This was the phone I wanted to see.
When October comes, you can get jittery.
You stare at your phone and wonder whether it’s the best expression of who you are. Or, perhaps, of what you’ve become.
Cynically, smartphones makers know this. So they bombard you with their latest wares at your most vulnerable time.
Why, I look down at my black, somewhat scratched iPhone XR and I see a reflection of a dark, damaged soul.
And then there was last week’s iPhone 12 event which tantalized with a gamut of phones that all have very similar capabilities but very different sizes.
I went, therefore, for psychological guidance to the home of physical retail objectivity, Best Buy.
I hadn’t been to one for quite a while and I needed some cheery, forthright advice.
Now She Sees It, Now You Don’t.
I confess I’ve been teetering toward the concept of foldable phones. Especially the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2.
My colleague Matthew Miller described it as approaching “foldable perfection.” How could I not want that in my life? It’s like a sofa bed, but sexier.
So I strode into Best Buy — now open to casual walk-ins — and headed for the Samsung phones.
The Galaxy Z Fold 2 display enjoyed pride of place. What it didn’t enjoy was a Galaxy Z Fold 2. There was a hole where the device should have been.
I approached a Best Buy phone expert and asked whether I could see a Z Fold 2, as it didn’t seem to be on display.
“It’s out there,” she said. “But it’s probably the only one we have.”
I said I didn’t think it was out there.
So she walked out there with me and discovered there was, indeed, a gap.
“Oh,” she said. “The distributor probably didn’t give us any yet.”
“Do you know when you’ll get them?”
“No,” she said, as she casually waved a hand toward the Galaxy Z Flip expectantly waiting for attention.
“We have this one,” she said. And then, as if deciding the Z Flip wasn’t for me, she added: “Wait, if you’re really interested in these folding phones, you should get The Microsoft.”
For a second, I thought I’d gone back in time. Microsoft makes phones?
“Over here,” she said and instantly maneuvered me past all the phone displays and to another part of the store.
It’s called ‘The Microsoft’ And It’s A Phone.
“So The Microsoft has the two screens,” she began.
I stared. “The Microsoft” was, indeed, the Microsoft Surface Duo. This was clearly a name that didn’t impress her.
What impressed me was how pretty the Surface Duo looked. Sadly, because of protocols, I could touch it but not pick it up and see how it feels.
The Best Buy rep, though, was perfectly familiar with its operation and deftly showed me how you can have different things on each screen. The whole procedure seemed entirely effortless.
“It’s the same price as the other one,” she added, as if she’d taken one look at me and believed math could never be one of my strengths. And as if she really wasn’t sure what the “other one” was called either.
The Surface Duo starts at $1,399. The Galaxy Z Fold 2 starts at $1,999. Which, to some people, may feel like the same number of numbers, but you could get a Duo and an iPhone SE and still have a small deposit to put down on the Z Fold 2.
“But, wait, you said this is a phone,” I said.
“Yeah, it’s a phone with two screens,” she replied, as if I really had lost at least two of my senses.
Oddly, Microsoft seems to believe it’s not a phone at all. It is, according to the company’s chief product officer Panos Panay, “a Surface.”
But not The Microsoft.
Personally, I rather supported the Best Buy rep’s attitude. These phone names are about as memorable as your own name the morning after a Vegas bachelor party.
Somehow, though, she didn’t seem entirely committed to telling me, to selling me, that the Surface Duo was the phone of my future. Once she showed me the two-screen tango, she had nothing left to say.
But What About iPhone 12? Should I Wait? Should I Hate?
“What phone do you have?” I asked.
“The iPhone 11 Pro,” she said and pulled it out of her pocket for my inspection.
I pulled out my painful XR and asked the obvious question: “So should I get the 12?”
She didn’t even pause for breath.
“Yes!” she cried, with so much enthusiasm that her mask slipped. Both literally and metaphorically.
This was far more excitement than she’d expressed for the folding phone I couldn’t see or the folding phone I couldn’t touch.
Sensing she loved the newest iPhone, I ventured: “Are you going to get the 12?”
“No,” she said. “My 11 Pro takes amazing pictures and I love it. And I think the 12 is just a little bit better but not much.”
“Well, I’d have to see it and maybe if I pay off this one I’ll get the 12, but I’ll probably wait for the 13.”
But I should definitely, definitely buy the iPhone 12, she said.
I suspected her personal enthusiasm for iPhones outweighed swaying me toward the Duo. Which was actually a phone they had in the store and one that I’d surely consider if I could hold it and play with it.
“So when will you get the new iPhones?” I asked.
“Probably the end of the month.”
“Will you get a good supply?”
“Probably,” she said. “But then with Apple, you never know.”
The pandemic may have nudged phone buyers further toward getting what they know and upgrading within their chosen ecosystem.
But The Microsoft, that thing is so tempting. Perhaps the Z Fold 2 will be too, if I ever get to see one.