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Samsung S Pen: The ultimate guide

The Note line may have died, but the S Pen lives on. Here's everything you need to know about the iconic stylus.

Published onJanuary 19, 2024

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra S Pen inserted
Robert Triggs / Android Authority

The S Pen has been one of the standout features on Samsung flagships for many years. First integrated with the Note line, the S Pen is now a core part of the Galaxy S Ultra models, newer foldables, and top-line tablets. No longer is the stylus only useful to creatives and scribes, either. The pen makes interacting with your device a more organic experience, whether you jot down notes, revel in remote photography, or annotate existing content.

Below, we detail everything you should know about the S Pen, from the models available, device compatibility, and its swathe of features.

What is the Samsung S Pen?

The S Pen is Samsung’s stylus for mobile devices. Initially a core part of the Galaxy Note series, it has since been offered with Samsung’s foldables, Galaxy S series flagships, and the company’s best tablets. Although there are now multiple S Pen models, they all share similar basic functionality.

Built-in S Pen for phones

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus air commands

The smallest S Pen model is the one many will know and love. You’ll find them wedged within Samsung’s phones. It’s powered by a super-capacitor, which charges quickly and provides around 30 minutes of usage per charge. This also makes for a fairly lightweight and efficient device. Samsung believes the S Pen uses just 0.5mAh per full charge if never used or 100mAh per charge if highly used. For reference, 0.5mAh is 0.01% of the 5,00mAh battery in the Galaxy S23 Ultra. Notably, the S Pen also works without a charge, but you lose out on some software gadgetry.

The S Pen connects to its host device using Bluetooth but doesn’t need to be paired like other styli. This also means a fairly generous range of 30 feet, which makes the S Pen, and its built-in button, extremely useful as a remote shutter for photography. It uses a 0.7mm tip and can recognize up to 4,096 pressure levels on the Galaxy S22 Ultra, Galaxy S23 Ultra, and Galaxy S24 Ultra. This is equivalent to the Microsoft Surface Pen 2 and most Wacom styli.

You can grab replacements online if you lose or break your S Pen, but this model usually comes free with the device. You can also switch out the tips of the S Pen if desired.

Bundled S Pen for tablets

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE Plus vs other galaxy tabs standing
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

Samsung also bundles an S Pen with its tablets. While these are functionally similar to the S Pen for its phones, they differ in size, charging method, and how they’re stored.

Let’s address the first point first. The Galaxy Tab S9 series S Pen weighs just under 9g, with dimensions of 8.2 x 145 x 7.7mm, whereas the Galaxy S23 Ultra S Pen measures 5.8 x 105 x 4.4mm, weighing just 3g. The phone stylus is smaller as it’s stored within the device body, while the tablet S Pen is clipped onto the rear using magnets. Notably, that’s also how it’s charged.

Samsung also sells more niche S Pen models for its foldables, those who want a stylus that works across every Samsung device, and creative users looking for more control.

S Pen Fold Edition

Galaxy Z Fold 4 in S Pen case, back
Ryan Whitwam / Android Authority
Galaxy Z Fold 4 in S Pen case, back

The S Pen Fold Edition is specifically made for Samsung’s foldable phones. This particular model works with the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Galaxy Z Fold 4 — that’s it. While there is talk of the Galaxy Z Fold 5 landing with a stylus, it’s unclear which version of the S Pen it will use.

This pen doesn’t support Bluetooth but does feature an auto-retractable tip that gives at a force of 500 gf (gram force) or greater. This means it’s much kinder to fragile foldable phone displays. Moreover, you don’t need to charge the S Pen Fold Edition, which means no need for a dedicated charging slot or hardware.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 S Pen Fold Edition
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 S Pen Fold Edition
MSRP: $54.99

S Pen Pro

The S Pen Pro is Samsung’s more serious and larger stylus for creatives. Launched in 2021, the Pro supports Bluetooth and packs a 16-day battery that’s charged via a USB-C hidden at its end. It can also be used with multiple devices and switch between them using the Pair button.

Interestingly, the S Pen Pro also features a retractable tip for use on Samsung’s foldables, but it can be locked in place when used on a phone or tablet using the Mode switch.

Overall, the S Pen Pro is the priciest aftermarket Samsung stylus you can buy, but its wide compatibility with Samsung devices, old and new, makes up for that.

S Pen Creator Edition

Finally, Samsung’s latest stylus is the S Pen Creator Edition. Launched with the Galaxy Tab S9 series but sold separately as an accessory, the passive stylus resembles the Apple Pencil, with an increased diameter for a more comfortable hold.

Unlike the S Pen Pro and S Pen Fold Edition, the Creator Edition doesn’t have a retractable tip, so it cannot be used on Samsung’s foldable phones. However, it supports various pressure levels and tilt sensitivity for shading. As mentioned, the Creator Edition is passive, lacking a built-in battery and the usual S Pen smart features you might expect.

Which devices support the S Pen?

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra using pen on display
David Imel / Android Authority

As of 2023, several Samsung phones and mobile devices support the S Pen. Here are some of the newer devices that fall into this category listed by Samsung.

