The Surface Phone is the stuff of smartphone legend, with rumors of the device dating back to 2012.
Since then it has popped in and out of the limelight, but just when we think it might be dead new leaks and rumors will emerge.
We still don’t know a huge amount about the Surface Phone, but we’ve collected all the up to date leaks and rumors below, along with our thoughts on what it needs if it’s going to help Windows 10 Mobile break out from iOS and Android’s shadow.
Cut to the chase
- What is it? Microsoft’s next flagship smartphone
- When is it out? Probably not before 2018
- What will it cost? It’s sure to have a flagship price
Microsoft Surface Phone release date
There has been talk of the Surface Phone for years now, and while we’re still not 100% sure that it even exists, the rumors never seem to stop.
Throughout 2017 we kept seeing rumors that an announcement was around the corner, and yet we didn’t get even a hint of an actual release date. At this point we’re starting to think that Microsoft is just messing with us.
That might not actually be true though, the latest leak in a very long line of leaks, suggests that the long-rumored Surface Phone is in the final stage of testing. At least, according to a bit of code hidden within Windows 10.
Who knows when we’ll get our hands on the Surface Phone, but we hope it actually exists.
Microsoft Surface Phone screen
- A 5.5-inch QHD screen
- ClearBlack AMOLED technology
That same dated rumor suggests it will have a ClearBlack AMOLED display. ClearBlack is a technology which reduces reflections, and has been used on some Lumia phones, while AMOLED is most famously used by Samsung, but has also appeared on Windows handsets such as the Microsoft Lumia 950, and typically delivers vivid colors with great contrast.
TechRadar’s take: Given that both AMOLED and ClearBlack have a history of use on Windows handsets their inclusion here wouldn’t be surprising, while many flagships have 5.5-inch 1440 x 2560 displays, so that too is believable.
Microsoft Surface Phone design
- A metal unibody
Don’t expect the colorful plastic that Lumia handsets are known for, as the only remotely recent Surface Phone design rumors suggest it could have an aluminum-magnesium unibody – so metal in other words.
TechRadar’s take: It’s too soon to have much confidence in design rumors, but it would make sense for Microsoft to launch a premium-looking handset, distinct from the Lumia line, so a metal unibody is very possible.
Microsoft Surface Phone camera and battery
- A 21MP camera
- Very fast and wireless charging
Early camera rumors suggest a 21MP snapper on the back and an 8MP one on the front, but this leak is now quite dated (having emerged in late 2015), so if it was ever true it may not be any more.
We don’t know what the battery will be, but it’s rumored that the Surface Phone will use a Snapdragon 835 chipset, which supports Quick Charge 4.0 for supposedly 20% faster charging than the current Quick Charge 3.0 system on many flagship phones. Wireless charging has also been rumored.
TechRadar’s take: We’d expect a high-spec and high-quality camera on the Surface Phone, but don’t count on a 21MP one given the age of that rumor.
Microsoft Surface Phone OS and power
- A Snapdragon 835 and 6GB of RAM
- Up to 128GB of storage
- Serious productivity skills
The Surface Phone is bound to run Windows 10 Mobile, given that it’s a Microsoft device, and it’s expected to run full desktop apps through Continuum – a feature that lets you connect phones to a display and use them like a computer.
In fact, we’ve heard that Microsoft wants the Surface Phone to be a real alternative to a computer, and for it to be both the best phone in the world for productivity, and also the most secure phone.
There could also be three different versions of the handset – a consumer model, a business model and a pro version. Elsewhere we’ve heard talk of two models, known as Surface Peking and Surface Slavonia, though with no information on how they differ.
As for the specs, there’s talk of 6GB of RAM and a Snapdragon 835 chipset, which was the main flagship chip of 2017, but now that 2017 has come and gone, we hope it gets a more modern CPU. Though earlier rumors pointed to Intel chips, which could give it more in common with a PC. We’ve also heard that it could come in 64GB and 128GB sizes.
TechRadar’s take: The Surface Phone is sure to have flagship specs, which, if it launches this year, likely would mean a Snapdragon 835 chip and 4 or 6GB of RAM. Though if multiple models launch some will presumably have different specs.
Microsoft Surface Phone other features
- A keyboard and stylus
- A fingerprint scanner in the screen
- A built-in projector
The Surface Phone could have a lot going for it beyond raw power. For one thing it may support accessories, like a keyboard and a stylus, which would certainly help with productivity.
Microsoft may also build a fingerprint scanner into the screen. That’s something we could also see on the likes of the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 and iPhone 8 if rumors are to be believed, but in Microsoft’s case the company has patented exactly that idea.
If the Surface Phone does put a fingerprint scanner in the screen it could potentially have a smaller, slimmer body.
There’s also talk of a projector, which could project a desktop display (for use with Continuum) onto any flat surface, likely using a stand of some kind to angle the projection. This is likely to generate a lot of heat though, as the same source says it will only be usable for “more than an hour”.
TechRadar’s take: It would make sense for the Surface Phone to support accessories, given Microsoft’s rumored productivity push, but we wouldn’t count on seeing a fingerprint scanner in the screen, as patents often don’t turn into products.
As the Surface Phone isn’t a direct successor to anything we can’t simply look at the faults of previous models for potential improvements, but having been rumored for so many years the Surface Phone will have its work cut out to impress us. Here’s what we want to see.
1. Make it the best phone for productivity
Microsoft supposedly plans for the Surface Phone to be the best handset for productivity, and we’d like to see it live up to that, with the power to create a full desktop experience when using Continuum, and useful accessories and apps (plus plenty of storage) so that it’s similarly good for getting things done when used as a phone.
2. Add an iris scanner
The Microsoft Lumia 950 already has an iris scanner, and we’d like to see it return here, albeit with improvements so that it’s fast, accurate and can be used at an angle.
Iris scanners are still a rarity and yet to become as convenient as fingerprint scanners, but if Microsoft can crack them for the Surface Phone then that would be a big point in its favor.
3. Focus on call quality
The only thing we can really look at for an idea of what to expect from the Surface Phone is the Lumia 950, since that was Microsoft’s last flagship handset, and that was a phone that neglected the basics, with call quality in particular proving disappointing.
While calls aren’t the central part of the phone experience any more, they’re still important, so we want the Surface Phone to get them right.
4. Build a fingerprint scanner into the screen
One of the more ambitious Surface Phone rumors points to a fingerprint scanner being built into the screen, but as unlikely as that might sound it’s an idea that’s been attached to other handsets too, so it might only be a matter of time before some phone does it.
If the Surface Phone is the first then it will have an exciting, futuristic feature that will help it stand out from its Android and iOS rivals.
5. Dual operating systems
The biggest hurdle faced by the Surface Phone is the fact that it will almost certainly run Windows – an operating system that almost no-one seems to be interested in on mobile, and which as a result has a disappointingly small app selection.
One possible solution would be to allow the Surface Phone to also run Android, so users can switch between operating systems as they please. Given that Microsoft is behind it this is very unlikely, but we can dream.
- The iPhone 8 is also arriving this year