Samsung can do better than an optional S Pen for the Galaxy S21 Ultra
The Samsung Galaxy S21 series has just launched, and in tow came the S21 Ultra — one of the most feature-packed Android smartphones ever released. Filled to the brim with flagship specifications, it has pretty much anything you could ever want in a phone. With rumors that the Note series might be axed this year, Samsung even brought S Pen support to the S21 Ultra as well, meaning that you can use your old (or new) stylus with your smartphone. While it’s a valiant effort, Samsung can do a lot better than merely providing an optional stylus for the Galaxy S21 Ultra if they want to keep the spirit of the Note series alive.
If this is what the Note series is to become, it certainly deserves more than becoming an optional extra for the highest-tier smartphone that Samsung will produce in a given year. For those in need of context: the Note series had a distinct identity, primarily centered around providing the largest screens and a docked stylus. People can use the stylus for note-taking and drawing, making it an artist-friendly investment and an interesting choice for students. With the Note 10, Samsung introduced Air Actions to the S-Pen, making it even more useful. You could remotely control your smartphone, meaning that not only could the stylus be used as a pen, but it could control your smartphone too. When you’re done, the pen can be placed back inside the device to charge. It’s somewhat of a niche market, but those who chose to pick up a Note device obviously wanted it for one feature or another that didn’t exist in the regular Samsung S series.However, with the Galaxy S21 Ultra, the S-Pen has been relegated to being an optional extra. Samsung didn’t even pack so much as a charger in the box, let alone a basic stylus, and you’ll have to go out and buy one yourself if you want to use it with your smartphone. What’s more, you won’t even be able to use any air actions with your S21 Ultra if you buy its S Pen right now! You’ll need to wait for the S Pen Pro that the company announced at its Unpacked event, where it was confirmed that the S Pen Pro will pack Bluetooth support. Samsung didn’t announce a price for the S Pen Pro, but the regular S21-specific stylus (without Bluetooth support) costs a whopping $40, so don’t expect the Pro to be cheap. A $40 stylus is basically highway robbery, especially when one can simply purchase an older stylus for much cheaper. In fact, we even put together a guide in order to help you find the best styluses for the Galaxy S21 Ultra, as there are lots of options to choose from.
Even if you were to purchase an S-Pen, where would you store it? Samsung has a case and S Pen combo for $70 on the Samsung store, which means that Samsung has effectively created a problem where it can sell you the solution. I understand that the Galaxy S21 Ultra is not a Note series device, but to effectively half introduce a feature that the company has been building upon for years is poor form. Giving any kind of Wacom-compatible stylus in the box would go a long way to alleviate any bitterness from potential consumers.
Samsung removed the charger from the box, citing environmental concerns (sounds familiar, right?), yet they won’t even allow consumers to use their perfectly-functional S Pens from past devices to their full ability on the S21 Ultra. The regular S21 Ultra stylus costs $40 — imagine how much Samsung is going to charge for the S Pen Pro? Not introducing full support for the S Pen that others will already have without shelling out an undisclosed figure (that will almost certainly be more than $40) is not consumer-friendly.
The S Pen has always been a niche product, but if Samsung is going to introduce it to a new product line, then they should introduce it properly — especially if they plan on discontinuing the main Note line. Removing a charger from the box and selling consumers a charger separately in the name of the environment is a cause that many can genuinely get behind, especially as old chargers generate more than 51,000 tonnes of electronic waste per year. However, introducing a half-baked feature that forces consumers to upgrade their S Pens for seemingly no reason will have many questioning whether or not this is an attempt at a cash grab. If it is a cash grab, then who’s to say that Samsung’s removal of the charger in the box wasn’t either? Sustainability is important, of course, but it’s hard not to question Samsung’s motives when there is a clear double-standard to be seen here. If Samsung wanted to be an industry trendsetter when it comes to sustainability, it failed at the first hurdle.
- The S-Pen for the Galaxy S21 Ultra is great but doesn't attach to the phone so unless you want an S-Pen that roams in your bag, you'll want a case that can store it. The official case from Samsung does just this, and is the best way to keep your S-Pen with your phone.
- It's very similar in terms of specs and features to the S-Pen found in the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, but this is a new slightly thicker S-Pen designed for the S21 Ultra and designed to be stored separately, vs slim enough to fit into the phone like with the Note 20 Ultra.