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Galaxy Note 9: Why do you want a phone with a stylus in 2022?

Galaxy Note 9
Galaxy Note 9 (Image credit: Android Central)

The Galaxy Note isn't the first time we've seen how useful a stylus can be. There was a time when the best mobile devices all had a stylus. Whether you're talking Palm's Grafitti handwriting recognition software or the absolute marvel that was WinPad on early Windows mobile devices (seriously, it was awesome and ahead of its time) the stylus made an impact in how you used your mobile and what it could do.

The stylus faded from memory as other features like scroll wheels and trackballs came along, until someone figured out that you could do "everything" you needed to do with just a good touch display. Nowadays, there's not much talk about using a stylus outside of one specific device, the Samsung Galaxy Note. The Note proves that we might have stopped needing a stylus, but there are still some really cool reasons to have one.

Unless you're playing Brick Breaker, a good stylus is better than a trackball every time.

Of course, that assumes that you're talking about a good stylus, which the Note line most certainly has. Samsung doesn't include the S Pen as a tacked-on accessory; it's a part of the phone and everything is built with whats needed to make it work exceptionally well. Samsung phones, especially the Note in particular, can turn you off because of the size or the interface (to each his or her own there), but you can't deny that the S Pen was a lot better than you imagined it would be when you first used it. If you haven't ever used one, you need to skedaddle off to a carrier store or a Best Buy and do so. You'll understand when you do.

But working well is only one piece of the puzzle and without a reason to ever use it, nobody would care how precise it can be. Thankfully, there are also some great reasons to use one.

Quick Notes while your screen is off can be a huge time saver if you find yourself making any sort of list or regularly have to jot down thoughts. The Note may be great for gaming or watching YouTube, but it's also a very capable productivity device for folks who need to work on the go. Taking notes by scribbling out your own version of shorthand cryptic code (I've been told that mine resembles chicken scratch) on the screen is awfully handy.

Cutting a video into a cool animated gif (G as in gift. Nobody would ever say Jraphic.) is awesome with the S Pen. Pop out the S Pen while you're watching a video, tap Smart Select from the Air Command menu, and crop away.

The S Pen is great because it's supported by other hardware and specialized software. It's an integral part of the Note 9, not just an afterthought.

There are some great system utilities that are made greater because you have an S Pen. Text translation, screen magnification, handwriting input, smart text selection, and screen annotations simply work better when you can use the Pen than they would without it. Precise selection and quick screen navigation are better with a stylus that anyone's finger and it just clicks in a lot of ways.

Digital art wouldn't be as interesting as it is today without the great pen input a good inductive stylus can provide. The S Pen is a very good inductive stylus and apps like SketchBook take full advantage of it. The results can be remarkable.

You can even use it to do horrible things like work with spreadsheets. Everyone knows working with spreadsheets is like stepping on Legos. Doing it on a phone is like stepping on broken Legos made of glass and rusted razor blades. The S Pen makes it less painful because you can use the tiny tip of it instead of your big honking finger and that means you don't have to zoom in so tight you can't see anything but the cell you're editing. Spreadsheets on the phone will always suck, but until Elon Musk invents something better at least we have the S Pen to use.

These all have a few things in common. One: They depend on the S Pen working great and not being laggy and skipping around the screen like it's drunk. Two: They take advantage of having a tiny spot you can use to select a thing instead of a finger and a software algorithm that tries to guess the thing you meant to touch. It took a while, but eventually, someone realized that trackballs and click wheels really couldn't replace a good stylus. The S Pen is going to get better year after year until Samsung figures out a way to replace the precision it offers. I expect we'll be seeing it for a good while longer.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

14 Comments
  • I sketch diagrams on it regularly. I get an idea for something I want to make, and I can get the idea across more easily with a simple line drawing.
  • Now that the stylus has a button that can be used to control the phone remotely I actually see a purpose in having it. This is the first time I have ever been tempted to buy a Note. (My preorder is in and if Best Buy gives me the full $450 for my S8+ then I will get the Note 9)
  • What would you use it for? Music playback?
  • I love when you write articles and are in a joking mood. Or you've been drinking. Either way, keep it up!
  • I would definitely use for taking pictures with the Clear view standing case. Perfect combination... I Will try for power point presentation too ( will see how that goes).
    I do a lot of notes too on pics and screen shots. I also open blueprints on my phone and I can see that the pen will help me.
    Right Now I have the OP5 and I will get my note 9 tomorrow... So.. I hope it achieve my expectations.
  • Because apple will add one to their phones
  • Apple will never "add one" to their phones. They already have the Apple Pencil. But they'd never add it to a phone. They would sooner add an Apple Pencil Slot in their phones, but expect you to purchase the pencil separately to be able to take advantage of it.  
  • Sounds about right.
  • They really need to put an ink pen in it.
  • Ever since I purchased my Note 5 when it was new 3 years or so ago, I've always been a huge fan of the S-Pen. I'm seriously considering buying the Note 9 since I know it'll last me at least 4 years so the cost isn't a big deal to me (that'd be $250 per year). I keep debating with myself whether I should hold out to get the next Pixel XL (which would be next year). But I am really hesitant to give up my S-Pen. If there were any news whether the Pixel 3 XL would eventually jump on the stylus wagon, It'd make my decision easier. My only hangups with the S-Pen are two very simple things... 1st) You can't jot directly to Google Keep which is my go-to notekeeping app. You can only jot notes directly to Samsung's note taking app then transfer it over. 2nd) The slot to hold the S-Pen is located at the bottom of the phone. I've had to replace my S-Pen twice because it'd dropped out the bottom of the device while I was using it and didn't notice. The slot should be at the top of the device to reduce the chances of it falling out to the ground.
  • On my Note 8 I have Google Keep as an air command shortcut. It lets me go directly to Keep and jot down a note. I would think you'd be able to do the same on the 5.
  • I have only ever dropped the Spen from the device when I dropped the device. If your Spen tends to fall out easily, it might be warn out. Have you tried a new Spen?
  • For me, when the first Note was released, I was of the crowd that thought the stylus died with the Treo and that the idea of holding a tablet to my head would be the most stupid thing one will ever see. Then my BlackBerry Passport pissed me off, and I replaced it with the Note4. After messing around a little with the Spen, I couldn't imagine moving down to a lesser device - like my back-up Galaxy S3 - so when my Note4 met its demise, the only logical thing to do was to replace it with another Note, this time a Note8. I absolutely LOVE this thing! I can only imagine how awesome the Note9 is.
  • Ah memories. My first smartphone was stylus smartphone: Sony Ericsson P990.
    Different times, different screen technology but habits stayed. That's why I love Note series