Creating an iconic, long-lasting smartphone features is no easy task, but Samsung managed to pull it off with the stylus. Some people may dismiss it as a simple gimmick, sure, but those who've grown to love it know that there's no other phone out there that controls better with a stylus than a Galaxy Note.
The S Pen is what makes a Note phone a Note phone. And yet, it has seen surprisingly little in terms of substantial improvements over the years, whereas the Note devices themselves have changed and progressed quite a bit since the very first one launched in 2011. This is seemingly about to change with the Galaxy Note 9, however, as it is rumored to usher in the biggest S Pen upgrade yet – long-range wireless connectivity. What does this mean for the Note 9? Let's go over the things we know and the things we want.
With the Galaxy Note 9, Samsung is "freeing" the S Pen
The S Pen stylus has thus far been very much tethered to its host device, be it a Galaxy Note phone or a Samsung tablet, as it needs to be in close proximity to the screen in order to fulfill its function. And this only makes sense, right, it's a stylus and it's used mainly for writing and drawing, so why wouldn't it work only when touching the screen or hovering over it? But this is seemingly about to change with the arrival of the Galaxy Note 9 and its Bluetooth-enabled S Pen, which would enable long-range connection between the phone and the stylus.
But this raises a simple question: "why?" It's a pen and it's used for writing and it has this convenient slot on the bottom of the device. Who'd need to use it 20 feet away from the phone and for what reason? Well, according to the latest rumors and reports from around the web, the Bluetooth-enabled S Pen may be used in a variety of different and interesting ways, though some sources suggest some rather outlandish implementations, such as a speaker built-into the S Pen, which is something we doubt will happen.
The two most popular rumored features, or at least the two most widely publicized, are remote self-timer and some sort of audio playback control function. The self-timer sort of makes sense, as a Bluetooth-enabled S Pen could be used as a remote shutter release to take pictures from afar, but this would necessitate that you place your Note 9 on a tripod or prop it somewhere and actually leave it outside of your personal space (which is not something many people like to do these days). But jokes aside, this could be a convenient feature for taking group shots – just prop the phone somewhere, gather in front of it, and snap a picture with a press of the S Pen button.
Another talked-about possibility is the use of the S Pen as a music playback control device. The stylus may have a single button it, but it could still be used to pause and/or change a song without having to open whatever streaming app you're using. Single click to pause, double-click to skip, for example. Furthermore, if your Note 9 is connected to a Bluetooth speaker somewhere in your house, you may be able to change the song from the other room... provided you carry the S Pen by itself.
All said and done, we'd be lying if we told you we were excited about these rumored features. We think that Samsung can do so much more than that, so here's something we've had on our minds for a while, and we think Samsung should just make possible on future Note devices.
Samsung has been using Wacom-made digitizers in its Galaxy Note series since the very beginning. Digitizers that can not only track the pen pressure that's being applied on the screen, but also pen tilt. In other words, at what angle you're holding the stylus while interacting with the screen. You know, just like dedicated graphics tablets... which Wacom has also been building for years and years.
We've already shown you how you can turn your Samsung Galaxy Note 8 into a graphics tablet with a simple app, but we wish Samsung would just allow for this out of the box. This could be a boon for artists, which are already quite fond of Note devices, and can be done quite easily both through a wired and a wireless connection. Many image editing programs, such as Photoshop, Lightroom, and even free ones like Gimp, support graphics tablets with pressure and tilt sensing.
The Galaxy S9 can already do it when connected to a DeX Pad
Moreover, Samsung has the DeX Pad, which already turns your Galaxy S9 or S9+ into a touchpad when connected to a monitor. The Galaxy Note 9 could potentially (and very easily) be used as an input device when connected to a computer or monitor as well. Only it has the added benefit of the S Pen.
Unfortunately, although something similar may happen, the S Pen still has one limitation when compared to most dedicated graphics tablet pens -- it has only one button, whereas most styluses have two, just like a computer mouse. This comes in handy, because you can map your left and right mouse buttons to them. Samsung's choice to continue the tradition of having a single button on the S Pen leads us to believe that graphics tablet functionality hasn't been considered by the company in a way we'd like to see, but if the Galaxy Note 9 is compatible with the horizontal Dex Pad, then users may be able to use it as a graphics tablet when using drawing or image editing apps on a monitor.