The Galaxy Note 4 S-Pen: A Blast From the Past or New Tech?
Some of you might be old enough to remember the PDA revolution, where users (particularly big city bankers) suddenly became addicted to electronic organisers. PDAs are long gone, of course, their functions being combined into smart phones, but one legacy remains: the Samsung Galaxy Note series S-Pen. For those who remember (or even had) an electronic organiser, the S-Pen will look oddly familiar. In shape and feel it’s very similar to the old PDA stylus. But are Samsung really simply nostalgic, or is this brand new tech? We’re taking a look at the functions of the S-Pen today in more depth.
Write (and Write Some More)
In a similar way to the old PDA stylus (at least on later models) the S-Pen is essentially used as a writing instrument. You open up your new Galaxy Note 4 and can hand write on the screen. Unlike older styluses though, the S-Pen is extremely sensitive, meaning it captures tiny hand writing details- in fact, after a little practise, our hand writing on the Note 4 looked exactly the same as our hand writing on paper.
Unlike even older Note models, the S-Pen on the Galaxy Note 4 has increased “feel” as well. Added sensors were designed to give you the feel of writing on paper, rather than the shiny, slippery feel of writing on a screen. We can’t say that this is completely successful (we’re still more than aware of the fact that we’re writing on screen) but the Note 4 S-Pen is a big step up in terms of a natural writing feel.
An Extra Finger
Another rather basic use of the S-Pen is as an extra finger, so to speak. You can use the S-Pen in the same way as you’d use your finger on the smart phone screen to drag icons around, open apps and all that other good stuff. Okay, this is essentially what the old styluses did, but this might be a feature that you underestimate.
The huge benefit of using a stylus rather than your hands is that your smart phone screen stays bright, shiny and clean. No more fingerprints, no sticky messes, no dulled pictures due to grease. This doesn’t sound like a big deal, until you experience it. Use that S-Pen and your Note 4 screen stays looking brand new…
Cutting and Copying and Pasting and…
Something that the S-Pen does incredibly well is move images and text around your phone. We all know that copying and pasting on a mobile is a nightmare compared to working on a PC, but the S-Pen really does solve that problem, and even better there are three different ways of doing it, depending on what you need to do.
The first is called “smart select” and basically you can capture anything on your screen just by dragging your pen across it and then save it to a content list. Want to copy more than one thing? Then click the little blue icon in the corner and repeat the process again. Pretty handy for cutting out web pages or search results you need to remember, not to mention stories from news apps that you might have.
You can also clip images, by drawing a line around the image that you want to clip (you can even go back and clip the image again to get a different boundary if you wish). Pretty much what image clipping software on your computer does, and incredibly easy to use.
Finally, you can use the S-Pen to click and highlight text that you want to copy, in a similar way to how you would use cut and paste on your PC.
Smooth, Integrated Use
Another thing that Samsung have done extremely well is to integrate the S-Pen into the user interface. Given all the functions that the S-Pen can perform it could have been a complicated bit of kit, but it’s really not.
Basically, you hover the pen over the screen, click a button on the side and what Samsung are calling the “air command” menu appears on your display. Choose from this menu which function you want the pen to perform, and you’re ready to go. It’s really pretty easy and seamless, making using the S-Pen a natural part of using your phone, rather than a gimmick.
And a Bunch of Other Stuff
There are tons of little features on the S-Pen too. You can use it to zoom in on content, for example. You can also use it to write on captured screen shots- the example that Samsung give, which is a good one, is that you can add details to maps and then send the image on as an email or SMS so your friends know exactly where to meet you. Plus, you can associate actions with your hand written notes, such as the option to make a call every time you write down a phone number. You can pin notes to your home screen (like post-it notes), and you can even change the thickness or colour of the pen for easy to read notes or highlights.
Yes, the S-Pen is at heart a stylus, but it’s also so much more. Upgrades on the Galaxy Note 4 mean that the S-Pen is starting to become and essential gadget for the phablet line, and that’s a good thing. The S-Pen is brand new tech, it’s a perfectly integrated stylus that makes using your smart phone easier and more convenient.
Alright, it’s not yet perfect, and you’ll probably find that some of these functions are little more than fun to play around with, and yet there are some (like the cutting and pasting ability) that you’ll wonder what you ever did without them. We think there’s a lot more to come from the S-Pen as Samsung continue to add upgrades to the Note series. And if you’re looking to make the most out of a big screen phablet (and let’s face it, who has hands big enough to use one hands on only really?) then the Note series with its S-Pen is really the way to go.