Slapping an S Pen on the Galaxy S21 Ultra will be ridiculous

There are a lot of rumors floating around about the Galaxy S21 series these days. Unconfirmed information about the specs, design, features and price is not out of the ordinary. We see this happen every year. Something else is also being rumored this year and it has the potential of upsetting many Samsung fans.

It has consistently been rumored over the past few months that the Galaxy S21 Ultra will have S Pen support. One major leak that covered the entire Galaxy S21 series also reiterated this claim. So as it stands, there’s reason to believe that the Galaxy S21 Ultra may indeed be the first Galaxy S phone from Samsung with the stylus.

Now, you’d expect the implementation of that to be similar to the Galaxy Note. The S Pen is stored inside a silo carved out in the body of the phone. There’s no need to carry it separately. This has been the case since 2011 when the very first Galaxy Note handset was released.

That may not be the case for the Galaxy S21 Ultra. Word on the street is that the device won’t even ship with the stylus in the box. This means that you’ll have to buy one separately. How will you carry it if it doesn’t fit inside the phone? Samsung is reportedly going to sell you a case that will both protect the device and store the S Pen externally. So that’s more money out of your pocket.

Any potential benefit that the rumored cut in prices for the Galaxy S21 series might provide will surely be exceeded by the out of pocket expenses for the stylus and cover. It’s also going to be incredibly restrictive for the customer.

There’s no option but to pay if you want the full S Pen experience on the phone. You could save some money and buy a cheaper third-party cover that stores the stylus but you can’t use a stylus that’s not made by Samsung.

This is likely to be a huge turnoff for Galaxy Note owners who have come to know the S Pen as an integral part of the smartphone experience for the better part of a decade. It almost feels like as if Samsung designs all Galaxy Note phones around the stylus. The S Pen is the non-negotiable part, everything else that can or can’t be done for a new Galaxy Note is up for debate.

That’s why the Galaxy Note provides a user experience unmatched by any phone on the market. Everything from its iconic boxy design to its feature suite is created with the express purpose of allowing users to get the most out of the S Pen. This is one of the reasons why the Galaxy Note series thrived in a market that has long given up on the stylus.

The S Pen doesn’t feel like an afterthought on the Galaxy Note series. It will on the Galaxy S21 Ultra, in my opinion. Merely slapping the S Pen on its top-of-the-line flagship won’t be enough to convince existing Galaxy Note owners to switch over, assuming that’s why Samsung is doing this. There have been rumors that the Galaxy Note series may be killed off next year.

For starters, many customers may prefer not using the S Pen at all instead of paying extra for it. A replacement S Pen for the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra costs $40 so we can expect one for the Galaxy S21 Ultra to cost about the same. Prices from Samsung’s official cases range from $40 to $65. Assuming you buy everything from Samsung, it may be an additional $100 on top of a phone that’s absolutely going to cost more than $1000.

Samsung could try to make this more palatable by offering a bundle as a pre-order incentive but that would be like placing a band-aid on a gaping wound. The millions of people who will buy the phone after the pre-order period won’t get to take advantage of the offer.

Let’s put cost aside for a moment and consider where the S Pen would fit in the Galaxy S21 Ultra’s user experience. Will features like Air command, Air actions, Anywhere Actions, etc all be ported? Will we get the same 9ms latency as the Note 20 Ultra? Would it even feel as natural to use the S Pen on the Galaxy S21 Ultra’s more curvy body compared to the Galaxy Note?

Samsung may also need to change the messaging around the Galaxy S21 Ultra a bit. There has been a clear distinction between the Galaxy S and Galaxy Note series over the past decade. The latter was aimed at professionals. It was meant for people who wanted to get serious work done on the go. The S Pen was marketed as the solution to all of their remote work problems. Even customers who hadn’t owned a Galaxy Note before knew exactly what it was good for.

There will be a need to demonstrate that the S Pen hasn’t been slapped on the Galaxy S21 Ultra just for the heck of it. Or since there may not be a new Galaxy Note device in 2020, Samsung needs something to hold over Note loyalists until they decide to splurge for its S Pen-equipped foldable.

The S Pen absolutely makes sense for something like the Galaxy Z Fold 3. It doesn’t quite fit into the equation for the Galaxy S21 Ultra. This should not be a stop-gap solution for Galaxy Note loyalists. That’s what makes this a ridiculous proposition, in my opinion.

Many fans continue to hope that it’s all just speculation about the Galaxy Note’s demise. I count myself among them. I’m not too thrilled by the idea of S Pen support on the Galaxy S21 Ultra. That being said, I’ll keep an open mind and see how Samsung tries to sell it to us.

We may have answers soon enough. As we’ve exclusively revealed, the Galaxy S21 announcement has been scheduled for early January 2021. We’ll know for sure then exactly how this is going to play out.

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