Lessons learned: Moving from the Surface Duo emulator to an actual device
I developed some sample apps using the Microsoft Duo Android emulator. In a lot of ways, it helps to get started to dig deeper in the world of dual screen devices.
Back to the topic
Nevertheless, I’m now able to use an actual device. And oh boy, I had to make a lot of lessons learned from switching from the emulator to the device itself.
The following points are my learnings, your milage may vary:
The performance is brilliant
The emulator might feel a little bit slow; the scrolling is choppy, and the animations seem to stutter. This was the first thing I noticed while testing out the device. It is now buttery smooth as an Android can be. Video playback works fine as well as audio streaming.
Far less app crashes
While playing around with the pre-installed apps on the emulator, I got a lot of app crashes or hang-ups. This is not the reality on an actual device, too. Of course, crashes exists, most of the times while trying to span or de-span an app.
No more blacked-out screens
Using the current Surface Duo emulator, I often have the problem that one of the screens will black out. I could not reproduce this behavior on the actual device.
The sheer dimensions of the displays are an issue that developer should be aware of. This is by any means not “only” a bad thing. But it is hard for users to reach all corners to, for example, navigate back in the view hierarchy. This fact is addressed by the Surface Duo be prompting the user to use the “hold and swipe left / right” gesture to navigate back.
But in general, if the app as buttons all over the view, it makes it really hard for the user to interact fast with the app.
Nevertheless, the resolution and the colors are astonishing. My eyes cannot distinguish between the black of the screen and the black of the (to be fair) not that thin bezels. This could help the developer to “hide” their bottom bars a little but by using a solid black as a background. Maybe this “trick” is a nightmare for a designer, but hey, I’m a software engineer.
I have always problems in spanning my apps across both screens using the emulator. Now on an actual Surface Duo, it works every time, it is fast, it is well animated. Please do not get frustrated as I got, the user experience on a real device is much better than on the emulator.
Do be honest, I thought the vertical, but spanned app gesture is bogus. But no, I use it now very often. Mostly for long texts like blog posts.
In addition, I use apps often just in a single screen mode because an opened Surface Duo would be too large or too uncomfortable to hold.