Samsung's flagship releases for 2016, the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy Note 7, are arguably the top-class smartphones of the year. While there are a number of similarities in terms of design and features between the two phones, the most marked difference is the Note 7's S Pen, which adds a host of awesome features.
From tools to keep you productive and organized to instant translations and animated gifs, the S Pen will be at the center of your experience with the Note 7 if you embrace it. Here are the core features that use the S Pen and how they work.
Take notes with Always-On Display
If you've got Always-On Display enabled, you can start using your S Pen without even unlocking your Note 7. Simply pop out the S Pen and the Always-On Display switches to a white-on-black notepad that lets you scribble and scrawl a note or sketch in seconds. Once you've finished your note it will be automatically saved to the Notes app.
Air Command is the hub of your S Pen experience. Every time you take out the S Pen when the screen is unlocked, Air Command will automatically pop up with a menu of available options.
If you've already got your S Pen in hand, you can quickly access the Air Command menu by either tap the floating Air Command icon, or with a quick press of the side button on the S Pen while hovering the pen tip over the screen.
The Air Command menu lets you access all the special functions available for the S Pen. Let's take a closer look.
Jotting down notes with the S Pen has been the cornerstone for the Galaxy Note line since day one. With the Galaxy Note 7, Samsung has introduced Samsung Notes, the new app that is home to everything you do with the S Pen. When you select Create Note from the Air Command menu, you get sent to the default notepad, where you can quickly jot down your note with the pen.
If you'd prefer to type with the on-screen keyboard, simply tap the Text icon at the top with the S Pen. You'll get rich text options such as numbered and bulleted lists, checklists, and the options to toggle bold, italics, underline, and text color.
If you've got an idea to sketch out, tap the Brush icon to bring up a sketch pad with seven drawing tools and a color wheel. For each drawing tool, you're able to change the size and opacity of the stroke, which gives you total control over your sketches. If you're particularly proud of your handiwork, Samsung has included integration with the artistic social media platform PEN.UP. Simply tap the icon in the bottom-right corner and send your sketch off to the world.
There are also Image and Voice icons that let you add extra multimedia touches to add to your note.
Smart Select lets you quickly isolate a portion of your screen and save it for later, or share it immediately via MMS, email, or your preferred social media platform. You can also Screen Select an image or website and then extract any and all text from it. It must be a uniform font — no matter how neat the writing, hand-written text can't be extracted.
But what really separates Smart Select on the Galaxy Note 7 from previous editions is the ability to turn any video playing on your screen into an animated GIF. To create an animated GIF, simply go to your recorded video, or a video on YouTube and find the part you want to convert. Tap the Screen Select icon with your S Pen from the Air Command menu, then tap the Animated GIF icon in the top-right of the screen. This brings up a crop box showing the portion of the screen that will be recorded. Use the white outline to drag the crop box to where you want, then drag the corners to adjust the size and shape of the gif as you see fit. You also have an option of recording in high quality or standard quality (if you're planning to send it to a friend via text, you'll probably want to go with standard).
Once you've got your crop box set, simply tap play on the video then tap the record button. You can record up to 15 seconds as an animated gif, or tap Stop when you want to end it. From there, you're able to draw over the GIF with the S Pen to add a caption and edit it however you please. Once you're satisfied with the GIF, tap Save. It's a pretty convenient feature.
If you're reviewing your GIFs in the Gallery later and realize you recorded for too long (say, you accidentally recorded the play button when you started the video), you can edit the animation's duration, change the aspect ratio, increase the gif speed, and add decorations like another image, Snapchat-esque stickers or labels — in addition to drawing using the S Pen.
Annotating an image or screenshot has never been easier. Simply launch the Air Command menu and tap screenwrite and your phone will take a screenshot of whatever you're looking at.
From there, you simply use the S Pen to annotate the screenshot with whatever you want to add. Tap the Pen icon at the top to reveal all the pen tools and color options available. If you're looking at a longer article that won't fit on the screen, you can use Scroll Capture to create a longer screengrab. You're also able to crop, save and share your annotated screenshots all from the same screen.
Whether you're travelling in a new country, or simply trying to read something in a foreign language, the Translate tool is a super convenient (though occasionally buggy) S Pen trick.
Grab the S Pen and tap Translate from the Air Command menu to launch the translate menu, which will float at the top of the screen and allow you to navigate around the web or through files on your phone. If you come across a word in a different language, simply choose the language, then hover the S Pen over the desired word.
The S Pen tracking dot will turn into a focus frame as it reads the word. A spinning green circle indicates it's translating, and in just a second or two the translated word pops up. You're only able to translate things one word at a time, so it may take some time to translate a large block of text, and sometimes the targeted word is not properly read by the phone, leading to some funky mistranslated words.
Those shortcomings aside, you're able to translate to and from 37 different languages — mostly European. Korean, Chinese and Japanese are surprisingly absent, which is unfortunate, as the feature is only currently able to translate Latin-based languages.
Because Air Command is so easy to get to, you may want to add your favorite apps so they'll be instantly accessible as soon as you take out your S Pen. By default, there are four S Pen features in the Air Command menu, with a fifth option to add a shortcut.
Simply tap the "+" icon to browse through all the apps installed on your phone. There seems to be no limits to which app you can add to the Air Command menu, so you can set something for productivity or for fun. You're able to add two shortcuts for a total of six Air Command launch icons. It's entirely your call which apps you choose, and it's also quick to swap apps out — just tap the Air Command settings icon in the bottom left corner.
In the Add Shortcuts menu, you'll also see the other two Air Command features that aren't set by default but might come in handy — Magnify and Glance.
If you want an easy way to expand smaller text on your screen, but don't like the idea of enlarging all the text on your phone, the Magnify option is the perfect alternative.
When added to the Air Command menu, it takes just a second to pop up a magnified window that expands text and images wherever you hover the S Pen over the screen. You're still able to fully navigate around your phone with Magnify turned on, and you're also able to change the magnification level quickly — from 150% up to 300% magnification.
Glance is the perfect tool for multitasking — it allows you to keep an app running in the bottom right corner of the screen and lets you quickly glance back at it simply by hovering the S Pen over the minimized window.
With the glance window expanded, you're able to browse through the app — whether it's looking at a news article or scanning through your emails. Then take the S Pen away from the screen and the app minimizes back down to the glance window in the corner.
This features is perfect if you're transferring information from one app to another or otherwise need to bounce between two apps and don't want to use the multi-window option. It's a convenient feature that's exclusively available to the Note 7 thanks to the power of the S Pen.
Note 7 owners, how are you using the S Pen? Let us know down in the comments!
It's time to stop using SMS for two-factor authentication
Not all 2FA is equal. Using SMS to get a code might not be "better than nothing" after all.
Fresh Surface Duo renders are here, reportedly coming to AT&T
Microsoft hasn't exactly been camera shy with the Surface Duo, but a new set of renders have leaked that offer an even closer look at the device. Alongside the leaked images, the leaker says Duo will be headed to AT&T in the U.S.
24 hours with the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra: Big, beautiful, and backwards
It's still too early to give any conclusive thoughts on the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, but Samsung's latest flagship is already proving to be a tremendous phone in more ways than one.
Protect your new, huge Note 20 with one of these cases
The Note 20 may not have a glass back, but that doesn't mean you should let to go around in the chaotic world outside naked. Get a good case and protect your new Note 20 in style!