It once seemed inevitable that Microsoft would release a smartphone designed by the same engineering team responsible for the Surface Book and Surface Pro — a Surface Phone. The company has neither confirmed nor denied those rumors. But the leaks have continued, suggesting it’s something the company may still be considering — even if it may not be a product it’s actively developing.
Here’s everything we know so far about the Surface Phone.
Microsoft may still be working on a portable Windows device
Recently, news broke that Microsoft would effectively be killing Windows Phone, putting a lot of doubt into the idea that it would launch a Surface Phone. Now, however, it seems that the company may still pursue a phone-type device with Windows on it, according to Windows Central.
According to the report, Microsoft is building a device codenamed “Andromeda,” which will basically be a foldable tablet that runs Windows 10, designed to fit in the pocket of the user. The device is not supposed to replace the smartphone — but instead a kind of digital pocket notebook.
Other rumors and reports support the report. For example, recently code from the Microsoft Whiteboard app was shown to reference a foldable device. The news comes from Windows tipster WalkingCat, who noted that the app references left and right pages for a Journal app — suggesting Microsoft could well be working on a device with clear left and right interfaces.
Lending some additional fuel to the fire is another even more recent report that a reference to Andromeda has been found in the most recent Windows Insider Windows 10 release, build 17025. As the often-reliable WalkingCat indicated on Twitter:
17025 Xaml stack is aware of a "ComposableShell.Composers.Andromeda.exe" thingy
— WalkingCat (@h0x0d) October 27, 2017
As MSPU speculates, that seems to confirm that Microsoft is indeed working on a unique Windows shell — or user interface — for a pen-based device that could end up being the Surface Phone. Or, rather, it could be a pen-based foldable PC with phone capabilities, as Windows Central reported earlier.
It seems clear that whatever this device ends up being, it won’t be aimed at the average customer. There is still a lot, however, that we don’t know about the device. For starters, we don’t know if it will simply be a foldable device with two displays like the new ZTE Axon M, or if it will have a flexible display. We also don’t know anything about the specs or size of the device.
So when will we see it? According to Windows Central, the device will be available in 2018 “at the earliest.”
Microsoft kills Windows Phone, putting the Surface Phone’s future in doubt
After months of speculation, it’s finally official: Microsoft is killing off Windows Phone, the mobile phone operating system that was widely expected to ship on the Surface Phone.
In a tweet on October 8, Joe Belfiore, Microsoft’s head of Windows, wrote that the company would no longer “support the platform [with] new features.”
Of course we’ll continue to support the platform … bug fixes, security updates, etc. But building new features/hw aren’t the focus. https://t.co/0CH9TZdIFu
— Joe Belfiore (@joebelfiore) October 8, 2017
He blamed lack of third-party support on Windows Phone’s demise.
We have tried VERY HARD to incent app devs. Paid money … wrote apps 4 them … but volume of users is too low for most companies to invest. https://t.co/ePsySxR3LB
— Joe Belfiore (@joebelfiore) October 8, 2017
Microsoft isn’t abandoning the Windows Phone platform altogether — a spokesperson told The Telegraph that it would continue to support its current line of Lumia phones and other Windows Phone handsets. But the wind-down in development puts the rumored Surface Phone’s future in doubt.
Microsoft purchased surfacephone.com
If you’re looking for a hint that Microsoft will introduce a Surface Phone sometime in the future, then look no further than one Reddit user’s discovery in late January 2016. It appears that Microsoft owns surfacephone.com, and the company even went as far as redirecting it to the main Surface website.
Before you go jumping for joy, this is far from a confirmation that Microsoft is readying a Surface Phone. Often, companies like to stay out of legal trouble by registering domain names that correlate with a current product.
It’s important to point out, too, that surfacephone.com was actually registered in May 2007, so it’s not like Microsoft recently purchased it to get ready for a new Surface Phone launch.
Furthermore, Microsoft’s Surface page is within microsoft.com as in https://www.microsoft.com/surface/. Microsoft isn’t even using surface.com for its current crop of Surface devices, and so why would the company use surfacephone.com for a Surface Phone if it gets released? Case in point: Microsoft registered surface.com back in 1994.
Rumored change in mobile strategy as Panos Panay takes charge
A report from Windows Central suggests that the Surface phone rumored earlier in the year has been canceled in favor of a new Surface phone being built by the Surface team, led by Microsoft hardware lead Panos Panay.
The phone was previously referred to as the ‘Panos Phone’ according to Windows Central’s sources. Panos Panay is in charge of the team that designed the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book, meaning we might see a smartphone with a similar design.
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends
Rumors have spread about a Surface phone for years. In a WIRED profile on Microsoft’s Head of Devices Panos Panay last year, it’s mentioned that work was going ahead on “a prototype of a new phone” at Microsoft’s HQ.
Only concepts give us a clue about design
Unfortunately, we have no idea what any Surface Mobile phone will look like, but concept renders were created by Nadir Aslam earlier this year. While the final Surface Mobile phone might not look like these renders, they give a good idea of its possible productivity attributes.
The Surface Phone remains far from official, but we’ll keep you updated here with news and rumors about the device.
Update: Code from Microsoft’s Whiteboard app references a Journal app with clear left and right interfaces.