Galaxy S24 Ultra’s most boring feature is what makes it unique among phones — and that’s a problem

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra S Pen.
(Image credit: Future)

I’ve been a fan of the S Pen ever since Samsung rolled it out with the OG Galaxy Note in 2011. Through the years it’s received its fair share of upgrades, offering users extra utility beyond the standard stylus. With the introduction of the Galaxy S24 Ultra at the company’s Galaxy Unpacked event, however, it rarely got any mention.

In fact, the only time it was shown off was when Samsung demoed how handwritten notes can be better aligned if you happen to trail off in some wandering way. My chicken scratch penmanship is already atrocious, so automatically aligned handwriting is the least of my worries. But you know what? This isn’t new because the Galaxy S23 Ultra can already do this.

Artificial intelligence was clearly the big agenda with the Galaxy S24 series, as all three phones share the same AI-powered experiences, but I think Samsung missed an opportunity to upgrade the one feature that makes the Galaxy S24 Ultra unique amongst the best phones.

I’ve explained previously how one of Samsung’s most gimmicky features could be the key to the Galaxy S24 Ultra’s salvation. Yet now, as I’m checking out all of the cool stuff the Galaxy S24 Ultra can do, I’m disappointed that the S Pen remains largely unchanged over the last few generations — and that’s a problem. Here’s why.

Core features remain unchanged

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra S Pen.

(Image credit: Future)

Samsung made a compelling case for the S Pen, especially in an era when the iPhone effectively killed off the resistive touchscreen, which went hand-in-hand with the death of the stylus. That’s why it was reborn when the S Pen arrived, convincing us that there are still reasons for keeping around a stylus.

The Galaxy S24 Ultra’s S Pen functions no different from the one in the Galaxy S23 Ultra, apart from how Galaxy AI can align your handwriting. Previous S Pen features still exist with the Galaxy S24 Ultra, like screen-off memos, Air actions, Air command, Air view, and S Pen to text. I also still love how I can use the S Pen as a remote shutter for capturing photos and video with the cameras. These are all great, but I was expecting a lot more.

It needs a design makeover

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra S Pen.

(Image credit: Future)

As a writing utensil, I think the S Pen suffices with its skinny look and feel. It could benefit from being a little thicker, but I can understand why Samsung keeps it svelte. That’s because every inch inside of the Galaxy S24 Ultra is packed with components. Free space is hard to come by, but I think Samsung needs to give the S Pen a proper design makeover at this point.

Given how the S Pen currently sits on the left side of the phone when it’s not in use, a telescoping S Pen could provide extra room for other things. Perhaps to accommodate a larger battery? The S24 Ultra's battery endurance is already something worth applauding after we initially ran our custom battery benchmark test on it, but I could only imagine if there was more room to add a larger battery.

An interface interaction revolution is needed

Gif animation of Air Actions commands with Galaxy S23 Ultra.

(Image credit: Future)

Frankly, the S Pen is underrated and underutilized. Samsung can make a more compelling case for its top-of-the-line flagship phone if more attention is paid to the S Pen. Needless to say, it’s already an ideal writing tool for notes and drawings, but I think it can revolutionize how we interact with the phone.

Samsung DeX is another feature that could benefit from an upgraded S Pen. Just think: how cool would it be if the S Pen could be used as a navigation tool for the software when you connect the phone to a monitor or other external screen? There’s already the Air view feature that lets the S Pen act as a mouse pointer of sorts when it’s hovered over the display, but I would love it if I could use the S Pen in the air to act as an actual mouse.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra S Pen.

(Image credit: Future)

Furthermore, it could support more gestures than what it currently does. Air actions lets me use simple gestures with the S Pen to scroll up/down in Chrome, but it needs to be taken to the next level. I’m talking about gestures similar to pinch zooming with our fingers. I don’t know how Samsung could pull it off, but I would imagine an accelerometer and gyroscope would somehow need to be included into the S Pen’s design.

I have so much hope for the S Pen and DeX, primarily because I feel they’re critical to distinguishing the Galaxy S24 Ultra over other phones. And with spatial computing potentially being the next disruptor, it’s Samsung’s chance to at least give consumers a peek at a new, more intuitive way of interacting with our devices.

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John Velasco
Senior Channel Editor for Phones

John’s a senior editor covering phones for Tom’s Guide. He’s no stranger in this area having covered mobile phones and gadgets since 2008 when he started his career. On top of his editor duties, he’s a seasoned videographer being in front and behind the camera producing YouTube videos. Previously, he held editor roles with PhoneArena, Android Authority, Digital Trends, and SPY. Outside of tech, he enjoys producing mini documentaries and fun social clips for small businesses, enjoying the beach life at the Jersey Shore, and recently becoming a first time homeowner.