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Microsoft has cut the price of its Surface Duo smartphone by $400, a substantial discount five months after the product's release.
Microsoft launched the dual-screen, Android-based phone in the U.S. in September at $1,400. This week's cut brings the price tag to $1,000. It comes less than a week before Microsoft's Feb. 18 release of the device internationally.
The Surface Duo's selling point is its dual screens, which measure 8.1 inches diagonally. Microsoft said the screens improve worker productivity, especially for those who use the 365 office suite. Employees could have a Teams meeting open on one screen and review a PowerPoint presentation on the other.
The device has not lit the market on fire, though. Microsoft shipped 183,000 Surface Duos in 2020, IDC analyst Ryan Reith said. In contrast, Apple shipped 90.1 million phones in just the fourth quarter of the year.
Smartphone sales were down in general in 2020, in part because COVID-19-related economic uncertainty made high phone prices unattractive. Many consumers turned to the used-phone market in the face of phone prices topping $1,000.
Manufacturers adjusted, with Apple and Samsung selling the base models of their latest flagship phones for less than $1,000.
Though this week's Surface Duo price cut was considerable, the device still costs $1,000. Industry observers said a four-figure price tag could make consumers step back and reassess their need for the device.
Constellation Research founder R "Ray" Wang said foldable and dual-screen phones as a whole failed to excite customers. He noted Samsung dropped the prices for its foldable-screen flip phone, the Galaxy Z Flip 5G, earlier this month. That $250 cut reduced the phone's cost from $1,450 to $1,200.
"The category hasn't found a good use case yet," Wang said.
Gartner analyst Tuong Nguyen said Microsoft likely did not expect the Surface Duo to be a big seller but saw it as more of a test balloon.
"I viewed this launch as Microsoft dipping its toes into the smartphone market to get some direct insight into it," he said.
Mike Gleason is a reporter covering end-user computing topics such as desktop management. He previously covered communities in the MetroWest region of Massachusetts for the Milford Daily News, Walpole Times, Sharon Advocate and Medfield Press. He has also worked for newspapers in central Massachusetts and southwestern Vermont and served as a local editor for Patch. He can be found on Twitter at @MGleason_TT.