PSA: Reverse insertion of the S-Pen will break the Galaxy Note 5’s stylus detection sensor

by: Matthew BensonAugust 24, 2015

Samsung Galaxy Note 5 Unboxing-15

Samsung’s Galaxy Note 5 is many good things. Stunningly beautiful, curiously curved (along the back), made of metal and graced with glass. It’s also host to some more controversial elements, including the removal of microSD, the IR blaster, and a user replaceable battery. One solid staple however, is the S-Pen, the Wacom-powered pointing device that gave birth to the phablet genre and gives the device its’ namesake. The Note 5 saw the introduction of a new, patented, spring-loaded eject mechanism.

One of the staff members at Android Police has discovered a major flaw with the Note 5 and the S-Pen, though this will not occur for anyone who uses the device correctly. The problem, it seems, is that if you insert the S-Pen backwards into the silo used to house it, the phone will no longer be able to detect when the pen has been inserted or removed. This basically means that no sound or vibration will occur, and presumably (though not mentioned) and relevant software-related action that the device is set to trigger upon removal.

samsung galaxy note 5 vs galaxy note 4 quick look aa (7 of 16)

The previous designs of the S-Pen (and Note phablets themselves) made it almost impossible to insert the S-Pen incorrectly.

The problem specifically originates from the fact that the S-Pen itself can be inserted in either direction without any resistance to prevent the user from doing such. This is markedly different from the previous four Note incarnations which all were designed such that if you tried to insert the stylus “eraser first” the more bulbous end would only go so far before meeting resistance. David Ruddock, who made the report and subsequent video, actually demonstrates this, and the difference is quite obvious.

For anyone who uses the device correctly, this is a total non-issue.

Here’s the video for you to consider the problem at hand:

Note that much of the video is actually spent with David trying to remove the S-Pen from the Note 5 itself, something that he indicates -via annotations- was actually not possible to do; the device is still broken at the time of this post going live. He does mention having tried this several times however, thus initially it would appear it was possible to eventually remove the S-Pen, though the point was raised that whatever mechanism is used to detect the removal was damaged the first time it happened.

Given the propensity for the meme-adoring members of the internet to attach “-gate” or “-ghazi” to any and every kind of issue possible -regardless of how distasteful such might be- it will likely follow that Samsung will quickly be accused of “Pengate” or “Penghazi” and perhaps rightly so. Still, let’s make one thing clear: for anyone that correctly operates the device and stows the S-Pen as it is intended, this problem will seemingly never occur.

With that said, as the video makes light of, the problem will occur sooner-or-later for someone. Small children, for example, or even adults that become distracted, might hastily insert the stylus into the device, and due to the fact there is no resistance, it will indeed slide in.

What does this mean

samsung galaxy note 5 color comparison (18 of 22)

The newly redesigned S-Pen looks beautiful, however there is a major problem in hand for those who accidentally stow it “eraser first.”

Without a doubt, this problem has the potential to be a very big one for Samsung, at least from a PR perspective. Irrespective of what is necessary to replicate it, the fact that the issue is so easy to reproduce, and so fundamentally problematic means that at the very least, an immediate change to the design of either the phone, or the S-Pen is required.

This might mean something as simple as adding a tiny tab or protrusion onto the tip of the stylus, or it might mean modification of the entire patented part of pen chamber. It might mean a recall, or a free repair, or something different altogether.

The idea that Samsung has presumably tested this device through all kinds of permutations and possibilities prior to manufacturing calls into question just how something this easy to do was missed, and all the more so given that the previous models didn’t allow the user to do it.

Some will be quick to accuse Samsung of Pengate or Penghazi despite how the vast majority of users will never even know it exists.

The potential problem at large

Perhaps in a larger reaching scope however, this issue also brings into question just how durable the actual spring-loaded eject mechanism is in-and-of-itself, as well as the very sensor used to detect the S-Pen. What happens when of it the part gets bent or worn out?. Likewise, even if the spring itself doesn’t break, its possible that the sensor might eventually and thus even if the device is correctly used, the long term durability might still be an issue.

It may follow that, in the coming days or weeks as this story presumably becomes a wider-spread concern, someone will take apart the unit piece by piece, and investigate exactly where the sensor is, and what is actually going on.

Wait and see

samsung galaxy note 5 color comparison (8 of 22)

Android Police has indicated that it has reached out to Samsung for an official reply on the matter. We will make sure to update this post when any additional news breaks, or if/when Samsung itself makes an official press announcement.

