Samsung Galaxy Note 10: how to S Pen — new and old features

Samsung Galaxy Note 10: how to S Pen — new and old features
The Galaxy Note line of devices still has that one feature, that one tool that no other phone pulls off quite as well – the S Pen stylus. For it's not a simple capacitive pen, it's actually powered by Wacom technology for superb palm rejection and a sensitivity for 4096 pressure levels. It feels very natural to use, and offers enhanced features via a mechanical button on the S Pen's side and various software optimizations.

The Note 10, by itself, is a pretty awesome phone even if you never take the pen out. And a lot of users kind of skip out on the experience, either because they are not interested in experimenting with it or feel that the plethora of features may be overwhelming. So, let's help you ease into it, shall we? Here are all of the things the S Pen can do for you!

Obviously - write, markup, and draw

A lot of people don't get the appeal of using handwriting on a phone... you've got a perfectly good virtual keyboard for that, right?! Yes, this is true, but may we suggest you challenge yourself to try and take some hand-written notes for the next week? See if it is oddly reminiscent of actually carrying a work notebook around, jotting down ideas, emphasizing points, and generally taking a garbled mess of a note that's weirdly creative and can only be understood by you... at a glance.

On the Note 10, you can use the S Pen to freely draw on your Samsung Calendar app as well. So, you can add and edit your events just as you would on any calendar app, but then you can take the S Pen out and circle specific dates or time periods. It's pretty neat.

Obviously, you can also scribble on screenshots or pictures right before you send them off. An S Pen makes it much more precise than doing so with your finger.

And, of course, there's the PenUP app for actual drawing — even aspiring artists can check it out and learn to draw through a plethora of step-by-step, "follow the lines" type guides.

AR Doodle

A useful feature? That's arguable. But it sure is both fun and impressive. With AR Doodle, the Note 10 starts up the camera and lets you draw in the viewfinder using the S Pen. Whatever you scribble will turn into a virtual doodle and the phone will remember its position or what it's attached to. So, you can draw virtual glasses on a face and they will "stick" to the face. Or, you can put a doodle on the floor or on a desk — again, the phone will do a pretty good job at making it stay in place like a real object.

Probably a cool party trick that you will soon forget about. But hey, so is Animoji.

The remote control features grow and grow

With last year's Note 9, Samsung introduced Bluetooth connectivity between the phone and pen. Since then, the stylus has also been able to act as a remote. We've got the simple media control features that were introduced with the Note 9 — pressing the S Pen's button can act as play/pause, while a double press skips the song. In the Samsung Internet browser, a single press of the button is "back", while a double press is "forward". In the Camera app, the S Pen's button acts as a remote shutter, so you can take selfies or start recording video while your phone is plopped up on a tripod.

With the Note 10, we now also have gestures with the S Pen. You hold down the button and swipe up, down, left, right, or rotate the pen. Right now, you can use that for media control (swipe up for volume up, swipe down for volume down), or to go forward and back through your playlist by flicking left and right. The same gestures work for PowerPoint presentation slides. In the Camera app, you can switch between selfie or main camera by flicking up or down. Granted, some of these sound... redundant. But the good news is that Samsung has opened the S Pen API for 3rd party developers, so other apps may come up with some creative ways of using the wand S Pen.

Don't worry, there's no guesswork needed if you want to figure out whether an app supports Air Actions. Whenever you open an app that does, you will see a tiny floating, blue-colored bubble pop up to let you know that gestures are available. Tap it with the S Pen (or hover over it) to see what you can do. It's worth noting — the blue bubble will not pop up if you have disabled the Air Command floating icon.

An accurate mouse pointer simulator

When you hover the S Pen near the Note 10, you will notice a little dot "cursor", showing you exactly where the pen's tip is. This cursor does, in fact, have the properties of a mouse pointer. This mostly comes in handy when you are browsing desktop versions of websites. Any popups or drop-down menus will start behaving like you have a mouse hovering over them, which is pretty neat!

To top it off, if you press the S Pen's button and drag the tip across a piece of text, you will mark that text. So, it behaves like you are left-click and dragging your mouse. Again, a pretty cool productive feature. The same works for selecting multiple photos in the Gallery — holding the button while dragging draws a huge select box, which you can use to instantly mark multiple photos.