Samsung phones

Every Samsung Galaxy Note model has a built-in S Pen. Galaxy S Ultra devices from the S21 series also support the S Pen but only feature built-in styluses from the S22 Ultra onwards. The Galaxy Z Fold 5, 4, and 3 support the S Pen Fold Edition. Also, the S Pen Pro Edition works with all the devices mentioned below.

  • Galaxy S24 Ultra
  • Galaxy S23 Ultra
  • Galaxy S22 Ultra
  • Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G
  • Galaxy Z Fold 5
  • Galaxy Z Fold 4
  • Galaxy Z Fold 3
  • Galaxy Note series

Samsung tablets

Unfortunately, none of Samsung’s newer Tab A models support the S Pen. If you want a budget tablet with S Pen support, consider buying the older Galaxy Tab A 10.1 (2019) or the Galaxy Tab A 8.0 (2019). It’s worth noting that Samsung no longer supports these models. The S Pen Pro Edition should also work with the devices listed below.

  • Galaxy Tab S9 series (incl. S9 FE)
  • Galaxy Tab S8 series
  • Galaxy Tab S7 series
  • Galaxy Tab S6 series
  • Galaxy Tab Active Pro
  • Galaxy Tab Active 3

Other Samsung devices

Samsung’s third-generation Windows machines are the newest notebooks to pack S Pen support. The S Pen Pro Edition can also be used with these devices.

  • Galaxy Book 3 360
  • Galaxy Book 3 Pro 360
  • Galaxy Book 3 Ultra

S Pen basic features

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra S pen showing handwritten notes.
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

Air View: Air View lets you glean quick information by hovering the stylus close to bits of information. It works best in Samsung’s calendar and gallery apps.

Direct Writing Input: This lets you fill out text fields on your phone with actual writing. You can enable this in two ways. The Samsung Keyboard has the Pen Detection option in the Handwriting section of its settings menu to recognize when the S Pen is out. It will automatically open the writing pad when blank text fields are selected. You can also enable the S Pen to text function to write directly in search boxes.

Screen Off Memo: A classic Note feature. You can take notes on your device without unlocking the screen. Remove the S Pen while the screen is off and follow the on-screen prompts to use the feature. You can save these notes to Samsung’s note app, record multiple notes, erase what you wrote, and even change the thickness of the digital ink.

PENUP: This is a social network of sorts for Samsung Note owners. You can create drawings, color in existing drawings, and share your artwork across the collective. It comes stock on the device, but you can uninstall it if you don’t want it. It is also available in the Google Play Store if you change your mind.

Change S Pen ink color: Back in the day, there were some instances (like the Screen Off Memo) where you could only select between white and your actual S Pen color. However, you can almost always select your S Pen ink color on modern devices, so this is a non-issue.

Visible Pointer: You can set the device to show a pointer graphic when the S Pen is close enough to the screen. This is an old feature and on by default.

Galaxy S24 Ultra AI features: The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra has a few nifty AI tricks that improve existing S Pen features. Note that these features don’t inherently rely on the S Pen to function, as they’re also available on the S24 and S24 Plus, but the stylus does make using these features a little easier.

  • Circle To Search lets users quickly open a contextual Google Search of an item they highlight on their screen.
  • Summarization and Note Assist dovetails with the S Pen’s intended use — notation. The feature lets users tidy up their handwritten notes and offer summarization options for this content. These aren’t specifically related to the S Pen and can also be used on the S24 and S24 Plus.

Air Command features

Air Command S22 Ultra
Joe Hindy / Android Authority

Air Command: This is the native interface for all the various functions. It appears by default by removing the S Pen from the device while the screen is on. Earlier versions of the Note used a rotary-style graphic. However, Samsung lets you choose between compact or near full-screen styles in the settings.

Notes: What do you normally do with a pen? There are two Air Command functions for note-taking. The first creates a new note and the second opens the Samsung Notes app to view previous notes. Notes sync across devices via your Samsung account if you buy a new Samsung device later. You can also add the View all notes Air Command to view every note you’ve made.

Screen Write: Screen Write takes a screenshot of the entire screen. It immediately opens an interface where you can write on the screenshot. From there, you can save it, share it, or stylize it in other ways. On newer Note devices, you can also opt to have the screenshot function take scrolling screenshots if needed.

Smart Select: Smart Select is our favorite way of taking a screenshot. You can use the S Pen to draw a shape anywhere on the screen, and the phone will screenshot just that portion of the screen. This is so much better than taking super tall screenshots and cropping them down when you just need a little extra information. There is also an option to capture animation within a defined area. Smart Select turns it into a GIF for easy sharing. Seriously, Smart Select is awesome. When used with the S Pen Pro, this feature also allows you to share clippings across devices.

Translate: Hover the S Pen over a word in a foreign language, select Translate, and the phone translates it. The feature uses Google Translate, and we appreciate Samsung using something tried and true. You can also listen to the word with the small sound icon next to the translation.

