Samsung smartwatch
But if you want the best training experience, turn to Fitbit. The upcoming Fitbit Sense is a full-fledged smartwatch with lots of fitness equipment. You can take calls, text messages and get your notifications just like the Galaxy Watch. Still, you get the benefits of Fitbit’s ecosystem and the new EDA Scan sensor for managing stress. It also has Fitbit Pay for contactless payments.
The best health-focused smartwatch
If you prefer Fitbit on a more affordable scale, you can go down to Versa 3. You get the same smartwatch features with fewer health features. Neither Sense nor Versa 3 are out yet, but they will arrive a few weeks after the duo. If you can not wait, Versa 2 is also a good option.
A cheaper Fitbit smartwatch
Microsoft wants to create a new category with the Surface Duo – a hybrid tablet and phone that multitask better than any of them. But like all first-generation hardware, it is not perfect. Do not skip a smartwatch if you want the experience. You need it to get the most out of your Duo.