The S Pen is still one of the best things about Samsung's Galaxy S23 Ultra

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra with S Pen
(Image credit: Future)

Samsung's Galaxy S23 Ultra is getting plenty of attention thanks to its beastly 200-megapixel camera, but it's important to remember the main thing that always drew people to the Ultra (and the Note series before it) in the first place — the S Pen.

Both the Note and Ultra have traditionally been aimed at business professionals, offering a suite of productivity features that are all made better by the inclusion of a stylus.

Of course, you don't have to be a fancy executive to take advantage of this additional method of input — the S Pen can be used for a number of everyday tasks, often providing an extra level of convenience.

While the idea of stylus control on a smartphone probably won't appeal to everyone, I'm of the opinion that more people would embrace the S Pen if given the chance to try it out for an extended period of time.

Whether you're a power user like me, or just someone who wants to write a quick shopping list, I'm here to tell you that the Galaxy S23 Ultra's S Pen will make your life easier if you let it. Here's why I think the S Pen is still one of the best things about Samsung's Galaxy S23 Ultra.

Taking notes / writing on screen

Opening an app and typing yourself a reminder is all well and good, but quickly scribbling it down is faster and feels more natural – and it's arguably more satisfying, too. 

The S Pen on the Galaxy S23 Ultra allows you to do this in multiple ways: you could open the Notes app and handwrite long, detailed notes, or you can just eject the S Pen while the phone is sleeping and write directly on the Always on Display, pinning it there so that you'll be reminded every time you look at your phone.

Of course, the ability to scribble notes on your screen also comes in handy on images and screenshots, making it easy for you to leave comments or circle points of interest. Additionally, you can also use the S Pen to draw a box to screenshot just part of your screen, allowing you to keep or share a snippet rather than an image of the whole thing.

Signing documents

Here's another use for the S Pen that's a total game changer: Signing documents. Chances are that you've been asked to place your signature on digital documents that have been sent to you via email.

What are you going to do? Print them out, sign them, scan them, and send them back? Not in this life, bub. In my experience, the fastest and most convenient way to digitally sign, date and initial most documents is with a stylus.

As a journalist, I have to return signed non-disclosure agreements on a fairly regular basis, but even outside of work, I've had to sign personal documents, and this feature has proven remarkably handy.

Remote camera shutter

Perhaps my favourite use for the S Pen is as a remote camera shutter, allowing me to prop up the S23 Ultra and take photos from a distance. While this is obviously an ideal use case for self portraits and big group pictures, It's also handy for eliminating any chance of camera movement while you're shooting — and you don't even need a tripod.

Last year, I used the S22 Ultra to take some of my best smartphone photos ever, and I did so by standing the handset on its perfectly flat head, then stepping back and using its S Pen to snap the pictures remotely, as I detailed on our sister site, TechRadar.

Taking into consideration the S23 Ultra's powerhouse camera array, which boasts a 200MP main sensor, the opportunities for taking amazing photographs are greater than ever. 

Getting creative

With the inclusion of a precise and ultra-responsive stylus comes the ability to draw on your smartphone. Depending on your artistic ability, you can use the S23 Ultra's S Pen to scribble doodles or create beautiful digital works of art.

Like previous phones in the Note and Ultra lines, the Galaxy S23 Ultra gives you the opportunity to join Samsung's Penup community — a free social network where you can share art you've created and interact with like-minded creatives.

There's some truly incredible work to be found on Penup, which demonstrates what the S Pen can do with some talent behind it. And if you have a Galaxy phone, you can  even set your favorite artworks as your wallpaper.

Stephen Lambrechts

Stephen Lambrechts is the Managing Editor of Tom's Guide AU and has written professionally across the categories of tech, film, television and gaming for the last 15 years. Before Tom's Guide, he spent several years as a Senior Journalist at TechRadar, had a brief stint as Editor in Chief at Official Xbox Magazine Australia, and has written for such publications as APC, TechLife Australia, T3, FilmInk, AskMen, Daily Telegraph and IGN. He's an expert when it comes to smartphones, TVs, gaming and streaming. In his spare time, he enjoys watching obscure horror movies on physical media, keeping an eye on the latest retro sneaker releases and listening to vinyl. Occasionally, he also indulges in other non-hipster stuff, like hiking.