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The Galaxy Z Fold 5 should have an S Pen slot even if it means a smaller battery

Large-screen foldables are a new form factor, just different enough from a traditional smartphone that the rules change.
By
September 28, 2022
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 with S Pen next to a to-do notebook with a pen
Ryan Whitwam / Android Authority

It’s been 15 years since Steve Jobs got on stage with the first iPhone and told us we didn’t want a stylus anymore. He was right then, and he’s still right today — well, most of the time — but not when the hardware is practically begging for a stylus. And the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 certainly is — it’s the perfect form factor for stylus input. The experience is so powerful I’d even be willing to trade a little of the device’s meager battery capacity to make it even better, because if Samsung wants to continue pushing the S Pen with foldables, the Fold 5 needs a slot.

Stylus input generally, and the S Pen specifically, are nothing new. Thus far, most stylus-optimized mobile devices have been either tablets, laptops, or flat phones, but none of these are as good for stylus input as a foldable. Large-screen foldables are a new form factor, just different enough from a traditional smartphone that the rules change.

Even the largest smartphones like the Galaxy S22 Ultra make for a mediocre stylus canvas. They’re too narrow to comfortably rest your hand while writing, and you can only fit a tiny, awkward stylus inside them. Big smartphones also tend to have curved edges to make them easier to hold in one hand, and that reduces the useful writing surface even further. Meanwhile, a tablet like the Galaxy Tab S8 (or the iPad Pro for that matter) is too large to hold while using the stylus.

Should Samsung add an S Pen slot in the next Galaxy Z Fold?

590 votes
Holding the Galaxy Z Fold 4 and taking notes with the S Pen
Ryan Whitwam / Android Authority

A device that fits in your pocket and expands to the size of a small tablet, on the other hand, is the ideal medium for stylus input. That shouldn’t surprise anyone — it’s roughly the same size as a notepad. Naturally, Samsung was quick to add S Pen support to its foldable line beginning with the Z Fold 3, and it continued that support with the Z Fold 4. Samsung’s integrated Notes app is optimized for the S Pen, and it’s not a bad application overall. It has plenty of page options, handwriting recognition, and multiple inking styles. I have used this app to take notes at a few industry events, and I found it more useful than thumb-typing in apps like OneNote and Google Keep on my phone.

Text input with Samsung's stylus on the Z Fold 4 is a joy. However, carrying it around with the S Pen is anything but.

Text input with Samsung’s stylus on the Z Fold 4 is a joy. However, carrying it around with the S Pen is anything but. Samsung has yet to find a good solution. It released S Pen cases for the Z Fold 4 and Z Fold 3, and both feature a stylus slot that protrudes from the surface like a tumorous mass; the Fold 3 placed it on the hinge, and the Fold 4 slaps it on the back directly adjacent to the hinge. The Z Fold 4 is already a pocket-buster at 15.8mm thick (about 0.6 inches), so any increase in size is a real problem for portability. Perhaps you think third-party cases have something better to offer? No, they do not — just more places to stick the S Pen tumor.

The conclusion is unavoidable: There’s no magical way to bundle an external stylus with a phone that does not also make it harder to carry. Samsung isn’t alone, either. Look at Motorola’s similarly bad solution for the 2022 Edge stylus. If Samsung wants to take stylus input seriously on foldables, and I believe it should be, the S Pen needs to slot into the body of the phone like it did on all the Galaxy Note devices and the S22 Ultra.

A stylus silo could come with drawbacks. The Z Fold family has never been big on battery life — the last two iterations have stuck with 4,400mAh, and that’s 100mAh lower than the Z Fold 2. Carving out a space inside the Z Fold 5 for a stylus might eat into the battery, but it’s a sacrifice I’d be willing to make.

Carving out a space inside the Z Fold 5 for a stylus might eat into the battery, but it's a sacrifice I'd be willing to make.

Admittedly, I may be getting ahead of myself. Not everyone cares about jotting down notes on a foldable computer that fits in a pocket. I mean, you should because it’s amazing, but maybe you’re okay with using the meat styli already attached to your hand. Perhaps what I ought to be hoping for is a new product line based on the Z Fold with a stylus silo and (sigh) maybe even a smaller battery. Samsung already has the perfect brand for it: Galaxy Note. I think stylus input is important enough to revive this storied brand, and the marketing kind of writes itself.

fold 4 s pen 3
Ryan Whitwam / Android Authority

Of course, the S Pen is not the only stylus in town. Apple has its Apple Pencil ecosystem, which is undeniably richer than what we have on the Android side. But that’s just more incentive for Samsung to step up. Apple might have the software edge, but Samsung has the right form factor to make stylus input great again.