So, the rumours were true: the Galaxy S21 is here and it supports the S Pen stylus, marking the first time Samsung has offered its excellent accessory on a phone other than the Note.
However, that’s far from the whole story and those who claimed this would signal the complete death of the Note series might now be rethinking their words.
That’s because while the Samsung Galaxy S21 series does support the S Pen, it doesn’t offer the integrated, slick experience you’d be used to if you’re a Note series. veteran.
First off, it’s only the priciest (and largest) S21 Ultra model that actually supports the S Pen. If you pick up the £769/$799 Samsung Galaxy S21 or even the £949/$999 Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus then you’re out of luck, neither of these work with the S Pen.
Even if you do plump for the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra and lay down the £1149/$1199 asking price, you won’t find an S Pen in the box. The stylus is an added extra, that will cost you an extra £34/$39 if you don’t already have one lying around from an old Note. This makes me think this is purely a nice extra, rather than a true feature for the phone.
The S Pen works slightly differently too. While there’s a dedicated silo to house it on the Note 20 Ultra, there isn’t such a slot here. You’ll have to carry it separately or buy one of the slightly chunky-looking cases Samsung has released that have a spot for the pen.
And as the S Pen can’t be charged while it’s sitting inside its silo, you can’t utilise any of the powered functions that come with an S Pen on a Note phone. There’s no Bluetooth for air gestures and no ability to use it as a camera remote – it’s purely a ‘passive’ stylus for doodling and writing. This will likely be another disappointment to S Pen die-hards like me who really enjoy the stylus’ more advanced functions.
So it’s clear that while it’s nice to have S Pen support here, this isn’t a true replacement for the Note – at least if Samsung wants to keep around the richer feature-set.
The future of the Note series remains unclear at this stage, even if Samsung hasn’t downright confirmed there won’t be a successor to the excellent Note 20 Ultra. But with the S Pen no longer exclusive to the series, if there was to be a Note 21 hitting shelves later this it would need to offer something substantially different to set it apart from the S21 Ultra.