S Pen on Galaxy Z Fold 3 5G: how does it work, what is it used for?

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Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 5G S Pen explained
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is the first foldable smartphone to support its own active stylus — the Fold Edition S Pen! That is a big deal for stylus users, but it’s also a huge technical achievement.

But what’s the big deal?

Well, in order to work as accurately and precisely as it does, an active stylus needs its own digitizer under the touchscreen, different from the touch digitizer. For years, Samsung has worked in partnership with Wacom to create the S Pen experience for its Galaxy Note line. And that partnership gave us the best stylus that comes bundled up with a smartphone for years on end, hands down.

But when it comes to a foldable phone — well that’s a touch thing to accomplish. The stylus digitizer is fragile and can’t really withstand numerous folds, which would eventually destroy it at the folding point. So, Samsung and Wacom designed an ingenious system, which includes two separate digitizers for each half of the fold, and algorithms that “fill in the blanks” when your S Pen tip passes from one half to the other.

Additionally, since the flexible screen is softer than your ordinary smartphone’s glass panel, the new S Pen has a rounded tip that’s spring-loaded. When pressure is applied, the tip gently retracts, instead of digging into the Fold’s display.

What can the S Pen on the Galaxy Z Fold 3 do?

If you are familiar with the latest Galaxy Note developments, well… that. Writing, drawing, using the S Pen for precision taps, quick note taking while multitasking — it's a great companion accessory that Galaxy Note fans have been using for years.

With the exception that the S Pen Fold Edition does not have Bluetooth, so it also doesn't support Air Actions (gestures performed with the S Pen while not touching the device). If you want the full experience, with Bluetooth and remote control, you need to buy the S Pen Pro — it's designed to be your "One S Pen for all devices" solution, as it supports both Fold mode and regular mode where it's compatible with your Galaxy Tab S devices, Galaxy ultrabooks, Notes, and Galaxy S21 Ultra.

The S Pen Pro needs charging for its Bluetooth functionality to work — 50 minutes of charge via a USB Type-C connector gives you about 16 days of use, as per Samsung's numbers.

The S Pen is mainly used to write or draw on your phone, obviously. Samsung Notes is always at the ready for that — press on the S Pen's hardware button and double-tap with its tip over the display and you instantly open a new Note.

Samsung's One UI has the ability to transcript written text to type text, so you don’t need to switch away from it when you need to reply to a message or enter a web address. You can write in the type fields with the S Pen and the text will get transcripted in real time. Or, you can mark your written notes and have the software transform them into typewritten word.

The S Pen also works great as a mouse pointer over your Galaxy phone’s screen, and can even be used for precise control in some strategy games.

Can I store an S Pen in the Galaxy Z Fold 3?

Unfortunately, no. People love the Galaxy Note series because they have a built-in dock for the S Pen. The Galaxy S21 Ultra and Galaxy Z Fold 3 emulate that with an external S Pen case, which has a slot for the S Pen, but it’s just not the same. In any case, if you do want to get an S Pen for your Z Fold 3, we certainly do recommend the case — otherwise you might lose the pen.

If you only buy an S Pen or S Pen Pro, without a Flip Cover case, they still come with a protective sleeve to keep the stylus in.

Can I find my lost S Pen?

Well, the S Pen Pro can be detected within your Samsung SmartThings Find app — just like Samsung's SmartTags or your other Samsung devices, you can always see where it was last "seen" by any other Samsung device in the vicinity. It's probably also fair to assume that the S Pen Pro has a "left behind" notification warning, like the S Pens in Galaxy Note phones have had for the past few years.

But if you have a regular S Pen... well, uh, don't lose it.

How much does the S Pen for Galaxy Z Fold 3 cost?

Your vanilla S Pen will cost you $50, and the Pro goes all the way up to doubling that, at $100. It's kind of perplexing that Samsung isn't offering a Flip Cover case with an S Pen Pro, as it does with the regular S Pen — so keep that in mind also. If you wan the cover and a Pro S Pen, you will still receive a regular one bundled with the case, so you will be swimming in S Pens. But hey, you have two hands, why not use two styluses?

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