The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 will need all-new glass if it has S Pen support

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 multitasking
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 multitasking (Image credit: Hayato Huseman / Android Central)

We've heard that Samsung plans to discontinue the Galaxy Note line and instead offer S Pen support on the Galaxy S models and the Galaxy Z foldable lines.

One tidbit of information embedded in the original Aju News post about the changes stands out, and it might mean Samsung once again needs to work with a partner and reinvent its UTG (ultra-thin glass) layer to include S Pen support for the upcoming Galaxy Z Fold 3.

Samsung had to reinvent its UTG tech to support the S Pen.

According to the news from Korea, the change from the original Fold's transparent polymer outer layer to an all-new type of glass for the Z Fold 2 didn't take into account any type of S Pen support, but Samsung Display subsidiary Dowoo Insys has developed a second-generation UTG that uses its own tech to support the S Pen.

Samsung's S Pen is so successful because it works so well compared to a normal capacitive stylus. It's the same concept as something like the iPad or a number of Chromebooks that support a pen or pencil type of stylus using two parts: a powered stylus with a conductive tip that can communicate with the actual screen using a thin layer of conductive material called a digitizer.

The idea itself isn't exactly new but adding the support to extremely thin glass that stays flexible enough to bend certainly is. There are a lot of things that could go wrong here, and getting a prototype that passes even the bare minimum of tests surely wasn't an easy feat. And that's where the problem might come into play.

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 S Pen

Source: Hayato Huseman / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Hayato Huseman / Android Central)

Samsung isn't going to ship a product out the door that it doesn't have faith in. If we see a Fold 3 with S Pen support, it means that Samsung tested the new display assembly until it was satisfied that there would be no issues. this probably involved machines that can fold and open the phone hundreds of thousands of times.

The S Pen digitizer needs to be strong enough and flexible enough.

But even that level of testing is no match for actual users opening and folding their new phones over and over. This is a case where the users will quickly find new ways to break things, and it's something we've seen over and over again when it comes to phone features or hardware.

A new layer in the display has to overcome the same issues as the outside glass does. It needs to be strong enough to stay together while it's being used and abused but flexible enough to fold over and over. A digitizer doesn't need to be made from actual glass as polymers can also house the tech that registers an S Pen "touch" whenever the end of the Pen gets close to the screen. But that polymer has to wear well while it's working well.

Depending on how the digitizer itself is designed, a simple tear or break at the fold or a seam could render the entire thing useless and dead. Electricity is funny that way — it needs a complete path from one spot back to that same spot for a signal to register. A hardware feature like the S Pen actually does cost a significant amount that's added to a phone's bill of materials because everything is so complicated to design and assemble.

If Samsung does include the S Pen with the Fold 3, it's going to be one heck of a productivity powerhouse.

Samsung is the pro here, though, and has made Galaxy Note phones for years. It understands the problems including this tech into a foldable phone could create, and there probably won't be an issue should the Fold 3 support the S Pen. The Fold 3 is rumored to arrive in June 2021, so there is plenty of time for Samsung to keep testing. If it pulls this off without a hitch, the Z Fold 3 could become a true productivity powerhouse.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2

The Galaxy Z Fold 2's big and beautiful screen continues Samsung's streak of making some of the best devices for media consumption.

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.