The Surface Duo Is the First Phone that Basically Requires a Smartwatch

A Surface Duo next to the Surface buttons and a stylusMicrosoft

The Surface Duo has all the ingredients a new category of PC“Something more than a smartphone. It’s a multitasking workhorse that you take with you, but that doesn’t mean it’s perfect. As any first-gen device is 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 don’t even use smartwatches anymore

Call me a curmudgeon, but beyond the occasional testing for my work at Review Geek, I often don’t see the use of smartwatches. I’m one of that bunch of people who see them as extra superfluous devices to track and charge that mimic the functionality of something you’re already wearing anyway. I haven’t used one regularly in years, not since my smartwatch of choice was discontinued (more on that in a moment).

Smartwatches let you see your smartphone notifications, respond to text messages, make payments, play with apps, and do simple things like check the weather or take a call. Other than maybe tracking heart rate on some smartwatches, that’s all you can do with your smartphone.

Most smartphones anyway. See, this all applies to any slab phone you could buy right now, from the iPhone to the Google Pixel, and it can even apply to most foldables. But that argument doesn’t hold water with the Surface Duo. No, the Surface Duo can’t do some of the basic things you take for granted on your regular smartphone.

What time is it? Who calls? Check your smart watch

A closed Surface Duo with a bumper case.No outdoor display means no time, notifications or anything else when the Duo is closed. Microsoft

I’m in my thirties so I remember when I wore a regular old watch. No fancy electronics or internet capability (what internet?) – just a watch that tells the time. But like most people, I stopped a long time ago, thanks to phones. When I need to check the time, I don’t look at my wrist. I check my phone. It’s right there, easy.

But the Surface Duo doesn’t display the time as easily. The fame of the Duo is a dual screen system that closes like a book. It can turn around thanks to a 360 degree hinge, but you close it and can’t see the screen when not in use. This is the crux of the matter. This means you can’t check the time or notifications and even see who’s calling without partially opening the phone to access Duo’s peak mode.

In addition to this, the phone does not have an NFC chip, so you cannot 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 a time when the new goal is not to touch things, especially in public places.

Hitting the PIN pad of a credit card machine or handing your card over to a stranger is the last thing you want to do right now. You don’t know who last touched the machine, how often someone cleans it, how safe the employee was or a dozen other factors. The science of how long COVID-19 will last on which surfaces is still cloudy, so the best option is to not touch anything.

Contactless payments, on the other hand, take away all that uncertainty. Instead of handling physical objects or interacting with strangers, you can place your contactless payment solution near a reader and pay. It can be a card, a smartwatch or a smartphone with NFC.

More stores and restaurants are embracing the technology, and it’s not uncommon to go through a drive-thru fast food service with a payment machine hanging from the window. You might not find contactless payment options everywhere you go, but the option is better than not at all. On its own, the Surface Duo can’t make contactless payments. He doesn’t have the equipment.

But there is a fairly simple solution to recover the features that Microsoft ignored: use a smart watch. It’s right in the name; you can check the time from your smartwatch. You can see your text messages, even take a call. All without taking a phone out of your pocket and opening it at the source of the notification noise. Sounds much better on the road or in the car. And you can travel without worrying about tampering with your card or touching a potentially infectious machine.

While on other smartphones you can say that a smartwatch replicates functionality, on the Duo smartwatches replace missing functionality. You think that with the choices Microsoft made, the company would have a smartwatch to go with the Surface Duo. But this is not the case. At least more.

Put the group back together

This is my Microsoft Band 2. I still have the thing. Josh Hendrickson

Did you know Microsoft has a smartwatch? OK, technically it was a fitness band. But it might as well have been a smartwatch; it has done almost everything modern smartwatches do. The Microsoft Band, versions 1 and 2, had a small number of apps, the ability to show notifications, and even respond to texts.

I had both versions and can say for sure that you could type on them quite well despite the small keyboard. Or you can use Cortana. I paid Starbucks with the band and practiced with the band. And of course, I checked the time with the group. It was not very comfortable, but very functional.

Microsoft canceled the group, ending my short adventure with smartwatches. It’s a shame because the group worked with Windows Phone (do you remember that?), IOS and Android. This last element is the most important part of this scenario.

What the Surface Duo needs is a Surface smartwatch. Something specially designed for Duo, to make it better and better, giving you back those missing features. Microsoft has what it takes to build great hardware, and it even has a vision. You can see it in the “Productivity Vision of the Future” video created by the company in 2015. Stick around and you’ll even see an intriguing take on smartwatches.

But, this video asked, “What could the future look like in 5-10 years?” And considering that we are 5 years after this video, it is obvious that Microsoft’s vision is far from being. We will therefore have to settle for another smartwatch.

The best smartwatch for Surface Duo

A Galaxy Watch3 and FItbit Sense side by side.Samsung, Fitbit

The Surface Duo needs a smartwatch for the best possible experience. But which one should you buy? This answer is a bit tricky because we can’t just say “get the answer from Microsoft”. The Surface Duo runs Android, and while you might think a Wear OS watch is the obvious answer, we don’t agree. Even if you manage to get one for $ 15, you’ll still regret it.

This leaves two viable options that will allow you to get time, notifications, text messages, phone calls, and contactless payments. You will even benefit from fitness features. The first smartwatch to consider is a Galaxy Watch, be it the Watch 3 or Active 2.

You might think that Galaxy brand smartwatches only work with Samsung phones, But this is not true. It works with any Android phone. You will need to download the Galaxy wearable app, but you get all the features you could expect from a smartwatch once you do.

Of the two, the Galaxy Watch 3 is the more expensive device. It’s like having a physical rotating bezel for navigation, a leather strap, and a travel sensor. It’s newer than the Active 2, so it can be supported for longer.

An experience close to the Apple-Watch


If you want to save money, the Active 2 is a good choice. Functionality for functionality, it’s almost identical to Watch 3, from ECG scans to GPS, they share almost identical sensors, register the travel sensor on Watch 3. You will switch to silicone bands and lose the physical rotation of the bezel , but Samsung is building equivalent software in the Active 2.

A cheaper Samsung smartwatch


But if you want the best fitness experience, turn to Fitbit. The next Fitbit Sense is a full-fledged smartwatch with tons of fitness extras. You can take calls, texts and receive your notifications just like the Galaxy Watch. Still, you get the benefits of the Fitbit ecosystem and the new EDA Scan sensor to manage stress. It also has Fitbit Pay for contactless payments.

The best smartwatch focused on health


If you prefer Fitbit on a more affordable scale, you can upgrade to the Versa 3. You get the same smartwatch features, with fewer health features. Neither the Sense nor the Versa 3 have been released yet, but they will arrive a few weeks after the Duo. If you can’t wait, the Versa 2 is also a great option.

A more affordable Fitbit smartwatch


Microsoft wants to create a new category with the Surface Duo, a hybrid tablet and phone that works better than both. But like all first-generation hardware, it won’t be perfect. If you want to live the experience, don’t skip a smartwatch. You will need it to get the most from your Duo.

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