Skip to main content

I used the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra's S Pen — and I don't get the point

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra with S Pen
(Image credit: Future)

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.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra review

(Image credit: Future)

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!"

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra display with S Pen

(Image credit: Future)

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.

Jordan Palmer
Jordan Palmer

Jordan is the Phones Editor for Tom's Guide, covering all things phone-related. He's written about phones for over five years and plans to continue for a long while to come. He loves nothing more than relaxing in his home with a book, game, or his latest personal writing project. Jordan likes finding new things to dive into, from books and games to new mechanical keyboard switches and fun keycap sets. Outside of work, you can find him poring over open-source software and his studies.

  • Combat1
    I have to say that I agree with you. The pen feels pointless and only there because die hard fans (no matter how much of a minority they are) speak louder than those who don't care. So of course Samsung would pander to the loudest voices. The main use I can think of it for is for remote photography, or more specifically using the main camera for selfies rather than the front.

    However, you say that the iPhone and Pixel 6 still have better cameras? Hardly any of the reviews I've seen suggest that (let's leave DXOs fading reputation to one side for a moment). Also, even ignoring the s pen the Ultra still seems to be the best smartphone available right now.
    Reply
  • Yielar
    Lost me at "the iPhone 13 Pro and Pixel 6 Pro are better cameras, lol. Might want to actually check out the hundreds of reviews at this point. Much better night shots, much better zoom detail and focus and much better photos in general. The spen comments also made me laugh. Dude, stick to iPhone reviews and leave the Android and Samsung ones to people who actually know how to use the tech and run them as daily drivers.
    Reply
  • Rayfield Lulu
    Ah see I'm a keen s pen user, but the uses have become more and more evident over time. I don't use it on a general, day to day basis, but it's all about when...
    I'm emailed a form to sign that can't be filled out electronically
    I'm sending my dad a map of whistler Village and want to circle the various accommodation options to show him (pull the pen, tap the 'write on screen' option and you're instantly ready to draw, no need to so much as screenshot the webpage)
    I'm sending a landscaper a photo of my yard and want to indicate the area I'm talking about
    I'm reading an ebook, but the map is too small to read and I want to magnify it cause I need to visualise the fantasy world properly
    I have more than one piece of information from one app that I need to input or copy onto another app, for example, bank details to pay a bill... sure I could split screen, but it's so easy to pull the pen, drag to select, and pin to screen and work full screen on the other app
    yes, as a remote control for my camera it's awesome too... your hands can be wherever they want to be for the shot
    There's more, but it's all these little things that add up to a major convenience. I'd like to move to a smaller phone in some ways, but I know I'll miss the pen...
    Reply
  • Pban
    Rayfield Lulu said:
    Ah see I'm a keen s pen user, but the uses have become more and more evident over time. I don't use it on a general, day to day basis, but it's all about when...
    I'm emailed a form to sign that can't be filled out electronically
    I'm sending my dad a map of whistler Village and want to circle the various accommodation options to show him (pull the pen, tap the 'write on screen' option and you're instantly ready to draw, no need to so much as screenshot the webpage)
    I'm sending a landscaper a photo of my yard and want to indicate the area I'm talking about
    I'm reading an ebook, but the map is too small to read and I want to magnify it cause I need to visualise the fantasy world properly
    I have more than one piece of information from one app that I need to input or copy onto another app, for example, bank details to pay a bill... sure I could split screen, but it's so easy to pull the pen, drag to select, and pin to screen and work full screen on the other app
    yes, as a remote control for my camera it's awesome too... your hands can be wherever they want to be for the shotThere's more, but it's all these little things that add up to a major convenience. I'd like to move to a smaller phone in some ways, but I know I'll miss the pen...
    You have explained it much better than the guy who actually reviewed it.
    @Jordan Stick to iphones my boy if you don't know how to use android properly.
    Reply
  • SadVulcan
    Dear OP! You have options! You can buy any device you'd like that comes without a pen! I only have one option, as there's only one flagship that comes with a pen. Leave it the hell alone! Or just don't use the pen! Why do you have to use your "influencer" power to badmouth the only feature that has all the rest of us be loyal to Samsung for decades? Get an iPhone and go join the herd.
    Reply
  • Vickypro
    Yielar said:
    Lost me at "the iPhone 13 Pro and Pixel 6 Pro are better cameras, lol. Might want to actually check out the hundreds of reviews at this point. Much better night shots, much better zoom detail and focus and much better photos in general. The spen comments also made me laugh. Dude, stick to iPhone reviews and leave the Android and Samsung ones to people who actually know how to use the tech and run them as daily drivers.
    OP is obviously an apple fan boy
    Reply
  • MFHRaptor
    If you don't make a habit of using an utility, you'll never see the point of it.