S Pen Battery on Air Command
Joe Hindy / Android Authority

Magnify: Hover over items on your screen, and select Magnify to make elements bigger and easier to read. You can magnify things by 150%, 200%, 250%, and 300%. There is also a toggle to slightly change how the area is magnified, but we couldn’t tell much difference. The magnification window is also a decent size.

Glance: Glance is an excellent tool for multitasking. It makes any app work in picture-in-picture mode. Open an app, engage Glance, and the app becomes a small thumbnail. Hover over the thumbnail to view the app again in full-page mode. Move the little box with the S Pen to put it back in Glance mode. Drag the box to the top center of the screen to trash it and leave Glance mode.

Live Message: Live Message is a fun little feature that debuted a few years ago. Write out a missive or draw a simple picture, and your device will turn it into a GIF. The GIF is shareable anywhere and works wherever GIFs work. This has no productivity value whatsoever, but it is fun. This also works with Samsung’s AR Emoji feature and you can write on images you have on your device already as well.

Bixby Vision: This one is a bit polarizing. Bixby Vision is meant to identify things on your phone screen and show you information about it, like shopping links. Its best use is extracting text from an image with OCR or scanning a QR code, but other functionality isn’t quite as polished as Google Lens.

AR Doodle: AR Doodle is a feature on newer Note, Galaxy Tab, and Galaxy S devices. It opens your camera and lets you doodle on stuff. It recognizes surfaces and your environment so you can move the camera away from your doodle, start somewhere else, and then move back to the original. It’s fun to mess around with and shows how fun AR can be sometimes.

Write on calendar: This is a shortcut to open your Samsung Calendar and use S Pen there. It doesn’t do anything different from opening Samsung Calendar from the app drawer, and we only recommend using it if you’re a fan of Samsung Calendar.

Add your own: Air Command lets you add your own apps to the S Pen shortcut wheel. We recommend adding apps you use the stylus with a lot. For our testing, we even added the game Draw Something since the S Pen is extremely useful there.

Access S Pen settings: Once Air Command opens, click the cogwheel in the top left or bottom left corner (depending on your device) to access the S Pen’s settings. It’s the quickest way to get to those settings.

Hardware features

S Pen Battery in Settings
Joe Hindy / Android Authority

There are some extra little hardware features. Most of these have been present since the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 launch in 2018. These features can also be found on newer devices like the Galaxy S23 Ultra and S24 Ultra. The S Pen Pro also has a few unique hardware features of its own.

Warn when S Pen is left behind: This is the one hardware feature from older versions of the S Pen. When it is removed from the device and separated from it, the parent device will constantly remind you it is missing until you put it back. It’s a good way to avoid losing it.

SmartThings Find: If you lose your stylus, the S Pen Pro can be located using SmartThings Find. The other S Pen models do not have this feature.

Keep S Pen Connected: This is enabled by default. When enabled, it constantly keeps your S Pen connected to the phone. This uses extra battery power and was once referred to as Battery saver mode in previous devices. You can disable it if you want to save some battery, but your S-Pen may need manual reconnecting to your phone more often.

Allow multiple S Pens: This option lets you connect a second S Pen while having one holstered inside the device. It slightly increases battery drain but lets you keep multiple S Pens connected simultaneously. If you have this enabled, you cannot disable the Keep S Pen Connected option.

Sound and Vibration: You can set the parent device to make an audible sound and vibrate slightly when you remove the S Pen from its holster. Both of these settings are set to on by default.

Unlock with S Pen: You can set your device to unlock with the S Pen instead of a PIN, passcode, fingerprint scanner, and so on. It’s a neat trick, but we don’t recommend it. It’s not a good idea to keep the key with the lock, so to speak.

Air Actions: This was originally called Remote capabilities in previous devices, but now we know it as Air Actions. It lets you perform actions inside of apps with your S Pen. There is a dedicated menu in the S Pen settings where you can configure it per app. It’s also where you find S Pen gesture commands as well.

Anywhere actions: Anywhere actions is a subheader in the Air Actions settings menu. It lets you configure basic S Pen gestures to control your phone. You have back, home, recent, smart select, and screen write by default, but you can customize each gesture by clicking on it.

Hold down pen to open: You can also set the S Pen to open an app with a long press of the remote button. Unlike the actual remote function, you can open any app you want with this setting, but only one at a time. The stock Samsung camera app is the default.

General app actions: The S Pen has master controls for cameras and music playback. Samsung doesn’t even require developers to include support. Your phone knows if you’re using a media or camera app. You can turn these master controls off but can’t edit or customize them.

Device switching: The S Pen Pro can be used across multiple devices simultaneously. When two devices are connected to the same Samsung account, tap the Connection button on the S Pen, then select Connect in the pop-up on the screen of the second device you wish to use. You can now use the stylus on the second device. It’s not seamless, but it improves the stylus’ utility.

Samsung S Pen FAQs

Some S Pen models, like the S Pen Pro, needs to be charged before you can use it. However, the S Pen Fold Edition and S Pen Creator Edition do not have batteries, so this isn’t required.

The S Pen works on a wider array of devices than ever before, but not every Samsung phone or tablet is compatible with the S Pen.

Yes, the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra features an S Pen that slots into the phone.

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