Imaging and touch improvements are highlights of the new Surface Duo 2 update

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The Surface Duo 2 continues to dominate headspace at All About Towers, with major improvements arriving today, with a feature-packed January 2022 update hitting the folding communicator over-the-air. So whether you've only just finished reading about its faux-Continuum mode or its Lumia-like image processing or my Bumpers review, this update is well worth taking note of since it's yet another software step forwards for this somewhat ground-breaking device.

It's particularly notable that while most manufacturers stick to under-the-hood security patches, Microsoft is using the monthly security update cycle for Android to also push significant new features. Here's the full changelog:

  • Enabled pen shortcut preferences in settings for Surface Slim Pen 2. It requires Surface Slim Pen 2 to be paired with Surface Duo 2.
  • With the Your Phone app, you can use Android apps on your PC. For more information on using Surface Duo with your PC see Link Surface Duo to your PC.
  • Addresses scenarios outlined in the Android Security Bulletin—January 2022.
  • Improves camera usability of night mode, 4k video recording, and auto focus.
  • Improves charging reliability with 3rd party chargers.
  • Improves system reliability and stability.
  • Improves touch responsiveness.

I've been testing the Surface Duo 2 with the new update in place and have some real world notes:

  • The pen button improvements work with all Surface Pen variants, tested here on my original Surface Pen. I have double-press set to Screenshot and press and hold set to launch Gmail, with a single click set to launch OneNote, as per the default, which is handy. Note that existing inking and erasing features still work on the Duo 2, though actual scribbling and drawing remains laggy, at least with my older Surface Pen - I'm sure the Slim Pen 2 works much better and I'm tempted to get this in for review.

    Pen and Duo 2

    It's also worth noting that the older pen (2016?) does keep disconnecting from the more modern Duo 2 and has to be power back on when you want to use it. But again I'm sure that a newer Surface Pen would work more seamlessly!  
  • Touch response was already pretty good on the December 2021 update and I've put occasional tap misfires down to cold and dry fingers in the UK winter - I'd had similar problems on my iPhone with capacitive touch! With this January 2022 update, Microsoft has dialled up the response significantly and tapping and swiping are now as sensitive as on my iPhone. Time will tell whether they've gone too far, but right now I like it! 
  • The Camera app was already producing decent results (see my features here), but the viewfinder did lag sometimes, especially in low light, with too much 'focus hunting'. After using the January 2022 update for a few hours, I'm impressed - focus hunting has gone under most light conditions, as has any viewfinder or shutter lag. In very, very low light there are still issues, but I have to remind myself that I'm coming from the iPhone 12 Pro Max here, which pretty much rules the night - the Duo 2 is now perfectly serviceable in the evening when there's any light at all. 
  •  I'd not had a charging failure, so can't comment on this, but I gather the protocol negotiation with some power banks was an issue before this update. I'll keep an eye on this and report back.
  • The 'Your Phone' improvements are excellent to see if you use Windows on your main desktop/laptop - although I'm able to test this, my main desktop and laptops are both Macs. But this update brings the Duo 2 up to the same level as Samsung's flagships in terms of Microsoft Windows integration and are best seen in WC's Zac Bowden's demo video, embedded here (Zac uses Windows full time):

Comments welcome if you too have a Duo 2 and have been trying things out.