    What a pointless, pedantic article that I had the displeasure of reading this morning. Did all people lose their use for writing with pen and paper? Actual writing, scribbling, and signing is practiced on everyone's life. Then why not extend that functionality to our touch-screen electronics, especially the ones that we carry around with us every day?

    It is unfortunate that the writer of the article didn't know how to incorporate simplicity itself into their work day or personal usage. The point he's missing is that using such a nice utility doesn't have to be on a daily basis. There comes moments where it's easier to write a shopping or a to-do list, or a phone number, or a reminder, or perhaps a fleeting idea.. and having that saved across all your Samsung-logged electronics, wherever you go. The run-of-the-mill "casual" smartphone user wouldn't have the mental acuity to remember there's such a little gem tucked neatly into their 'stylus-equipped' daily driver, and that it's only a second away from making your smartphone use just a bit more convenient.. and enjoyable.
    Reply
  • Jvanwi
    admin said:
    I haven't touched an S Pen since the Galaxy Note II in 2012. Ten years later, things are way different than I remember. Here's what I think of using the Galaxy S22 Ultra and its S Pen.

    I used the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra's S Pen — and I don't get the point : Read more
    Being an iSheep, you should comment only on iPhones instead of talking like a biased chicken without a head. So childish...
    Reply
  • Cilantrove
    I have 2 generations of Galaxy phones and was due for an upgrade. I don't use an S pen and will never break out an S pen to do any precision annotation. It's just never necessary for me. I'm postponing buying a phone to see if Samsung makes a non note ultra next year.

    I'm frustrated at this change but see that it made the previous posters really happy. Congrats to note and s pen fans.
    Reply
  • VzwTDI
    Well, I would like to preface with, if you DON'T get it, at least you are honest? I created an account here for the initial purpose of contrasting the title of this post. I have been an avid CONSUMER here since this site started in 1996. This post LIT ME UP enough to create an account, although refrain from retorting, with somewhat a professional response.

    For those of us who ACTUALLY appreciate and USE the stylus, we are probably those people that still use a "mouse" for our desktops and even laptops despite the touch screens and touch pads? Having used a stylus myself since the Note II, HONESTLY I did not get it at first EITHER, I just wanted the LARGEST phone I could get at that time. Have I upgraded every year? No, didn't need to. Have I always bought the LATEST? No, not really, usually last years model at a discounted price.

    Today, buying a Note or Ultra device with a stylus is NOT required for a MASSIVE phone. But guess what... I honestly have PROGRESSIVELY used my stylus MORE over the years as I LEARNED WHAT I could do with it. That said, JP, not sure you get the full potential if you used it for a day to a week? It took me a few year and I have an IT/IS admin background spanning 20+ years myself.

    There is something about WRITING that has its benefits and in a ROOM of people / educators that want you to PUT YOUR DEVICE AWAY BECAUSE IT IS DISTRACTING YOU... I LOVE holding mine up to reflect, I am actually TAKING NOTES you crazy people!=D

    It ALSO helps me... that my stylus works on ALL my stylus devices and are INTERCHANGABLE. Samsung really grabbed my attention and my interest to TEACH students and TEACHERS that a device is SO MUCH MORE than just playing games and even TYPING during a meeting. It serves me more than just the WOW factor. Being able to DRAW / DOODLE something out is PHENOMINAL! I have signed documents that REQUIRE signature, yes it is old school BUT some still require it... I just cannot do that with a keyboard only. I use my stylus for snapping photos remotely and from afar also.

    JP, while I do respect your honest "opinion"...If you don't need it? You don't need it.
    Maybe you use your phone a little differently than us "Noties"?

    Some of us WANT it, FOUND / learned use, USE IT and our choices are limited.Long live the built in EMR stylus!

    Thank you Samsung for THINKING of us NOTIES and making the stylus STOWABLE again! You have won my respect and appreciation as an educator, IT/IS professional and administrator.
    Reply