What’s your reaction to this “Pengate” problem? Should the user be blamed 100%, or should Samsung bear the brunt of the responsibility for having made incorrect insertion so effortless? Leave us your thoughts below, as well as what kinds of solutions might be able to solve the potential problem.


  • Choda Boy

    Take better care of your $800 purchase? With all of the Note devices (phones and tablets), I have never attempted to insert the S Pen backward. Never. The Galaxy S6 Pen (Note 5) is a huge disappointment.

    • Sergio A Guzmán

      Yeah, you’re right, Samsung should pay extreme attention to this problem and trying to solve it in next iterations of this phone ASAP.

      • Daggett Beaver

        I agree, and Samsung or the carrier should repair or replace the phones at no charge, as long as the person agrees to allow them to paste a permanent sticker on the repaired/replaced phone that says, “NOT FOR USE BY KNUCKLE-DRAGGING IDIOTS.”

        • n900mixalot

          Only knuckle dragging idiots would by it in the first plaaaaaace hahaaaaa. Lorrrd. This phone is the joke of the year. A very bad joke.


          I agree with you. Only a foolish idiots would want to insert the S pen wrongly. If it happens to someone, he has himself to blame. Nearly everything has a heard and the bottom and so does the S pen.

          • TheGreatDroid

            That’s not entirely correct. Though I agree that this isn’t as big of an issue as it seems to be….it didn’t have to be an issue in the first place. My 5 year old likes to constantly findle around with phones. It could easily be a problem there. What I basically want to say is, this was just carelessness on Samsung’s part. Tell me, how much more effort would it have taken to design an s-pen that didn’t go in backwards and ruin the mechanism? This isn’t a problem for many, I agree. But this whole situation could be avoided with just a little care and thought.

        • TheGreatDroid

          Not necessarily, If a kid for example tries to take my note 5 and play around it for a little, this can easily be a problem. Now you may hit back at me saying ‘Don’t give your phone to kids’….But that’s not the point. This is just something that shouldn’t have been present in the first place. Just how much more effort would it have taken to design a s-pen that doesn’t fit backwards? This was just negligence. That’s the problem. It may have not been an issue, but this discussion was something that could be avoided in the first place itself.

    • Daggett Beaver

      I use my S Pen on my Note 4 CONSTANTLY. I have used it in the dark. I have used it in a park. I have used it on a train. I have used it on a plane. And I’ve NEVER EVER inserted the pen in backwards, even though it goes in backwards quite easily (I only know because I checked when I saw this story).

      • V-Phuc

        So does it mean that it is NOT a design flaw? Because you and others have not done such a blunder, does it negate the 100% possibility that such thing will NEVER happen? So we just sweep it under the rug and shrug and call others “stupid, moron, knuckle-dragging retards”? Humm…

        • Patrick Williams

          There many firearms in which the bullets can be placed the wrong way in the magazine. When you consider that one may be required to load a magazine under extreme duress, pressure and severe environment. One such weapon is the popular military issue AR15. If one is dumb, senile or stupid enough to insert bullets or S pens incorrectly, they probably shouldn’t be using it any at all. Same idiots would put petrol in a diesel engine. The fuel pump nozzle should be designed not to fit in the wrong tank! We have make everything idiot proof.

  • Daggett Beaver

    I just bought a black case for a Note 5, and it disabled my screen except for a small window at the top. Yuge design flaw, Samsung!!! YUGE!!!

    This PSA brought to you by people who embroider TGIF on socks so people will remember Toes Go In First.

    • Hayden Marsh


    • Wjdzm

      i lold a little

    • Xtremexx

      thought yuge was a typo, but then i released you kept using it. i laughed so hard.

      • Daggett Beaver

        It’s a meme now — a Donald Trump thing because that’s how he says huge.

        • Xtremexx

          lol i see

    • V-Phuc

      How much does Samsung pay you to defend it? You seem to be at its front row at every single article about Samsung.

      • Wjdzm

        Same thing about you too Phuc. You are always in Samsung articles calling out on Samsung fanbois.

        • V-Phuc

          LOL. Don’t (LG, Samsung, Apple, HTC, etc.)-fanboys and fangirls deserve to be called out? Touching a sensitive nerve? I call where the ball lands. Do you? In all honesty, you TRULY believe that all new features on Note5 are truly new, in the sense they were not there in the Note predecessors? Or they offer true tech advances. Such as spring-coiled vs manual pull S-pen? That’s a true tech advance? As offering a (fill in the blank for me, please) to the Note owners. LOL.

