Since 2022, the Galaxy S Ultra range has taken a certain direction — that of the Galaxy Note. Both the Galaxy S22 Ultra and the S23 Ultra have the former Note range’s signature squared design and S Pen. But S Pen, however, is perhaps the phone’s biggest gimmick. Let me explain.
From the Galaxy Note to the Galaxy S
The S Pen is, by no means, a new feature on Samsung phones. It was first introduced back in 2011, with the very first Samsung Galaxy Note smartphone. However, back when it was introduced with the Note, the S Pen was a heavily advertised feature and selling point of the lineup. It was a big phone with a stylus that lets you write on your phone and do other stuff.
The S Pen was the reason for the existence of the Galaxy Note series, ever since the very first phone that came out in 2011 all the way to the very last one in 2020. And some people really liked the S Pen. It was the biggest distinction from the Galaxy S series and, really, from other smartphone lineups.
Now that the Note series was killed off, it was merged with the Galaxy S range, and Ultra phones are coming out with an included S Pen as well. And it’s great. However, now, people aren’t just buying these phones for the S Pen anymore. When someone buys a Galaxy S23 Ultra, they are likely buying it for other things, such as the 200MP rear camera. The S Pen is now being exposed to a public that largely ignored it, and the Galaxy Note range in general, from 2011 to 2020.
The S Pen is displayed less prominently on the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s marketing compared to the marketing for its predecessor, and while we’re sure that people who want a phone with a stylus are still buying this, it’s also appealing to a wider public that might want a powerful phone that just so happens to have a stylus. The result? A lot of people who weren’t historically Note users are buying this phone, and are having their very first experience with an S Pen.
My Experience With the S Pen
On your first exposure to the S Pen, things are going to go one of two ways: you’ll either love it, or it’ll stay lodged inside your phone through its whole lifespan, sitting unused. Both are completely valid, but this echoes the problem we mentioned previously. For a lot of people, the Galaxy S22 Ultra and now the S23 Ultra was their first S Pen-equipped phone.
Personally, I never owned a Galaxy Note phone, which means my Galaxy S22 Ultra, which I got on launch day in February 2022, was my very first time actually trying out and using an S Pen on my daily driver. And as it turns out, even one year later, it’s something I could definitely do without.
Don’t get me wrong, the S Pen is delightful. When I pull it out, I’m able to do quick, natural-feeling strokes and jot down stuff quickly even without unlocking the phone. And it unlocks a whole world of possibilities. One specific feature I’ve used a lot is the ability to use it as a remote shutter, place my phone on a tripod, and take pictures without hassle.
Aside from that one feature, though, my S Pen isn’t seeing much use. It could get lost tomorrow and I probably wouldn’t notice it. I tried really hard to give it frequent use like diehard Note users did back in the day, but I just couldn’t. I find the screen too small to do any actual note-taking aside from quick stuff, and without it, the concept kind of comes apart. I occasionally pull it out when I need more precise touch input, but it’s something I could definitely do without.
I could switch to a phone without an S Pen tomorrow, and I wouldn’t miss the pen.
The S Pen is really cool, and so is the technology behind it, but it’s probably a feature for a specific kind of user. For most people, it’s a gimmick. For some, it might grow on them over the months, but I’m afraid most people will probably have a similar experience to me because a lot of them weren’t Note users. I’m aware that many people actually want an S Pen, and that’s great, but the sad reality is that’s probably not a majority of the people buying this phone.
Could Samsung Make It More Useful?
With the above argument, one would think Samsung doesn’t care a lot about the S Pen, something that isn’t really true. Samsung puts a lot of care into it — if anything, it makes the above arguments even sadder. But the S Pen might have its place. It just might not be the Galaxy S Ultra range, or at least not the only one.
Samsung has released S Pen styluses for other devices as well, like for its Z Fold range of foldable smartphones. Those phones don’t come with a built-in S Pen, but you can buy one separately. And frankly, if Samsung were to launch those phones with built-in S Pens, I’d make the argument that they would be better off there than on S Ultra phones.
The Galaxy Z Fold phones have a way bigger screen, meaning that it’s way more comfortable to write with a stylus on that phone that on an Ultra smartphone. You have more space to work with, and it’s the same reason why styluses work so well on tablets. An S Pen slot on Samsung foldable phones has yet to happen, but it would be awesome if it does.
Another place where they would be great is on tablets. You’d need to make it bigger because a tiny stylus might feel weird to use on a tablet-sized display, but if Samsung were to do it, it would also be great.
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