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Does the S Pen work on both of the Galaxy Z Fold 3’s displays?

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Last updated: August 11th, 2021 at 17:23 UTC+02:00

If there would be such a thing as “the expected unexpected,” it could be defined by how Samsung married up the S Pen and the Galaxy Z Fold series. Following the launch of the Galaxy Z Fold 2 in August 2020 and the release of an S Pen for the Galaxy S21 Ultra in January, everyone expected the Galaxy Z Fold 3 to become the first in its series to support Samsung’s iconic input device. But not everyone was sure that Samsung’s foldable display has become strong enough to support the S Pen. However, Samsung certainly appears to have solved this puzzle, and the Galaxy Z Fold 3 5G’s gorgeous 7.6-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X Infinity Flex display does indeed support the S Pen.

Or, more specifically, it supports two S Pen models, in particular. They’re new, and they’re called the “S Pen Fold Edition” and the “S Pen Pro.” But first of all, let’s address one thing before we do the titular question. Namely, that the Galaxy Z Fold 3 does not support any other S Pen models aside from the brand-new S Pen Fold Edition and S Pen Pro. There’s a reason for that, and it’s the same reason why the cover display doesn’t work with any S Pens at all — Fold Edition and Pro included.

The foldable display’s unique digitizer requires special S Pens

Samsung said on record that the Galaxy Z Fold 3’s foldable display has a digitizer — the layer that enables S Pen inputs — which shouldn’t be used with any other S Pen models aside from the Fold Edition and Pro.

In other words, the foldable display requires a unique digitizer, and the same solution wouldn’t work if applied to the cover display. For the cover to work with an S Pen, it would need a normal digitizer, like the one you’d find on the Galaxy Note series or the Galaxy S21 Ultra.

And while the S Pen Pro is compatible with the Galaxy Z Fold 3, as well as other Galaxy devices that offer S Pen support, there’s a trick to it. It has two modes — a Fold mode and a general-purpose mode — which can be selected through a switch at the top. So, in theory, Samsung could’ve made the S Pen Pro work with both the foldable and cover displays by giving the latter a regular digitizer. But then, the S Pen Fold Edition wouldn’t have been compatible with the cover display, and any other S Pen that would’ve worked with the cover screen wouldn’t have been compatible with the foldable display.

If it sounds confusing, that’s because it is, and it’s why Samsung decided to go the route it did. Instead of fitting the Galaxy Z Fold 3 with two types of digitizers that would require different S Pen models, Samsung decided to simplify things and keep the S Pen experience exclusive to the foldable display. Which, again, is compatible only with the S Pen Fold Edition and S Pen Pro.

And in all fairness, the S Pen experience probably wouldn’t translate too well on the tall 25:9 aspect ratio of the cover display anyway.

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