Ten years is a long time, but that's how long it's been since I used an S Pen. The last time was the Galaxy Note II all the way back in 2012 and, surprise surprise, a lot's changed since then.
I've sat on the sidelines for years, watching how Samsung has drastically improved its stylus experience. Despite having written about phones for going on six years, I've never reviewed a Galaxy Note, nor did I review the Galaxy S21 Ultra last year or the new Galaxy S22 Ultra (our fearless leader Mark Spoonauer did both of those).
Truth be told, I've never been all that interested in the S Pen. I respect its utility, and I appreciate that it has its die-hard fans, but I could never see any use case for me personally. I think it comes down to ergonomics — I don't see the value in holding a phone in one hand and using the stylus in the other.
I'm fortunate to have big hands, so large phones are rarely an issue for me. (Whether I like them or not is another story.) But after I received the Galaxy S22 Ultra in the beautiful burgundy colorway, I decided to give the whole S Pen thing a shot after a decade.
To be completely frank with you, I continue to lack a reason to use a stylus. Despite the S Pen's power on Samsung's latest flagship, I find the S Pen more of a hindrance than a useful tool. Granted, it requires rethinking how I use a smartphone, but in the few days I've had the device in my possession, the S Pen has largely sat forgotten.
Of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't talk about the overall smoothness of the S Pen writing experience. Samsung really dialed down the latency this year (down to a measly 2.8 milliseconds), and even I'll admit that actually writing with the stylus is very nice. You get a pretty powerful experience when you combine that with the air gestures for shortcuts, translating your handwriting into text, and quickly saving notations to Microsoft Office products. (That, of course, requires actually using Office, which isn't my cup of tea.) There's even screen off memo, which lets you write notes on a blank screen — it's nifty if incredibly situational.
All that in mind, when I consider that the iPhone 13 Pro Max and Pixel 6 Pro remain better camera phone options in most regards, the Galaxy S22 Ultra's other defining feature is lost on me. I'm not an artist and I type faster than I can handwrite. I don't take notes or markup documents. So it should come as no surprise that I've honestly forgotten that the S Pen is there on the S22 Ultra. That is, until I see a note that I wrote to myself, "remember to test the S Pen!"
This all leaves me with one conclusion: ten years later, I still don't like the S Pen. It's a powerful tool, but I have absolutely no use for it. I fail to see how stopping what I'm doing, removing the S Pen with my other hand, and then writing or selecting something onscreen is faster than a few taps and drags. In the end, I'm concerned with speed and efficiency — I prefer to do things with my tech as quickly as possible.
I think it's cool that Samsung brought the Galaxy Note back in the Galaxy S22 Ultra. I don't think the Galaxy Z Fold 3, or Galaxy S21 Ultra, could ever replace the Note. I completely understood the Note fandom's frustration with the lack of a Galaxy Note 21. And I'm happy that the S22 Ultra is here to fill that need.
But for me, I don't care about the S Pen, nor will I shed a tear when I continue to forget about it when I use the Galaxy S22 Ultra. In my opinion, it's a gimmick that requires using the phone in a way I find unnatural. That doesn't mean I think using the S Pen is dumb. I just don't see why I should waste my time with it.
You can also read my comparison of the Galaxy S22 Ultra and Galaxy Z Fold 3 S Pen.