What does Microsoft have planned for its rumoured Surface Phone?
2017 is set to be a big year for Microsoft, as the company prepares a number of updates around its Windows 10 software, as well as several new hardware releases – including the long-rumoured Surface Phone.
Reports of a Microsoft-built smartphone have been circulating for some time, leading to speculation that the device could be launching soon.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella recently raised hopes among Microsoft fans that the device may be in development when he hinted last month that a Surface Phone could be "the ultimate mobile device”.
But how much do we know about this possibly ground-breaking device?
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Design and build
As it proved with the release of the Surface Pro hybrid and Surface Book laptop, Microsoft is not afraid to go their own way when it comes to designing a new product from scratch.
Therefore, it’s expected that the Surface Phone will be rather different to many other smartphones out today, and bear little resemblance to the company’s previous Windows Phone devices.
Among the rumours surrounding the Surface Phone’s design is that it could feature a similar build to the company's existing Surface Pro and Surface Book devices.
Photos leaked online earlier this month claiming to show off the Surface Phone for the first time, appeared to confirm this, suggesting that Microsoft wants all its hardware devices to blend together.
If Microsoft wants the Surface Phone to be a truly premium device, we're expecting an all-metal body, complete with curved glass display, much like the recent flagships from the likes of Samsung and HTC.
Will the Surface Phone share these design similarities?
However, the device could also feature something truly eye-catching, as a patent filing granted to Microsoft this month revealed that the company is working on a device that would be able to fold upon itself.
From the standard tablet-shaped display, the device would feature a hinged design that would allow it to fold and create a screen the size of a smartphone.
That means that you could be watching a film on the main tablet screen, then quickly pause and fold the device into a phone to make a call or reply to a text message.
This would all be controlled using an updated version of Microsoft's Surface Pen stylus, giving you precise control with just a tap.
One patent filing suggested that the Surface Phone may fold in the middle
If the Surface Phone is truly looking to be a fully-fledged work and leisure device, it will need some powerful hardware inside.
Among the other rumours concerning the device is that it will use Qualcomm’s newest Snapdragon 835 system-on-chip, which was revealed back at CES 2017 earlier this month.
This would put the Surface Phone among the most powerful smartphones available on the market today.
In order to support this strong processor, the Surface Phone would require a sizeable battery, especially if Microsoft wants the device to be an all-day work machine.
The iPhone 7 Plus currently packs in a 2900mAh battery, with the Samsung Galaxy S7 also powered by an 3000mAh unit, so expect something along those lines.
Microsoft is hard at work on a new version of Windows 10, with the free Creators Update download set to be released in April.
But a Surface Phone would require an entirely new software platform to run on, especially now that Microsoft appears to have shuttered plans for Windows 10 Mobile.
It's unlikely that Microsoft would opt for a version of Android or iOS to power its new device, as companies such as Nokia and BlackBerry have chosen to do, as it has previously shown a strong desire to build all its own components.
Alternatively, the new device could run a more powerful 64-bit version of Windows 10 Mobile, with Microsoft packing in a number of new improvements and features to make its mobile software easier to operate.
Continuum – Windows 10's ability to run a desktop PC-like environment on a large screen from a smartphone – could bring a new level of productivity for the phone.
Including the ability to connect Surface Phone to an external keyboard, mouse and display to run full desktop applications like Office 2016 or Adobe Photoshop would also be of interest to business customers.
The Surface Phone may feature this eye-catching design
Release date and price
So when might we see the Surface Phone?
Microsoft is rather busy at the moment preparing the release of Windows 10 Creators Update, with the new software upgrade set to arrive in April.
This means that the Surface Phone may not arrive until later in 2017.
Given the company's previous release cycles, it looks that an October 2017 launch could be the most likely.
As for price, given the launches of the previous Surface devices, Microsoft will be keen to promote its smartphone as a premium product.
This could well mean a premium price tag too – with current flagship devices such as the Samsung Galaxy S7 and iPhone 7 costing around £539 and £579 respectively, we’re expecting a price somewhere in this area.
For now, though, we'll just have to wait and see what Microsoft has in store.