• Mikko Peltola

Building engaging apps for Microsoft Surface Duo starts from the design


Avalon CX has vast experience in mobile devices, applications, developer experience, and lately, Surface Duo apps. In this blog, we’re sharing our experiences and thoughts both for developers and business decision-makers.

Microsoft’s Surface Duo is a compelling new device, or rather a device creating a new category. It’s got the screen real estate of a tablet, pocketability of a mobile device - and multitasking promise second to none. There’s something about having two physical screens that tell your brain to function differently. We’re all used to having multiple windows open on our desktops and laptops. Many of us are used to various monitors side by side at our desk, especially now that we’re working from home. Yet, in the mobile world, we’re used to frantically swapping between apps. Tablets would have the screen real estate to run multiple screens side by side, but it’s not what we are used to doing. Two physically separated screens of Duo are a clear signal to expect each screen to have a separate function for a common purpose.


"Getting the Duo experience right is much more challenging than implementing it technically."


App development, in general, has become less of a technical challenge and more about compelling experience design over the years. At the same time, customers’ expectations have risen.  In the past, the mantra was ‘free or fantastic.’ Nowadays, everything needs to be fantastic, or you don’t have to chance to monetize, whatever way you’d prefer to do it.

Building apps for Surface Duo sets some unique technical requirements. Duo isn’t running just a standard Android but an enhanced Android OS. Traditional Android apps run on Duo, and there’s twice the opportunity for new experiences across the dual displays. In any case, your app won’t leverage the unique dual-screen opportunities unless you build the app to do so.

Getting the Duo experience right is much more challenging than implementing it technically. Traditional app development, whether iOS or Android, has to adapt the screen to portrait and landscape mode at best. With Duo, there are six different postures to consider. You can run an app on the left side of the screen, the right side of the screen, and horizontally on both. Similarly, on the upper screen, the lower one, or vertically on both. You could also place the device on a table in an A-shape so that you and someone else both see one side of the screen. 

When you have two screens, you don’t merely want to scale the view in most cases. At least you can present more information. You may also want to split the functionality so that the upper side shows content while the lower side acts as a keypad, for example.

The even more significant benefit with dual screens is presenting two applications or two views of one app side by side. Comparing data, copy-pasting fields, seeing your calendar while messaging, checking your email while in a video conference – the opportunities feel unlimited. 


Our five steps to success

In the end, it’s not about the technical capabilities of Duo or your skills to build an app. These do matter, but the starting point has to be the customer. How do you add value to your customer’s life? What kind of IT solution is relevant to her? What are the steps in her daily journey that are deskbound, and you could mobilize? What are the current mobile processes that require flicking back and forth in an app, that you can make more convenient? Besides convenience, can you claim you reduce mistakes, improve uptime, save lives, or avoid litigation? Our five steps to success are:

  1. Set targets and success criteria. Plan how you gather data, turn it to insights, always measure whether you’re on track, and pivot when necessary.

  2. Identify how to improve your customer’s journey. Unless you intimately understand your customer, we recommend research and interviews, creating a user persona, and mapping the journey of the persona.

  3. Understand the current IT, Surface Duo capabilities, and where there’s potential to improve.

  4. Carefully evaluate what’s the right balance between new improvements and keeping things familiar.

  5. Design the solution (not just the app) and design it so that the team can turn it into SW development. Develop the app. Like you track project milestones and code, don’t forget to test the expected customer experience throughout the process continuously. Customer Experience is a journey, not a milestone.

Avalon CX strongly believes in the importance of Customer Experience. Building Surface Duo apps is a perfect example of a CX challenge disguised as SW Development. To hear more or to continue the discussion with us please get in touch!



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