Samsung’s Stylus Upgrade Doesn’t Include S Pen Storage: Here’s Why

Samsung’s latest book-style foldable phone, the Galaxy Z Fold 5, has made headlines for its thinner design, which includes a hinge that lets the phone fold completely flat. But its key accessory, the Galaxy Z Fold 5 S Pen Fold Edition, has shed some weight, too.

This story is part of Samsung Event, CNET’s collection of news, tips and advice around Samsung’s most popular products.

During a press roundtable I attended in Seoul, South Korea, Samsung said that the stylus’ radius dropped from 7.4mm to 4.35mm, which is nearly the same size as the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s S Pen. That is 41% thinner than last year’s S Pen Fold Edition. Samsung said it achieved this by way of an internal push to determine “whether or when” it could embed its S Pen into a Galaxy Fold phone. 

Still, Samsung said it’s exploring whether it can create an even skinnier stylus than the new S Pen Fold Edition for a number of reasons, most notably to find a way to fit the accessory in a slot within the foldable itself. 

The new Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5

Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold 5 starts at $1,800.

Rich Peterson/CNET

“We’ll also look into it, but not just from a technology perspective, but from a user experience perspective,” Won-Joon Choi, head of Samsung R&D Office Mobile Experience Business said Thursday at the press roundtable. “Because when you’re writing, you need to feel as if you’re writing with a pen. If [the S Pen] gets too thin, that feeling may not be desirable.”

Although Samsung’s support for the S Pen dates back to 2011 with the original Galaxy Note, Choi said, designing a stylus for a foldable phone faces a different set of challenges including designing new tip materials that don’t damage the foldable’s flexible display as well as avoiding magnet interference from the phone. 

Choi also highlighted how designing the S Pen presents unique considerations compared with designing a foldable phone. For a foldable phone to take off into the mainstream, Samsung believes portability is one of three prerequisites it must meet. But with the S Pen, portability could come at the cost of usability, since Samsung’s stylus was designed to provide the experience of writing with a real pen.



S Pen doesn’t have a home (yet)

Since the Galaxy Fold 3 debuted with stylus support in 2021, the recurring narrative that emerged was this: if Samsung embeds the S Pen, it’ll elevate the Galaxy Fold lineup to the ultimate productivity device. Fast forward to 2023, and the S Pen still cannot be docked directly on the new Galaxy Z Fold 5, which is also now thinner than ever. Samsung’s current solution is the $100 Galaxy Z Fold 5 Slim S Pen Case, which allows you to latch the stylus on the back half. (To be fair, the case has also slimmed down as its name suggests, and could make more a snazzy workaround if you’re holding out for the S Pen storage dream).

During the roundtable, among the obstacles Choi highlighted was trying to appease people’s conflicting desires about the future of the Z Fold design. One camp wants an even thinner book-style foldable phone, he said, but that would require Samsung to create an even leaner S Pen to embed. Then there are people who want the next Z Fold to be thicker so that it can integrate the S Pen. However a thicker foldable undermines its portability, which is one of Samsung’s core design philosophies. 

“What form factor and experiences are we going to deliver to our customers to meet various needs? What is the right balance? Those are the areas we need to decide carefully which way to go.” Choi said.

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