          • Wjdzm

            It’s always fun to start a conversation with you Phuc. You go nuts :)
            I’m not even talking about N5 yet you try to drag me into your mud. So much fun. Keep it up ;)

  • roiji
    • Daggett Beaver

      Based on this video, it looks like you’d not only have to insert the pen wrong, but you’d have to insert it all the way.

  • How

    The Note 5 is not better then the Note 4 the Note 5 has a couple of new gimmicks.

  • David Petrik

    If you put the S Pen in the wrong way, you deserve a broken phone.

  • Hayden Marsh

    I just tried to do this from curiousity on my Note 4 and the S Pen went in backwards no problem. It didn’t break the sensor but the phone did freak out.

  • Admir Dado Dulas

    Come On… Design flaw… I used a Note 4 for a year, and had never ever tried to put the S pen backwards.

    I mean, as soon as someone tries to slide it in backwards it should feel tip of the pen… So there are no excuses for putting the pen back the wrong way…

  • S6andNote4isBoss

    After 5 years it never was a flaw and people never put the pen in wrong. David Rudduck from Android Police is nothing more than a David Riddick he takes it up that ass for Google and Apple

    • Dude. It was never a problem because the Pen never went in the wrong way before. Now it does, it’s a problem, Samsung needs to fix it. That simple.

    • squiddy20

      Because you weren’t able to do that with any of the previous iterations, and if you were, it wouldn’t screw up anything because there was nothing else to screw up. What a Samsung apologist. When people get coffee, they expect it to be hot. Apparently some woman didn’t think that and burned herself on McDonald’s coffee. Now there’s a “caution, hot” warning on the lid of every hot beverage McDonald’s serves. Rule number 1 of any product is to make it “idiot proof”.

      Also, Riddick is a fictional character in a series of movies and graphic novels. And a pretty badass one at that. So if anything, you just gave him a compliment. Moron. Can’t even insult people correctly.

  • Shawny

    This is foolish. I’m pretty sure an iPhone fan kept doing his/her best to find flaws in Samsung devices. Especially after bendgate. Smh. No one in the real world would have that idea

  • Eric Hudon

    I have had the Note 4 for almost a year. I use the S-Pen a lot. Not to defend Sammy here but I just wonder how in the world can you insert that thing backwards? People who do so should have an iPhone instead and have a very very very extra jumbo protective case.

  • Lindle

    One of the major rules of usability:
    If the user makes a mistake, the designer is to blame.

  • KeyserSoze

    SHOCKING NEWS: If you try to back out of your garage by putting your car in forward drive, you will damage your garage.

    • mrjayviper

      the difference though is previous versions has been designed to avoid this scenario

      • KeyserSoze

        And this new version is designed for non-retarded humans with a non-defective brain.

  • V-Phuc

    Another issue that nobody seems to care is the spring-coiled mechanism to eject S-pen in Note 5. It is destined to break in the long run. So much for the repair cost? Even though it may be (only) $50, it’s still way more expensive than $0 for the manual retrieving of S-pen in Note4 and 3. What does it offer that spring-coiled ejection over my finger manual retrieval? NOTHING, but a gimmick. Ever though of that, instead of “Ouuuh, Ahhhh, Ohhhh, Wowwww.”

  • Mo Yang

    how is this news? was it a slow day yesterday or what?

  • Daggett Beaver


  • Daggett Beaver

    Dave Barry nailed this problem in an old column called Read This First.

    Quote from Dave Barry:


  • Inquisitive!

    So pay attention. Don’t stow the pen in reverse. Problem solved! Jeez, did a bunch of apple isheep buy the note 5 or something? Samsung owners are usually smart enough not to need a notice like this! Has to be a crapple employee writing these Armageddon warnings!

  • ThunderCrackR

    “You’re inserting it wrong!” Sorry, I had to say that.

  • KeyserSoze

    Pengate? Naw, I’d call this incident lame-ass-iSheep-propaganda-gate. Or maybe… pathetic-iTard-revenge-attempt-gate.

  • crutchcorn

    Or just not… ?

  • How2Tech
  • Patrick Williams

    I’ve had the Galaxy Note 5 for 2 weeks. Can’t imagine why, under any circumstances someone would put the pen in backgrounds. This is much ado about nothing. Can’t see the design flaw. Samsung obviously considered this (see the manual) and surmised that people using it can’t be that dumb. Lo and behold we have these tech hacks deliberately shoving the thing the wrong way to create sensationalism. More like Self Serving Announcement to me.

  • Gary Hylton

    If this is a concern to you, then maybe you should not be using a smart phone, or procreation for that matter.