Meeting Volo

2/27/2022 7:45 am |

Two days ago my trusty and beloved Note 9's screen began to flicker and threaten to die on me. As someone who relies on a mobile device very heavily, that meant there was no delay and it was time for an upgrade.

In my mind, and after my research, there were two options: Samsung's S22 Ultra, their latest flagship, as well as the dark horse candidate, Microsoft's Surface Duo 2. The S22 was the obvious choice. I was already in the Samsung ecosystem and it was a slick phone. We went to Best Buy hoping I could get a hands on with the phone, only to find that their display model had been stolen and thus I wasn't able to.

I'd been watching and reading reviews. The Surface Duo 2 was largely panned when it initially released due to lots of bugs in the software. Since it's release it sounded like Microsoft had cleaned up and fixed the majority of the issues. I had also been infatuated with the double screens as I saw the interface as a possible tool in my minimal setting for DMing D&D. I could have my session prep notes on the left and active notes or combat tracking or maps, etc. on the right screen.

So, without having actually held it, I bought one. It is expensive, but when I consider that it's two screens, the price difference over other major phones is a little easier to swallow. A little.


Having had the phone for a bit over 18 hours, I can say, overall, I am quite enjoying it. The double screen functionality feels very much like the first time I used a computer with two monitors and I realized the potential of extra screen real estate. So far, I have almost exclusively used it without having an app span both screens. When I have experimented with the spanning, it's worked fine overall, you have work around the gap between the two monitors, or have it be an app that is set up to utilize both screens.

One of the insights that someone shared with me about the Duo is that, the form factor and design, does not facilitate quick use. It's hard to use one handed, thankfully for hands my size it is mostly usable with one hand (assuming it's already folded open into one-hand mode.) But if it's a closed book, then it's tricky. Even more than the one-handed difficulties, it is a little different and "slower."

For example, the ease of snapping a quick photo on most smartphones is extremely quick and easy. With the Duo 2, you have to fold it open to use. So if you're a parent of a young child needing to snap a photo of the moment they take their first steps you might miss it if you aren't prepared. While yes, I am sure the relative slowness to snap photos will be an issue, it isn't a primary use case for me and my phone.

Along with the phone, I also bought their stylus. However, as I have since learned, to utilize the stylus with the phone, I need a specific cover for it - One which appears to be sold out everywhere. These are all sold separately, which is frustrating. I get it, the stylus is also designed to be used with other Surface devices, so it doesn't need to be bundled with the case, but it's still frustrating as now I have to wait to find the cover somewhere before I can make use of it. Such is the modern times, it is ultimately a small frustration.

So far, I have no problems with the phone. I'm still figuring out how to do things or figuring out my preferred workflows. The ability to pair apps and have them open on both screens is cool. I purposefully didn't transfer over all my previous apps, opting to start this phone fresh and re-install only what I actively use. Right now, I am attempting to use Obsidian as my mobile phone organizer. I'm just trying to find the best syncing solution. I'll share more once I figure it all out.

Lastly, the name. why am I calling it Volo? Well, it's a double naming. The first meaning is for Ukraine and recognizing their president during the invasion from Russia. Secondly, Volo is also a character in D&D Lore. He's notable for being a writer of numerous books and tomes on topics. Seemed a fitting fictional namesake.

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