Samsung proves why the Galaxy Z Fold 5 doesn't need an S Pen slot

The new slimmer S Pen for the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5
(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

If you're someone who loves buying Samsung phones with S Pens built-in to the chassis, you might be a bit disappointed to learn that Samsung still isn't including one in its latest line of foldable phones.

Yes, it's true. The Galaxy Z Fold 5 doesn't have an S Pen built in, but that's not actually a problem. Last year, I imagined what it would be like if Samsung had, but the truth is that Samsung doesn't need to include one with every Fold 5 because not every user will actually take advantage of it.

Instead, Samsung is offering a line of new S Pen cases that offers the protection you need for your phone — face it, very few people want to use an $1,800 phone without a case — while adding only a scant few millimeters to the device's thickness.

That's in stark contrast to the best Galaxy Z Fold 4 S Pen cases which all offered the ability to use the S Pen Fold Edition but added considerable bulk to the phone — the thickness of an entire extra phone strapped to the back of a phone that's already twice the of the average smartphone when it's folded.

Choices matter

The new slim S Pen case for the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5

(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

Everyone loves a free accessory, and that's only part of what makes phones like the Galaxy S23 Ultra so great. It comes with a free S Pen even if you don't use the thing regularly.

But I'm willing to bet that a not-insignificant number of users would be willing to buy a cheaper model without an S Pen if given the choice. In many ways, that's what Samsung is doing with the Z Fold 5 and its S Pen capabilities. Offering a better phone for the same price as last year's model and giving folks who want an S Pen the ability to use one if they want it.

Better yet, this year's Z Fold supports even more types of S Pen models than ever before, including the newly redesigned S Pen that's larger than the tiny one in the Galaxy S23 Ultra (and many generations of Galaxy Notes before it). Not only that, but Samsung seems to have remembered that people like color, as some of the pen options channel unique color styles that have been missing for years.

The new slimmer S Pen for the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5

(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

In fact, this new S Pen is so good I can't believe we ever did without it. Not only is it almost the same length as last year's S Pen, but it's completely flat on the sides, so there's never a time when you'll be turning it around in your hand trying to figure out where that blasted button went.

I don't know about you, but that's always been a pet peeve of mine with every S Pen model up until now.

Samsung finally remembered that colors exist and gave us some rather exciting options.

Docking the pen into the case as as simple as inserting the nib-end of the pen first, followed by snapping the back of the pen into the slot. Releasing it requires a bit more effort — you have to flip that little switch above the pen to eject it from the slot — which should keep it in place far more often than previous designs.

Plus, Samsung is including the new GoodNotes app on every Fold 5 which offers far more options to take notes, make drawings, and harness the power of that pen than ever before.

While most of this is extremely positive, my big disappointment this year is that we still can't use the S Pen on the cover display. I'm not sure how useful the narrow outer display would be for pen usage most of the time, but I've wanted to be able to jot down quick notes on it ever since Samsung introduced S Pen compatibility to the Fold 3.

It's also worth noting that the switch mechanism makes it a little more work to detach from the case than the simple holster design last year's case used. If you'd rather prioritize the ease of removing the pen over the size of it, you can still get a great Galaxy Z Fold 5 S Pen case that'll put that larger pen somewhere else.

Nicholas Sutrich
Senior Content Producer — Smartphones & VR
Nick started with DOS and NES and uses those fond memories of floppy disks and cartridges to fuel his opinions on modern tech. Whether it's VR, smart home gadgets, or something else that beeps and boops, he's been writing about it since 2011. Reach him on Twitter or Instagram @Gwanatu