A Microsoft patent posted in late 2021 details what appears to be a Surface Duo lookalike with an extra screen. Very little is known about this product right now, but rumors are calling it the Surface Trio, or Tri-Fold Surface. It's intriguing whatever name we use, so let's look at what the patent describes to get a better look at what this could be.
Is There Going to Be a Microsoft Surface Trio?
We're not sure! The details available at this stage come from a patent, and history tells us lots of companies file for patents which describe technology and products we never end up seeing on store shelves.
Patently Apple took note of the patent shortly after it was posted on the US Patent & Trademark Office website in December 2021 (it was filed in June 2020). We know it’s from Microsoft because the applicant listed in that document is Microsoft Technology Licensing, which is a subsidiary of Microsoft that manages the company’s patents.
Unfortunately, documents like these don't provide any information about a release date or the team working on the project, so it's unclear this early if the product even exists or when it could be released.
Release Date Estimate
We think the Tri-Fold Surface, if it's real, will arrive late in the year—possibly during a Surface event—but we're not sure if it'll be this year or in 2023, or even later. For reference, the first Surface Duo was officially released in September 2020, and its successor was available in October 2021. With the little information we have at the moment, the Surface Duo 3 could show up first before this phone…we just don't know much yet.
Tri-Fold Surface Price Rumors
A triple-screen setup will undoubtedly raise the price over a two-screen device. By how much is still up in the air.
The Surface Duo 2 is $999, and that would be a good value for a tri-fold phone if it works as advertised. However, that price came 6 months after it was launched—the Duo 2 started out at a pretty steep $1,499.
We're thinking the same $1,499 price tag will be used for this device, if not one slightly higher.
We'll provide a link here when pre-orders for the Surface Trio open. The Duo 2 was in its pre-order phase for nearly a month before it was released, so we could see the same with this foldable phone.
Microsoft Surface Trio Features and Specs
It's still very early, so we don't know anything about this device's features yet. It'll most likely run the Android OS like the Surface Duo, but aside from that, the patent titled "Multi-Panel Display Device" just describes a handheld device with three screens separated by hinges.
In short, as the picture below illustrates, this three-screen display could be very similar to the Surface Duo, but finally with an always-available screen on the outside when the rest is folded up. Of course, when unfolded, you also have 50 percent more screen than what the Duo provides.
The patent doesn't include screen sizes or total dimensions of the device, but we can still guess. If we use the Duo 2's specs as a reference, and we assume the individual screens and bezels in the Surface Trio remain the same size as they are in the Duo's (which isn't confirmed; we're just speculating), the total display area when unfolded could be over 11 inches.
1402, 1404, and 1408 are the three screens described in the patent. The first two fold on top of each other over hinge 1406, and 1408 folds onto the back of 1404 over hinge 1410. This means there are three ways you could use the phone:
- Single-screen mode: Collapse both hinges so that you don't see the first or second screen, but still have full control of the device with the third display like you would a traditional smartphone.
- Dual-screen mode: Open it like you would the Surface Duo, by keeping 1408 (the extra screen) folded behind the second display so that only the first and second screens are visible.
- Tablet mode: Extend all three screens to enter into more of a tablet mode, taking full advantage of the new design.
At this time, without any leaks coming out of Microsoft, we'll assume the hardware will be somewhat similar to the Duo 2: a USB-C port, 5G support, a fingerprint reader in the power button, a triple-lens camera setup, up to 512 GB or 1 TB of storage, and 8-12 GB of RAM. The biggest change will probably be a bigger battery to support the additional display.
Without the phone in our hands, it's not totally clear how well a three-screen device would work. How bulky would it be in your pocket? Do the hinges close seamlessly, or are there weird gaps that break the illusion of one big screen? How flat can it really sit on a table when only two screens are open?
Despite the opinion by some that foldable phones are a silly idea, the reality is this isn’t Microsoft’s first go at one, and other major phone companies are interested as well—Google Pixel Fold and foldable iPhone rumors prove this.
The Latest News About the Microsoft Surface Trio
You can get more smartphone news from Lifewire, but here are other related stories and some rumors we’ve found about the Tri-Fold Surface specifically: