Microsoft is rolling out the long-awaited update to Android 12L to the Surface Duo and Surface Duo 2 devices. The dual-screened devices have always been a curious halfway house between an Android smartphone and a Windows desktop. With the additional features offered by 12L, both sides of that divide have been improved, making the Duo stronger.
Commonly known as Android 12L, this update to Android primarily focuses on tablets, foldable, and dual-screened devices such as Microsoft’s Surface Duo.
Surface Duo users will see many changes on their handset, although this will likely be down to moving from Android 11 to Android 12. Not only does this keep the Android version up to date – much appreciated for security and app updates – it also increases the utility of the Surface Duo to run more Android applications with no issues. From Microsoft’s blog post on the update:
“The new user interface updates we’re sharing today focus on building stronger connections between Windows and Duo, driving familiarity using visuals and coherence. We’ve maximized the potential for customization within Android to deliver this more aligned experience without sacrificing performance.”
Take one pronounced example which could have an immediate impact; Gmail. Until now, Gmail was only usable on a single screen of the Duo; once you moved to span both screens, the app was not aware of the central gap, resulting in some text chopped off and some text sitting on a small sliver of the left-hand screen. Now you can span Gmail over two screens, and the code – which hooks into Android’s display code – will respond to its environment and place navigation fully on the left side and the content fully on the right side.
Gmail isn’t alone in this, Google calendar now offers a split view on the Duo rather than a tablet-style single screen spanned over the hinge, and no doubt there are countless other apps that are now adapted. This isn’t because the developers are explicitly targeting the Duo; instead, they are using the best practices in talking to a display through the Android code… this is where 12L makes a big difference.
Google has not done this out of the goodness of its heart. These changes will impact a wide range of larger-screened devices using Android, creating a more cohesive ecosystem and a platform that developers can trust will have universal appeal
Neither is Microsoft sitting back and waiting for Google to offer its code. Many of the changes incorporated into Android 12L have been added via the Android Open Source Project, and Microsoft’s developers have made many additions to that code-based.
However, they got to this point, Surface Duo and Surface Duo 2 owners have just seen their devices pick up an update that allows them to keep pace with other Android devices and expands the software usable on their devices.
Microsoft has also taken the opportunity to tweak the UI and presentation on the Surface Duo platform to bring it closer to Windows 11. Given the dual-screen and multitasking approach used on the Duo, and the renewed emphasis in Windows 11 on multi-tasking through multiple windows and preferred layouts, it makes sense for Microsoft to ensure that there is consistency across the various devices – be it the wallpaper and font, through the layout of apps, and the iconography and inking experience.
The Android 12L update is rolling out across the platform now. Those with unlocked devices should see it under the usual update screen in settings; those with network-locked devices may have to wait a little longer.