This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Last week, my colleague Victor ran an opinion piece stating that Samsung should kill off the S Pen in favour of other upgrades that the Galaxy Note line needs. Now, we are a diverse team here at PhoneArena, with different preferences and opinions. And I happen to be of the opinion that no, Samsung absolutely shouldn’t even think about losing the S Pen. If anything, I and many other Note fans have been hoping to see the S Pen on other Samsung phones for some years now.
So, what makes the S Pen so special in the eyes of a Note fan?
While this is not the most important point, I feel like it’s the one that sticks out the most and is good to start with. All too often, we complain that today’s phones all look the same, all do the same, and there’s a lack of diversity or identity from one product to the other. But the Galaxy Note line happens to be unique thanks to its S Pen. Thanks to the Wacom digitizer underneath the Note’s screen, the Samsung stylus experience is absolutely unmatched by any smartphone out there. From the pointer accuracy to the pressure levels, and to the incredibly good palm / hand rejection.
Here’s something I always found funny — since Samsung basically popularized large phones with its Note line, a ton of Chinese manufacturers have also started naming their big phone models “Note”. But they are not a Note… they literally lack the one thing that gives the Galaxy Note its name — the ability to use it as a small notepad!
2. The S Pen takes up a lot of space. So what?
3. What is it used for?
Now, Victor makes a lot of fair points about the S Pen’s features and actual usage. Let’s be fair here — being able to mark a part of your screen, capture GIF, magnify, or translate text can easily be done with finger taps and drags and these actions don’t really need the S Pen. These are some features that Samsung threw in there just so it has something to market the S Pen with, I agree. Most of them have subsequently been added to the Galaxy S line.
But that doesn’t make the S Pen any worse at its main tasks — taking notes by hand, marking up photos and screenshots, using it as a pointer on websites, and yes, even making small drawings either for fun or to add to a bigger project later.
Let’s break it down then.
Taking notes by hand on a phone? Yes, I agree many people will find this ridiculous. And they could be right — the virtual keyboard is often faster and more convenient. But that doesn’t change the fact that jotting things down by hand has its place and its use.
For one, writing things by hand is a better exercise for your brain. Multiple studies have shown that it activates your motor memory and anything you write down (instead of typing it down) has a better chance of sticking in your long-term memory. Let me pause here for a second and say that I recognize that this is extremely contrived reasoning. However, I do, in fact, prefer the act of taking notes down whenever I am in the early stages of a new project. Song lyrics or chords, for example. Or an idea for a video project. I will just open a note and start writing things at random, underlining words, writing weird symbols every which way, and generally creating a mess of a note that only I can read. But it’s a creative process, which is made that much easier with a Note phone. No need to worry about notebooks, sheets of paper, and losing stuff. It’s all in the Notes app.
Marking stuff up — now, this is a no brainer. While it doesn’t happen every day, sometimes I do need to take a screenshot or an actual picture of something and write around it. Maybe underline something important or share measurements. Sure, there are lots of ways to do this, but drawing over an image with the S Pen is one of the easiest and most pleasureful ways.
Digital signatures — on very rare occasions, I’ve been asked to sign a PDF digitally. When that happens, I am extremely happy to have an S Pen handy, instead of awkwardly trying to sign something with my finger.
Web browsing — in 2019, a ton of websites out there have been optimized to work well on mobile. And a lot haven’t. The S Pen’s cursor (hovering over the display) can be used as a mouse pointer and the stylus itself can be used for more precise taps, which has improved my browsing experience countless times.
Drawing? While I agreed that you can’t use a Note phone for a complete masterpiece, you can still sketch on it. The PenUP app, which is filled to the brim with user-generated content, is proof of this. Actually, scratch that. Browsing through the PenUP app right now reveals some truly incredible works. Granted, some of them were probably made on a Galaxy Tab S tablet. Bottom line, even if not for super-serious works, drawing with the S Pen is still viable. And some people like to do that for recreational purposes.