A number of reports have emerged suggesting Microsoft will make a return to the smartphone market in 2017. However, the consensus amongst these reports is that the hardware will not be the oft-rumored Surface Phone.
German website WindowsUnited claims that Microsoft is developing a Windows 10 Mobile handset. Importantly, this device would simply be an extension of existing models, with updated specs. For example, a new flagship that boosts the specs seen in the Lumia 950 XL.
That means we could expect the device to have an updated processor, camera, and screen resolution. One of the interesting points of speculation is whether Microsoft will make more than one device, or a new range.
A flagship handset would be interesting, but it would almost certainly suffer the same fate as the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL. Those smartphones were solid, if unspectacular, and failed to draw customers from Android or iOS. It is more likely a more affordable handset could drop. Like it or not, Microsoft's biggest chance of mobile success remains in the low end and emerging markets.
It is worth mentioning that there is no indication that these reports are accurate. However, it has been reported for months that Microsoft is building new mobile hardware. That leads to one particular discussion point, the Surface Phone
Surface Phone or Lumia
One big question surrounds the growing belief that Microsoft will return to mobile hardware. Will the new handset/s be Lumia or the much talked about Surface Phone?
The new report suggests that the device will be a Lumia. I am just going to say now that if a Surface Phone is not launched this year, then it doesn't exist. There, I said it. However, it is worth clarifying what I mean.
I have been writing about the so-called Surface Phone for several years. Over that time, the mobile market has chopped and changed in terms of design and hardware. Even Microsoft has released multiple devices in the time the Surface Phone has apparently been in development.
Microsoft has almost certainly not been developing a single device through that time. Windows Phone 8 was still a thing when the idea of the Surface Phone first emerged.
So, while I don't think the device exists as a physical piece of hardware, I do believe it exists as a concept or ideal. The name Surface Phone represents a superphone plan that Microsoft has. It will be the focus of Microsoft's long term mobile aspirations.
On our Surface Phone guide, we discuss how CEO Satya Nadella has said Windows 10 Mobile will focus on enterprise, giving consumers the best specs, and appealing to Windows fans. This strategy will be culminated with the Surface Phone, which will be built when Microsoft believes the technology is in place.
That most likely means when Windows 10 fully supports ARM chips. The platform is already embracing ARM technology, but it could be as much as two years until Microsoft is ready to piece together a Surface Phone. That's according to a post on reddit by an apparent Microsoft contractor, who says the device will drop in 2019.
If you want a full summary of the long Surface Phone history, check out our dedicated guide.