In case you’ve missed this week’s news, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is all but confirmed to feature S Pen support. A pretty compelling item to add to the list of reasons to buy Samsung’s next flagship, some would say. But is it, really? Moreover, why won’t the Galaxy Z Flip 3 follow suit?
Probably because the addition of S Pen functionality to a foldable device will hardly result in something beyond a mere gimmick. As Samsung already demonstrated with the Galaxy S21 Ultra, the allure of the Galaxy Note series wasn’t in the stylus itself. It was in a combination of having access to the stylus whenever you needed it and not worrying about it when you didn’t. The finnicky nature of holstering the stylus inside of a bulky case felt like a step backwards compared to simply having an S Pen slot built into the smartphone itself.
The gimmicky aftertaste this feature left us with on the Galaxy S21 Ultra isn’t likely to get much better once you halve the device surface area and have to resort to unconventional protective cases, each with their own quirks. This goes for both the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and the Galaxy Z Flip 3, though only the former will launch with S Pen support.
It’s not just about the convenience, but a lack of inconvenience
Compare that to the Galaxy Note series which addresses the issue of holstering the stylus with a built-in slot. As a long-time Galaxy Note user, I’m the first to admit that I’ve been taking that feature for granted all these years. But after seeing the way it works on the Galaxy S21 Ultra, I’m feeling pretty disillusioned. Because by getting rid of the only native method of holstering the S Pen, Samsung turned its stylus from a killer feature to a PopSockets-like gimmick in one swift move. Sure, it’s still useful in certain scenarios but just having it on you is a mild inconvenience at best and not worth the trade-off at worst.
In fact, not even the PopSockets comparison might be entirely fair; at least a PopSocket was already “ready for use” by virtue of being on your phone. And at least a PopSocket never had a more capable predecessor. One with, say, Bluetooth support and all the bells and whistles enabled by that luxury. In my mind, there can be no talk of a Galaxy Note replacement until Samsung addresses the issue of where the S Pen goes when not in use. This is at least as important as the actual functionality of the stylus, arguably more.
As a reminder, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is expected to launch in August, equipped with a 7.5-inch Super AMOLED display offering support for HDR10+ and a 120Hz refresh rate, as well as a 6.2-inch Infinity-O cover display. A 4,400mAh battery, 12GB of RAM, at least 256GB of storage space, and the Snapdragon 888+ are all said to be part of the package, as well. As you can tell from that spec sheet alone, the added S Pen support seems like one of the few truly novel additions to the new Galaxy Z Fold generation, especially with an under-display camera looking unlikely based on the latest leaks. All the more reason for Samsung to get it right… right?