Why doesn’t the Galaxy Z Fold 5 have a slot for the S Pen? Here's what Samsung says

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 in hand half folded
(Image credit: Future)

One of the upgrades we had hoped the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 would include is a dedicated slot for the S Pen. The idea being that you can slip the stylus inside the phone, Galaxy S23 Ultra-style, rather than having to use a case that costs $99.

When asked why this device never came to be by TechRadar, Samsung isn't particularly definitive with its answer. 

According to TechRadar, Samsung did create an aluminum mockup of a Galaxy Z Fold 5 with the integrated S Pen. It’s even possible to pop the stylus in and out of that slot. But this mockup is reportedly one of many Samsung created during the Z Fold 5’s development, and by the end it opted for a design virtually identical to the Z Fold 4 — albeit with the Flex Hinge that slimmed down the design and closed all gaps.

According to Samsung Head of MX Design Hubert Lee, Samsung didn’t offer a built-in S Pen because “there's a lot to consider. You can't just stick a pen in there. If you stick in a pen in there are other cost consequences. For now, we decided not to have the pen in the Fold." Samsung EVP and head of R+D office Won-Joon Choi later added that “every millimeter, every gram matters."

Neither of which are particularly definitive answers, and are open to speculation and interpretation. 

The impact of the S Pen

Cost is an interesting one to think about considering the S Pen is only available as an optional accessory right now. A standard Fold Edition S Pen currently sells for $50 on Samsung’s website, while the more refined Z Fold 5 S Pen is $55. 

Bundling that in with a Z Fold 5 would either eat into Samsung’s profit margins, or push up the price of the phone. Considering the Z Fold 5 sells for the same $1,799 price tag as the Pixel Fold, the latter would have given Google a sales advantage.

It’s unclear how much weight or thickness the S Pen could add to the Z Fold 5. From the sounds of things there’s a chance it would have pushed those numbers up, which isn't ideal if you’re hoping to market your phone as the thinnest foldable you’ve ever made. The Galaxy Z Fold 5 weighs 8.9 ounces, which is an improvement over the 9.2-ounce Galaxy Z Fold 4. 

What Samsung didn’t mention is that making room for the S Pen inside the Z Fold 5 likely meant removing something else. Space inside a smartphone is at a premium, especially when you’re trying to make it as thin as possible, and every inch counts.

The battery life question

Battery capacity is often on the chopping block in these situations, and given the Galaxy Z Fold’s history of weak battery life, reducing the amount of available power compared to the Z Fold 4 doesn’t seem wise. 

Our battery life testing saw the Z Fold 5 clock in a battery life of 10 hours and 55 minutes — 98 minutes higher than the Z Fold 4’s 9 hours 17 minutes. Which is better, but still a way off the 11 hours 30 minutes needed to score a place on our best phone battery life page. Had Samsung reduced the battery capacity to find space for the S Pen, that lead would have been severely diminished. 

Redesigning the phone could have prevented such a thing from occurring, and this was something Samsung had considered. According to TechRadar, the Z Fold 5 went through a bunch of different prototypes, including some that altered the aspect ratio and would have made the phone more akin to the Pixel Fold

As it happens, Samsung stuck with the same general design as the Z Fold 4 because they believe it’s the best for “usability and grip and portability." Though that is all down to personal preference, and we found during our testing for the Pixel Fold review that Google’s stockier foldable design was noticeably more comfortable to use with the cover display.

Despite its flaws, and relative similarities with the Z Fold 4, the Galaxy Z Fold 5 is still the best foldable phone out there. That’s all thanks to the improvements to battery life, multitasking and photography. You can read more in our Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 review.

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Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.