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Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 and S Pen — this is the combo I’ve been waiting for

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3
(Image credit: Evan Blass)

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 has already been tipped to get S Pen support for a while now, seemingly setting up the next-gen foldable as the true replacement for the Galaxy Note 21. But it’s now looking like the foldable phone will get support for the newer S Pen Pro, going by a new FCC filing for the stylus which makes note of the Galaxy Z Fold 3. 

Not only does this listing lend credence to the idea that the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is due to be at the still-unannounced Samsung Unpacked event rumored for August 11, but it gives us a clear idea that the foldable phone will very much be a flagship device and much more than just a foldable phone. 

Thanks to the Galaxy Note series, the idea of using a stylus with a large flagship phone is nothing new. But with the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra adding S Pen support and the Galaxy Note 21 looking very unlikely to see the light of day this year, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 could pick up the mantle, and that's piqued my interest.  

Galaxy Z Fold 3 and S Pen makes a lot of sense

S Pen Pro

(Image credit: Samsung)

The last Note phone I used for a time was the Galaxy Note 10 Plus, a lovely slab of the finest Samsung smartphone tech from 2019. I’m no digital artist and my handwriting has been described as “a spider dipped in ink and run across paper,” so I wasn’t hugely enamored by the S Pen. But its neat integration into the Note 10 Plus’ body and reliable sensitivity and accuracy saw me use it a lot more than I expected to finely tap out messages or highlight text. 

Yet as much as it was a nice-to-have, the S Pen felt far from essential. Had I used it on a foldable phone, I may have been persuaded otherwise. 

Using a stylus in a single screen smartphone is arguably a tad pointless. But on a device that’s set to spend most of its time as a compact tablet, a stylus — and indeed a full S Pen Pro — makes sense to me. After all, we've see how well a larger S Pen works with the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7

I’ve not spent much time with the Galaxy Fold or Galaxy Z Fold 2, but I can imagine with more screen space to manipulate, having a greater degree of precision to do so would be handy. After all, I tend to mostly use a mouse to navigate Windows, even though I have a touchscreen laptop; precision is king when it comes to productivity. 

So the combination of the S Pen or S Pen Pro — the latter being larger with Bluetooth features included — and the Galaxy Z Fold 3 make the whole idea of foldable phones more appealing to me. I can imagine that precisely cropping an image on the foldable display when it’s fully open will be a lot easier with the S Pen than my fleshy fingers. 

And were I to indulge in a bit of digital sketching, using a stylus with a foldable phone with an expansive internal display would make more sense than drawing stickmen on the Note’s comparatively compact screen. 

My only concern would be storing the S Pen. But I’m hoping Samsung will integrate an S Pen slot into the hinge of the Galaxy Z Fold 3 or provide a slick case that integrates a stylus holder. 

If this FCC listing is indeed accurate, then I feel the next-gen Galaxy Fold will not only tread the line between phone and tablet but stand in its own category of flexible productivity device, a little like the Microsoft Surface Duo tried to do but ultimately failed.  

Drawing a line under the Galaxy Note 

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

(Image credit: Future)

But if the Galaxy Z Fold 3 becomes more Note-like, or indeed notepad like, then where does that leave the Galaxy Note series? Well, that’s where things get a little murky. 

Unless there’s a sudden gust from the winds of change, we’re not likely to see a new Note device this year. We had hoped for something along the lines of a Samsung Galaxy Note 20 FE to offer a cheaper alternative to the flagship-grade Note handsets, but there’s been scant rumors around that kind of device lately. 

And Samsung’s mobile boss Koh Dong-jin has said that we shouldn't expect to see a Note in 2021 thanks to the global chip shortage. However, Samsung hasn’t fully closed the book on the Note, officially. 

But I’m inclined to think that the final chapter of the Galaxy Note was written with the Galaxy Note 20. Now that we have the Galaxy S21 Ultra as the ultimate expression of Samsung's non-folding smartphone tech, the need for a Note seems less… noteworthy. 

For the reasons I mentioned above, a stylus-centric phone makes more sense on a foldable device. Thus, foldables seem a more sensible place for Samsung to channel its R&D toward, rather than on a standard phone that’s just a little bigger and more feature equipped than the Galaxy flagship that launched some eight months earlier.

I find that a little sad, as I loved the blocky design of the last two Note phones with their expansive displays and small curve on the edges. If that design came over to the Samsung Galaxy S22, while drawing inspiration on the Contour Cut design of the Samsung Galaxy S21, then I’d be rather happy. 

With leaks pointing out features like an under-display selfie camera, powerful specs, and a refined design, as well as S Pen Pro support, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 not only looks like an upgrade over its predecessor, it could also open a new chapter for Samsung phones, making foldables more mainstream devices. 

So pre-emptively pour one out for the Galaxy Note series. But also look toward August 11 where we could get a glimpse at a future where foldable phones are serious powerhouse devices refined for work and play.  

Roland Moore-Colyer

Roland Moore-Colyer is U.K. Editor at Tom’s Guide with a focus on news, features and opinion articles. He often writes about gaming, phones, laptops and other bits of hardware; he’s also got an interest in cars. When not at his desk Roland can be found wandering around London, often with a look of curiosity on his face.