Will the “Surface Phone” be a foldable cellular PC?

Remember the introduction of the Lumia 950 XL, 950 and 550?

Panos was pretty clear that he had only just taken over the Lumia efforts and the design of those phones (along with the Band) were things that he had inherited.

The Surface team must be working on a phone using this platform, and you can guarantee that it is going to create a new genre of devices in the same way the original Surface did for the 2 in 1.

The goal is to bring Windows 10 to life in your pocket, and the recent announcements of full Windows 10 running on ARM will allow for that. This means you can have small and always connected cellular devices which can instantly switch from being a phone to being a PC.

But what would something like that look like?

This week MSPoweruser published a new patent for a foldable phone-to-tablet mobile device:

In this patent, Microsoft is describing a device that is flexible supported by a flexible hinge structure that secures the plurality of housings to each other, permits the plurality of housings to rotate about an axis in relation to each other, and supports a continuous viewing area of the display device that extends across the plurality of housings and the flexible hinge structure.

I suggest you go to MSPoweruser and have a look for yourself – it’s very interesting.

One of the images that struck me was a view of the bottom of the device. I immediately connected it to the legendary Microsoft Courier device, which was famously abandoned late in the development process.

But the Courier isn’t the only foldable device we’ve seen Microsoft work on.

Microsoft’s Future Vision video from 2009 also featured a small foldable device. This one could also disconnect into two separate devices. (See this patent for more)

And one of my favourites, the flexible notebook device from 2015.

While I don’t think we’re at the stage of truly flexible computers that act like paper, I do think it’s likely that the technology is ready for a foldable device which would be able to transform between a phone and a tablet. Let’s see if Microsoft do it this year.

What’s in your bag? 2016

I’ve always been a fan of these kinds of posts so every couple of years I do an update of what I keep in my work bag and what I have as my every day carry:

Knomo Kilkenny

The Bag

The bag itself a messenger bag designed for “11 inch laptops” by Knomo. I’ve had a look and it appears that it is now discontinued but it’s still going strong for me.

I got it back in 2014 to use with my Surface Pro 2. In my original post I speculated that “it will hopefully last even longer than the technology it will hold.” and I was right. It’s a perfect fit the Surface Book too.

I usually wear it just on one shoulder when going short distances but it it works fine across my body too. Previously I’d had larger backpacks for work, but these days the stuff I carry is so small and light that a messenger bag is the best option and just using one shoulder doesn’t cause any physical issues for me.

Surface Book

The main compartment of the bag is used by whichever Surface Book I am using at the time; I have one for work and another one for personal use.

The Surface Book is a beautiful machine and way better than the clunky and huge Dell or HP laptops I used to use for work.

It’s worth mentioning here that I do not carry a power adaptor with me by default. I have Surface power adaptors both in my home office and at work, plus the battery life is just fine for most situations where I am out and using the machine for work.

What's in your bag?

Notebooks

The middle compartment sometimes gets used for other things, but mostly it is where I carry my notebooks.

As a huge stationery nerd I often try out new pens and pencils – but one certainty is that I’ll have my Arts & Science leather case containing my Hobonichi, Field Notes, and whatever my pen of choice is at the moment.

Analogue Note-Taking

Check out my analogue note-taking setup for 2016 for more information on the setup I had at the start of the year, or follow me on Instagram if stationery is your thing.

Analogue and Digital Pens

In the front compartment there are a couple of pen slots – at the moment it is currently holding:

  • Surface Pen
  • Zebra Sharbo X ST3

While the Surface Pen has a magnet to clip to the side of the device, I find that I prefer to keep it in it’s own place when I am storing it in my bag. I don’t want there to be any chance of it falling off and scratching the laptop.

The Sharbo X is probably my favourite multi-pen and I use it a lot when taking notes in meetings. It’s really handy to keep this one in my bag so I have a pen, pencil, and highlighter to hand at all times.

small-items

Small Accessories

Finally, there are also a small number of other miscellaneous items I carry in a zipped pocket:

  • Small USB Cable
  • USB Type C adapter
  • micro SD card and USB adapter
  • Pen knife
  • Cleaning cloth

And that’s it! I really love how much lighter my bag is compared to previous years.

Surface Book

I usually push my computers pretty hard until they must be upgraded. Earlier this year it was time for my ageing Surface Pro 2 to be replaced with a shiny new Surface.

But which one?

There was no doubt I was going to get another Microsoft Surface, but it wasn’t until I started using a Surface Book at work that I decided to get myself “the ultimate laptop” rather than “the tablet that can replace your laptop“.

surfacebook-laptop

Since I first started using the original Surface I was convinced I would get tablets in the Surface Pro line moving forward. I still believe that they are the most forward looking form factor, but the stability of the Surface Book’s laptop base has allowed me to get more done with the computer on my lap, rather than only feeling productive at a desk.

I decided it was worth the switch for now… but maybe in the not too distant future the Surface devices would allow you to switch between the kind of base you want to use at any time, rather than making you choose from either the Pro or Book line. Why have a different tablet component? I guess that’s is a discussion for another time, but I still very firmly believe in the tablet form factor.

