The lifespan of a smartphone is short and brutal. Their beating heart is a battery that will, given enough cycles, puff up and die. Unfortunately, Microsoft's Surface Duo is designed to confound even the most routine maintenance, as argued by iFixit's latest teardown.
With screwdrivers in hand, the team opened up the Duo and found glue, lots of glue, especially on the dual batteries, which straddled the phone's unique 360-degree hinge mechanism. This design choice forces any prospective fixer to delicately melt the adhesive with a heat gun, without damaging any components. Microsoft also saw fit to use an uncommon tri-point screw type, and to attach one connector underneath the phone's logic board. This makes any replacement a spectacularly delicate process.
"It really doesn't seem like Microsoft had any thought of battery replacement in mind here," wrote iFixit. "$1,400 is a lot to shell out for any device, let alone one with a built-in death clock."
Indeed, printed on each battery is the warning: "This component cannot be easily replaced by user."
While iFixit applauded Microsoft's decision to add an easy ingress point for display repairs, it swiftly lost points for a design described as "booby trapped" with hidden cable ribbons aplenty. It also heaped praise on the relatively simple hinge, contrasting it with vastly more complicated designs from the likes of Samsung and Motorola, which incorporate features like dust-sweepers and micro-screens.
Still, that wasn't enough to stop iFixit slapping the Surface Duo with a lowly repairability score of two out of ten. "[The] Duo is not something meant to be repaired, maybe not even by Microsoft," it said.
By conventional smartphone standards, that's dismal. The iPhone 11 and OnePlus Nord both scored six, for example. But compare it with the recent crop of foldable phones, and the Duo's score is par for the course. The 2020 Motorola Razr and 2019 Galaxy Fold scored one and two respectively. ®