Galaxy S Pen vs. S Pen Pro: What to expect

S Pen Pro
(Image credit: Samsung)

Samsung's Galaxy Z Fold 3 looks like it's going to have some company when it arrives next month. According to regulatory filings made in advance of the new foldable phone's launch, the Galaxy S Pen Pro will also accompany the latest Z Fold.

While the Z Fold 3 won't make its official debut until a rumored Galaxy Unpacked event in August, we've already gotten our first look at the S Pen Pro since Samsung announced the more advanced stylus earlier this year. Don't be embarrassed if you've forgotten about that — at times, it's seemed like Samsung had forgotten about the S Pen Pro, too.

The S Pen Pro made its debut at January's Galaxy Unpacked launch event for the Galaxy S21 phones, where Samsung announced that the Galaxy S21 Ultra would be the first phone outside of the Galaxy Note lineup to support the popular stylus. At that event, Samsung announced two new accessories that would be sold separately from the phone — a standard S Pen and a more fully featured S Pen Pro.

The standard S Pen has been out since the Galaxy S21 Ultra's debut, but the S Pen Pro has faded into the background. All Samsung promised at the time was that the Pro model would ship later in the year. Based on recently discovered FCC filings, "later in the year" appears to be "around the same time as the Galaxy Z Fold 3's debut."

With the S Pen Pro launch looming — and since you've likely not thought about it since its January unveiling — it's time to look at how this new stylus compares with the S Pen that's already available. Samsung has been stinting on the details about the Pro version, but we have enough information on hand to make a Galaxy S Pen vs. S Pen Pro comparison that looks at what to expect when the new stylus arrives.

Galaxy S Pen vs. S Pen Pro: Price

The Galaxy S Pen that shipped alongside the Galaxy S21 lineup is considered a separate accessory that you can buy for $40. That's a stark contrast to how Samsung handled things with the Galaxy Note series, where the S Pen came with the phablet.

Galaxy S Pen vs. S Pen Pro

Galaxy S Pen (Image credit: Samsung)

Samsung didn't announce a price for the S Pen Pro back in January, and has revealed no new details since then. Assuming it's also a separately sold add-on to Samsung phones, we'd expect a higher price for the S Pen Pro given the additional features. (More on those below.) It's also possible Samsung includes the stylus with the Galaxy Z Fold 3, since that phone is already expected to cost around $1,599.

Galaxy S Pen vs. S Pen Pro: Compatibility

Some good news about the S Pen Pro — back in January, Samsung said this particular stylus would work with all S Pen-supported devices. We take that to mean that even if the S Pen Pro ships with the Galaxy Z Fold 3, it should also work with the Galaxy S21 Ultra or older Galaxy Note models.

Galaxy S Pen vs. S Pen Pro

(Image credit: Samsung)

The standard S Pen that's currently available for $40 only lists the Galaxy S21 Ultra under compatible models. Samsung also neglected to include a slot for the S Pen on the S21 Ultra, so you've got to buy a separate case as well if you want a place to store the stylus. It's unclear whether Samsung has figured out a storage solution for the S Pen Pro on the Galaxy Z Fold 3.

Galaxy S Pen vs. S Pen Pro: Size

We're absolutely in the dark as to how much the S Pen Pro will weigh and just how big it is. Based on the side-by-side image Samsung shared in January, it's clear that the Pro version is longer than the standard version. For context, the existing S Pen is a little bit longer than 4 inches. The S Pen Pro's extended length — more pencil-like than the Samsung stylus you're probably used to — should make it easier to hold.

Galaxy S Pen vs. S Pen Pro: Features

Here's where the Galaxy S Pen vs. S Pen Pro differences really come into view. The S Pen Pro features Bluetooth connectivity, something lacking in the current S Pen that S21 Ultra users work with. And that makes a very big difference when it comes to what you can use the S Pen to do.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra S Pen

(Image credit: Future)

When Tom's Guide reviewed the S21 Ultra, we included a section on that Bluetooth-free S Pen. It's a nice tool — you can use it to jot down notes and make some detailed sketches on the S21 Ultra's 6.8-inch screen. But you won't find support for Air Actions, those features that Galaxy Note users have enjoyed where the S Pen essentially acts as a remote control.

That won't be an issue with the Pen Pro, which does feature Bluetooth. As a result, you'll be able to use the S Pen Pro to control media playback on your phone or snap a photo using the S Pen Pro as a shutter button. The figures to make the Galaxy Z Fold 3 — or really, any Samsung device that supports the S Pen Pro — a better productivity tool.

Galaxy S Pen vs. S Pen Pro: Outlook

We're going to need more detailed information from Samsung before we know the full scope of the Galaxy S Pen vs. S Pen Pro differences. Besides practical considerations like the size and cost of the new stylus, we'll need to know just exactly what you'll be able to do with the addition of Air Actions support.

However, the S Pen Pro figures to be an intriguing companion to the Galaxy Z Fold 3. When fully opened up, that foldable is expected to offer at least 7.5 inches of screen space. That's the kind of real estate that would benefit from an easy-to-hold device with built-in Bluetooth support. And if the S Pen Pro improves how productive you can be with the Galaxy Z Fold 3, that's another mark in the favor of foldable phones, as Samsung looks to make the case that these devices should be more mainstream.

The success of the Galaxy Z fold 3 doesn't hinge upon the S Pen Pro. But support for a fully featured stylus sure makes that a more compelling phone for a wider audience.

Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.