Flexible computing

I am fortunate enough to use the same model of Surface Book in my day job as well as having my own for personal use. Thanks to the dock I can plug either of them into external devices really easily: power, network, keyboard, monitor, and mouse are all provided by one cable that can be used with either my personal or work computers. Very handy.

dock

Most of the software development I did on my Surface Pro 2 was performed while it was docked, so I still have the same experience with the full-size Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard and Mouse set that I was using before, and I’m still using the same ultra-wide monitor too. (I’m actually considering making some changes at my desk, but I’m not sure what yet.)

The real benefit of the Surface Book is that I feel just as productive when I am away from my desk. It is much larger than the Surface Pro 2 but it still feels light enough that I am not carrying around something huge like my old Dell workstation.

The biggest reason for this is that the Surface Book is primarily a laptop rather than a tablet. While Star Trek has taught me that tablets are the future, decades of history has shown me that laptops are the best form factor for getting things done on the move. Thankfully the Surface Book isn’t just a laptop. You can remove the screen and use it as a fully functional tablet too.

As almost all of the electronics are in the screen itself the device would be top heavy if it used a standard hinge. Microsoft’s solution to this problem is the Surface Books most striking feature: the dynamic fulcrum hinge.

hinge

The way the hinge closes results in some space between the two sections and I remember people questioned on weather this was a good idea or not. Most arguments against the hing centered around the supposition that loose items stored inside a bag may get between the screen and the keyboard.

I am a sane human being… so I never put anything in the same bag compartment as the Surface Book itself.

While the gap may look striking in photographs, it very quickly becomes normal. In fact the last laptop I owned had an issue where the keys would touch the screen and would regularly need cleaning because of it.

Keyboard and touchpad

The backlit keyboard is great to type on, both in thanks to the stability of the base and the overall feel of the metal keys. They’re raised from the base thanks to the aforementioned hinge.

The touchpad is also pretty amazing, certainly on par with Apple’s MacBook and light-years ahead of the fabric touchpad I was using on the Surface Pro 2.

Surface Keyboard

The gestures to allow switching between desktops has really changed the way I use Windows and it all works together to make using the the Surface Book as a laptop a really good experience.

The combination of the impressive keyboard and multi-touch keyboard has enabled me to be more productive while hot-desking and moving between meetings too.

Touch screen and pen

I was never going to buy a laptop that didn’t have a touch screen, and Microsoft was never going to make a Surface without one either.

Honestly I was kind of waiting for OLED technology to make its way to the Surface line, but after using a Surface Book I realised that the screen was so good it didn’t matter. (OLED isn’t ready yet either, apparently!)

The step up from my previous device is substantial, and I love how crisp everything looks.

Here you can see the difference between the 1920 × 1080 @ 150% desktop of the Surface Pro 2 compared to the 3000 × 2000 @ 200% desktop of the Surface Book.

sizes-resized

These are the default settings and I’ve seen people tweak the settings to get larger working areas. I find 100% too small, but 150% seems okay. Either way there are a lot more pixels to work with and the aspect ratio is a lot more useful.

Surface Pen

The Surface Pen was updated for the Surface Pro 4 and the Surface Book, but the technology inside is largely the same as was used on the Surface Pro 3.

It sports a different technology to the Wacom used on the original Surface Pro and the Surface Pro 2 which means my existing pens do not work. This hasn’t been much of an issue for me as I think the pen that comes with the Surface Book feels superior when compared to the Wacom pens I was using before.

As the button on the end works over Bluetooth I must be careful not to confuse which pen is pared to which Surface. Amazingly I haven’t taken the wrong one to work… yet.

Windows Hello

One of the best things about the Surface Book is the way it can authenticate you by using an infrared camera.

The difference between the technology in the Surface Book and the Lumia 950 is night and day – using the Surface Book is absolutely fantastic and I rarely have to move just to be in the right position in normal use.

(For those rare times it is confused you can always use the Jedi mind trick to get it to try again)

Windows Hello

Specifications and storage

One complaint is that the SD Card slot is a bit dumb – like the MacBook Pro they use a full size card which doesn’t go all the way in.

Obviously I don’t use full size SD cards (as it is 2016!) but I do use microSD cards.

I’ve got a little BaseQi adaptor in the side of the device and I highly recommend this to anyone who has a Surface Book. I tend to use this microSD card for things like ISO files – but no actual data as it is not encrypted like the built in SSD.

BaseQi

Finally, the device itself is super powerful and brilliant for use as a developer machine I have the high spec version meaning there is an Nvidia GPU in the base, and lots of disk storage.

  • CPU: 6th Generation Intel Core i7-6600U CPU @ 2.60GHz
  • RAM: 16GB DDR3
  • Storage: 256GB SSD
  • Graphics: Intel HD graphics 520 and NVIDIA GeForce GPU with 1GB GDDR5 memory