Cropped screenshots, GIF record

Using Smart Select, you can draw a box on your screen and instantly transform it into a screengrab. It's basically a quicker solution to making a screenshot and cropping it to the point of interest. As mentioned earlier, you can write on the screenshot before sending it off / storing it as well.

There's also the GIF record feature, which lets you record the frames within a box that you draw with the S Pen. The phone instantly turns this into an animated GIF that you can share. Limited and situational use for sure, but still cool and useful. It's worth mentioning that the Galaxy S series has this feature too and an S Pen is not mandatory for it.


Galaxy Note phones have always been pretty big on multitasking. The Glance feature is a unique picture-in-picture solution, which we haven't seen elsewhere. Basically, when you are in an app, you need to take out your S Pen and trigger its Air Menu. From there, pick Glance, and you will see your app shrink down to a tiny persistent square, which will stay on top of anything else you do on the phone. Whenever you hover over said square, it will maximize to the full app again. You can interact with it, then press "home" and it will shrink back to Glance mode. Useful for productive folks who always need That One App to be always visible and easily accessible.

Add app shortcuts in Air Menu

If you have a favorite app that you like to use with the S Pen — you can put it right in the Air Menu. It's sort of an "always hidden" app folder, which only pops up when you have the S Pen out.

Translate and Magnify

Rounding it off with a couple more extras — the Note's Translate feature allows you to point the S Pen at a piece of foreign text and have the phone translate that. While we do feel that you are probably better off using copy-paste to the Google Translate app, the S Pen's Translate feature does come in handy in some rare occurrences. Same with the Magnify feature — it basically turns the S Pen's cursor into a big magnifying glass that zooms in on details on the screen. Most of the time, you can pinch-zoom anyway, but there are the rare occasions where Magnify can have its use.

Related phones

Galaxy Note 10
  • Display 6.3 inches
    2280 x 1080 pixels
  • Camera 12 MP (Triple camera)
    10 MP front
  • Hardware Qualcomm Snapdragon 855, 8GB RAM
  • Storage 256GB, not expandable
  • Battery 3500 mAh
  • OS Android 10
    Samsung One UI
Galaxy Note 10+
  • Display 6.8 inches
    3040 x 1440 pixels
  • Camera 12 MP (Quad camera)
    10 MP front
  • Hardware Qualcomm Snapdragon 855, 12GB RAM
  • Storage 256GB, microSDXC
  • Battery 4300 mAh
  • OS Android 10
    Samsung One UI



17. ankit1432

Posts: 34; Member since: Aug 28, 2019

That's a whole lot of information about S-pen. Actually, I'm a graphics designer and this pen thing is kinda appealing to me. Will it help me?

9. chenski

Posts: 802; Member since: Mar 22, 2015

Is the s pen an awesome feature? Of course, definitely. Does it make note line the best? Nope, it depends on the person's subjective opinion.

6. darkkjedii

Posts: 31817; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

The Note line simply cannot be topped.

1. afrohoxha

Posts: 264; Member since: Mar 13, 2014

There are one hour videos on youtube of what the sPen can do, so let's encourage Samsung to remove it, in order to get that precious extra battery that you would spend in mere minutes, maybe in some useless posts or stories in Facebook and Instagram.

2. nikhil23

Posts: 508; Member since: Dec 07, 2016

People asking Samsung to remove spen are just dumb trolls. First of all if Samsung removes spen, there won't be anything different between s+ and Note series and then they would troll Samsung for removing spen.

3. afrohoxha

Posts: 264; Member since: Mar 13, 2014

Try to tell that to Victor :)

13. irossdrummer

Posts: 371; Member since: Jan 17, 2015

yeah fr, if people don't want an spen just save some money and get the current year's S+ XD

4. sissy246

Posts: 7129; Member since: Mar 04, 2015

Why the hell would they remove it. LMAO The pen is a big part of the note line. Is this tou peaceboy with another new name.

5. afrohoxha

Posts: 264; Member since: Mar 13, 2014

Sarcasm sissy...sarcasm

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