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Thomas Künneth
Thomas Künneth

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What to do with a Surface Duo in 2024

If you are following me here on, you likely know by now that I am a big fan of foldables, as I have published a whole series of articles about writing apps for them. My foldable is the discontinued Microsoft Surface Duo. The device has seen only two major Android upgrades, the latest version is 12L. Microsoft ended support for the original Duo in September 2023. Its successor, the Surface Duo 2, will receive some more security updates, but support will end later this year, too. Given this fate, the best thing to do surely is to abandon them and move on, right?


From a technical point of view, my Duo is in pretty good shape. No scratches and cracks, no malfunctions, no degradation of battery capacity. Its bright screens still compete nicely with recent devices, and even the size (thickness) of the Duo remains competitive. Of course, the foldable has quite a few weak points, which have been mentioned in reviews from day one. But if they did not stop me from buying, why should they stop me from using the Duo?

Certainly, the most obvious reason for no longer using the device is the lack of security updates. An Android 12L device with a patch-level of August 2023 will become easier to attack each month. On the other hand, it's a Mainline device, so quite a few system components will receive updates through Google Play. Also, third-party software like VPNs (virtual private networks) and virus scanners may provide an additional level of security. So, if or when it becomes too risky to continue using the device, will, in the end, depend on our usage scenarios, meaning, where and how we use a device.

I have been using my Duo at home most of the time. While it certainly would be foolish to assume that nothing can happen there, certain attack vectors are less likely. Anyway, using any unsupported device can be risky, and using or no longer using it must in any case be a careful decision.

Let's briefly recap: while security concerns might tempt me to stop using my Surface Duo, the state of the hardware is a good reason to stay a little longer. The underlying idea is sustainability. Why throw something away that stills works? Let's face it, our planet is not in good shape. We have been exploiting it to a point that is no longer healthy. Hence, it is in the best of our own and our children's interest to slow down, that is, to reduce waste, to consume less energy, to produce less unnecessary goods. Consequently, continue using the device for, say, one more year, would surely be a good thing.

Android 14

Even though there is no recent Android version for the Surface Duo from Microsoft, you can nonetheless upgrade it to Android 14, thanks to an incredible initiative by Thai Nguyen. Thai provides Android 14 builds for both the original Duo and the Duo 2.

Surface Duo running the Google app and Google Drive

You can use Android 14 either as a dual boot option (this way, the original Microsoft version remains intact) or go all in and install Android 14 as the only operating system. Until recently, I used the dual boot method. But as there will be no updates from Microsoft, I decided to wipe the device and install just Android 14. Both paths require unlocking the bootloader. And wiping the whole device can, in the worst case, leave your Duo in an unusable (bricked) state. There are three incredible clips on YouTube by Shane Craig. They greatly helped me getting Android 14 onto my Duo:

If you decide to try this, too, make sure to read everything that Shane put into the pinned contents, and be aware that things can go wrong, leaving your Duo in an unusable state.

Once you have finished installation and setup, you will benefit from cool Android 14 features like flash notifications, lock screen customization, improved share features, and regional preferences.

Surface Duo features in system settings

There is a new module in system settings, Phh Treble Settings. It contains a couple of pages, for example Customization features and Surface Duo features. The latter one is particularly interesting. Make sure to select Swipe to split screen and Disable Hinge Gap. The first one offers a unique way to show two apps side by side. And disabling the hinge gap makes sure that the hinge no longer obstructs content. This also activates the tabletop mode in YouTube. Here's how this looks like:

Tabletop mode in YouTube

There's a nice explanation clip by Google aimed at Pixel Fold users. You may want to watch it to learn more about the feature.

Is the Surface Duo still feeling old? Or is it more like Wow, that is really cool? 😊 And there is more. You can use a stylus to fill in text fields. To do so, open Developer options in system settings and scroll down all the way to Stylus handwriting. Once you have enabled this, you will spot a new section in Gboard settings:

Write in textfields settings in Gboard

Making the most of your foldable

Unfortunately, way too many apps lock the device into portrait mode. Running them looks like this:

The PayPal app running on a foldable

This is not a problem specific to foldables. It affects tablets as well. As I find it a pretty unpleasant experience having to rotate the device just to use such apps, so I decided to write a small app launcher called Be nice.

The PayPal app running in split-screen mode

It opens an app in split-screen mode, which causes the screen to not rotate. You can create a pinned shortcut by tapping and holding the app in Be nice and then selecting Add link.

Some more tips

Some Android features are available only on Pixel devices. Until an experienced developer decides to port them to all other smartphones, foldables, and tablets. On a Pixel, you can launch an app by tapping twice at the back of the device. Tap, Tap by Kieron Quinn brings this feature to your phones - and the Surface Duo.

Do you want to interact with the Google Assistant by saying Hey Google? When I tried to enable this feature, I spotted an Assistant not available on this device error message. Fortunately, this was easy to fix by installing the Google Assistant from Google Play.

Another thing I noticed: the new customization features for the lock screen allow you to add two shortcuts at the left and right side of the screen. When I tried to add the QR code scanner, the shortcut remained disabled. Here, the fix was easy, too. You first need to add the QR code scanner quick settings tile.


Obviously, my tips and tricks cannot fix the Duo camera. And they can't add wireless charging or NFC capabilities. However, these things did not stop me from choosing the Duo. Consequently, they are no reason for no longer using it. What is important: the Android 14 custom ROM makes the device more secure, gives me lots of cool new features, and improves the overall experience. So my plan is to continue using the Duo until at least this fall.

What do you think about my sustainability reflections? Are you considering buying devices less frequently? And do you have additional customization tips? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Top comments (2)

japex profile image
Flávio Higuti

I still use Duo 1 with Android 12L
And i still like it very much. But nota as my main devices. But very useful at home.

kevin_bland_56095f1e40e46 profile image
Kevin Bland

I love my Duo. As you say, it’s a great format device with so much more to offer than Microsoft was able to support….and there is life in the old dog yet! Hats of to Thai for this amazing bit of work and I do hope we see lots of continued updates!

I have one question which I have not been able to find the answer to: what is the swipe to split screen and how does it work?

I have no doubt that, as soon as I’m told, I’m going to utter those immortal words “oh THAT!”…but it would be good for my paranoia to know I’m not missing some cool feature that Thai has spent time coding!