Samsung's Galaxy Z Fold 5 may have an S Pen slot.  Here's why it's a big deal

Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold 5 may have an S Pen slot. Here’s why it’s a big deal

The Galaxy Z Fold 4 just launched in August, but rumors of the Galaxy Z Fold 5 have already surfaced. If a report from Korean outlet The Elec turns out to be true, one of the Z Fold 5’s biggest improvements could be the addition of an S Pen slot. It would be a small but important change that addresses one of the shortcomings of the Z Fold 4 and cements its place as the successor to the now defunct Galaxy Note family.

The Galaxy S22 Ultra is Samsung’s Note replacement in the literal sense, given that it has the Note’s signature built-in S Pen and the largest screen of any non-folding Samsung phone. But the Z Fold is the successor to the Galaxy Note when it comes to the purpose it serves in Samsung’s lineup.

More importantly, making the S Pen a more integral part of the Galaxy Z Fold might better define its purpose. While Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold and Z Flip phones have improved dramatically over the past two years, foldable phones seem like a solution in search of a problem. Seemingly minor changes, like the addition of an S Pen port, could go a long way in defining exactly who and what the Fold is for. This is especially true since Samsung launched the Z Fold as a productivity-focused deviceas evidenced by new features like the ability to use the bottom half of the phone as a mini trackpad when folded halfway.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4

James Martin/CNET

Elec’s report doesn’t say outright that the Z Fold 5 will have an S Pen slot, but suggests it’s being strongly considered. Samsung reportedly cited the introduction of an S Pen case as a key challenge that needs to be overcome to make foldable phones more popular, while also making the phone lighter and minimizing screen crease. Samsung did not respond to a request for comment on The Elec’s report.

Both the Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Z Fold 3 are compatible with the S Pen, but the stylus must be purchased separately and there is no mechanism to attach it to the device. Integrating the S Pen likely presents a challenge as it would add more thickness to a device that’s already bigger than the average phone when closed. But in his examCNET’s Patrick Holland said he wished the stylus could at least magnetically stick to the Z Fold 4 like Apple’s Pencil does with the iPad.

It’s a conundrum I hope Samsung solves on the Z Fold 5, as The Elec suggests, and not just for convenience. The Galaxy Note debuted in 2011 and set the stage for today’s big-screen phones in our pockets, and Samsung has similar ambitions for its line of foldables.

“As little three years ago, this category didn’t even exist,” said TM Roh, president and head of Samsung’s mobile experience business, during the company’s keynote in August before d announce the Galaxy Z Fold 4 and flip 4. “Now we are leading it into the mainstream.”

A more seamless S Pen experience could help it achieve this, which is important given that foldable phones are expected to make up just 1.1% of global smartphone shipments in 2022, according to the International Data Corporation.

Even without a fully integrated S Pen, the Galaxy Z Fold is starting to look more and more like the new incarnation of the Galaxy Note. The Galaxy Note was never meant for everyone; that’s what the Galaxy S line is for. Instead, Samsung has positioned the Note as an option for those willing to pay a premium price for extras you can’t get on most others. phones, like a bigger screen, the latest processor, and the ability to take handwritten notes.

The Galaxy Z Fold’s story is similar: it comes at a premium price, but does something few other phones can. In a sense, both phones represent Samsung’s attempt to blend the smartphone and tablet experience. The Galaxy Note was sometimes referred to as a “phablet” in the years after its launch in 2011 because it had an unusually large 5.3-inch screen for a smartphone at the time. The Galaxy Z Fold is a more modern version of the same idea.

The Galaxy Note succeeded in part because it arrived at the right time. As smartphones became ubiquitous and the app economy exploded, we began to rely on phones for everything from reading the news and playing games to paying bills and getting a cab. It seems logical that people were looking for bigger screens as they started spending more time on their phones. The Galaxy Note eventually paved the way for the direction that Samsung’s high-end smartphones eventually took, as evidenced by its being absorbed into the Galaxy S line.

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra face down with the S Pen on top

The Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

Angela Lang/CNET

Samsung certainly expects its Z range to fill the void left by the Note. The company even said on its second-quarter earnings call that it wants foldable sales to outpace its Galaxy Note series.

Even though the Galaxy Z Fold is four generations old, it’s unclear if Samsung will maintain the same long-term approach for its book-shaped foldable phones. The company presented new concepts at CES 2022, suggesting that Samsung has many ideas about the future destination of foldable phones. “That’s all you saw [at CES] and more,” Samsung’s TM Roh told CNET in August when asked about upcoming foldable models.

But heading into the future that Samsung envisions ultimately starts with refining today’s foldables. And for now, that means making improvements to the Z Fold and Z Flip – as small as they may seem – that give these devices a more intentional purpose.

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