It’s been a long time since Microsoft has announced any solid plans for a mobile device smaller than a laptop. The so-called “Surface Phone” has been merely a rumor for years, but it looks like that has finally changed.
The latest news indicates Microsoft’s next new product is less of a phone and more of a portable, foldable PC, currently referred to as “Andromeda.” Regardless of what it will be called, here’s everything we know about Microsoft’s next big hardware product.
A prototype surfaces
The latest information about Microsoft’s secret Andromeda device comes from unnamed sources who claim the latest prototype does in fact include telephony features. That doesn’t mean Andromeda will solely be a smartphone but could indicate that the device could be some type of hybrid set to revolutionize the mobile market much like Apple did with the original iPhone.
Prior to the prototype’s appearance, reports by inquisitive souls at E3 2018 claimed that Andromeda is indeed a pocket-focused device that appears to have versatile nature, somewhere between a phone and a computer. Additionally, reports said that the plan is to release Andromeda in 2018, confirming hopes that have been around since Andromeda rumors first started.
This also makes sense from a competitive angle. Prototypes and reports from Computex and other events show that other computing companies are preparing their own new clamshell devices. Our best look at what the Andromeda device could look like comes from Intel, which showed off the “Tiger Rapids” dual screen device, a dual-screen Microsoft has good reason to get the Andromeda on shelves as quickly as possible to become the first mover — or at least, not left behind.
Lurking under the surface
Unnamed sources claim that Microsoft is testing Qualcomm’s unannounced Snapdragon 1000 all-in-one chip – which is based on ARM’s Cortex-A76 processor core architecture – on a variety of devices spanning from desktop PCs to its secret Andromeda device. The Snapdragon 1000 will reportedly see up to 35 percent better performance and up to 40 percent more power efficiency than Qualcomm’s current Snapdragon 845 chip.
The upcoming Snapdragon 1000 will supposedly support 16GB of system memory and 128GB of storage while consuming only 12 watts of power, which is lower than Intel’s Core i5-8250U and Core i7-8550U processors. This chip is a likely candidate for Microsoft’s Andromeda device, given that Qualcomm’s just-launched Snapdragon 850 chip is designed to bring increased performance to a second generation of “always connected” Windows 10 PCs.
What we know about the “Andromeda” design
We first saw Andromeda mentioned in the Windows Insider Windows 10 release, build 17025. As WalkingCat indicated on Twitter:
17025 Xaml stack is aware of a "ComposableShell.Composers.Andromeda.exe" thingy
— WalkingCat (@h0x0d) October 27, 2017
Basically, this means there was some very interesting code under the heading of Andromeda, which appeared to be specifically designed for a mobile platform Microsoft had not yet released. Speculation abounded and it seemed clear some kind of small Surface device was on its way.
We didn’t know much more than this, other than it wasn’t like to be announced until 2018 at the earliest. But then a patent filing for Andromeda dropped, and now we know a whole lot more. Check out the interesting illustrations below, found in the patent.
As you can tell, the Andromeda looks like a clamshell phone that opens up into a mini keyboard. Something even larger than the Galaxy Note, but significantly smaller than the average tablet — so it may not technically be a phone at all.
You may remember, back in the 2000s there was a brief era of mini keyboard smartphones, and even Microsoft’s own (since abandoned) Courier project seemed interested in this idea.
From what we can see of Andromeda, however, it would unfold into a larger touchscreen than any past phone. It also has no physical buttons, as the keyboard section is marked “display” in the illustration, and appears to be used as a keyboard further down.
Another interesting point is the full illustration devoted to showing how the Andromeda could be angled up as a stand to show basic time and date information. This seems to indicate that the phone may also be used as an alarm clock (and how many of us do that with our phones anyway) and a desk-based notification system.
The Andromeda news also discredits past rumors, such as the one that said the Surface Phone would have a 5.5-inch screen (Andromeda’s screen appears to be much larger).
Panos Panay in charge of New Mobile Device
A report from Windows Central suggests that an earlier phone project has been canceled by Microsoft, and has been replaced by an entirely new phone design to be 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. 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.
Microsoft has also 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.
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?
Companies typically buy domain names such as this to avoid confusion or scamming issues if there’s a chance they could release a product under this name in the future.