The S Pen is one of Samsung’s ace cards: a versatile stylus that made the Galaxy Note series famous and now comes bundled with every Galaxy Tab.
But when it comes to phones, its appeal is distinctly reduced if it can’t be easily stored. The Note series allowed for the stylus to be docked in the phone for charging — a feat set to be repeated with the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra — but for the Galaxy S21 Ultra and Galaxy Z Fold 3 it was an awkward extra.
While Samsung has proved that this problem can be overcome with traditional phones, foldables are trickier, as making one of the halves wide enough to hold an S Pen would add a great deal of heft to a product line that’s already renowned for being chunky.
But it now seems that Samsung may have cracked the problem. A patent application uncovered by LetsGoDigital (opens in new tab) entitled “Foldable electronic device comprising stylus pen” shows a tri-fold design that somehow finds room for the S Pen.
As you can see, it’s not a dock like on the Galaxy Note series. Instead, there’s a groove between two of the screens where the S Pen is clamped when folded. It’s apparently also held magnetically in place, and can wirelessly charge when attached.
The triple folding design certainly looks familiar: Samsung recently teased something similar at CES. But if the company has managed to make said device hold an S Pen (without massively expanding its thickness, of course) then this could be an absolute game changer.
One small step for Samsung, but a giant leap for foldables
If approved and realized in time to make it into the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4, it would certainly give the rumored Z Fold 3 successor an advantage over the foldable competition. And that's getting bigger by the day: just last week we saw the launch of the folding Huawei P50 Pocket, and earlier this month we went hands-on with the Oppo Find N. Google is still rumored to be working on a Pixel Fold/Notepad device, too, so Samsung certainly won't have the category to itself.
Of course, this is just a patent application at this stage, and even if approved there's no guarantee that Samsung would end up using the technology — let alone as early as the Z Fold 4. Indeed, one recent rumor claimed the Z Fold 4 definitely won't be getting an S Pen dock — though that is in no way confirmed either.
But even if it's too soon for it to feature in the Z Fold 4, it has the potential to be a huge deal for future Samsung foldables.
Styluses and tablets go hand in hand thanks to their large screens — which is why iPads with Apple Pencil support have been such a big success — but they’re not exactly pocketable. Stylus-toting phones, even the largeish Galaxy Note series, are a bit more fiddly, but undoubtedly win on portability grounds.
A foldable 2-in-1 tablet/phone could do the impossible and combine the best experience with a portable form factor.
Technically the Galaxy Z Fold 3 already does this, given it includes S Pen support, but it’s an optional extra and not a terribly well integrated one. Without a place to dock the S Pen, you either have to carry it around loose and risk misplacing it, or grab an ugly case with an S Pen holster, increasing the heft of an already bulky device.
Hopefully this tri-fold device makes it off the patent drawing board and into a product such as the rumored Galaxy Z Fold 4, but even if it's too early in the process for that to happen, maybe this is something we cross our fingers for in 2023 at least.