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Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 could be making a grave mistake with the S Pen

(Image credit: Evan Blass)

The latest Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 revelations contain some good news if you’re considering a purchase of the upcoming foldable phone. The successor to the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is going to get its very own S Pen — Samsung confirmed as much when detailing what to expect at the company’s Galaxy Unpacked event in August.

But there’s some bad news, too. Rumors about the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and its S Pen indicate that Samsung is adding support for the stylus in the worst way possible.

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First, let’s focus on what we know. In previewing the August 11 Unpacked event, TM Roh, the head of Samsung’s mobile business, promised “the first-ever S Pen designed specifically for foldable phones.” It’s all but certain that the Galaxy Z Fold 3 will support the S Pen; it’s possible the Galaxy Z Flip 3, also expected to debut at that same event, could support the feature, too.

The S Pen in question is undoubtedly Samsung’s S Pen Pro, a Bluetooth-enabled device announced earlier this year. Unlike the S Pen Samsung launched alongside the Galaxy S21 Ultra in the spring, the Pro version can act as a remote control and support Air Gestures — features that should be familiar to fans of the Galaxy Note phablet. (Our S Pen vs. S Pen Pro face-off has the details.) So far, so good.

No built-in S Pen?

The bad news starts when you turn to the rumor mill to fill in details about the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and its S Pen support. In the last week, leaker Ishan Agarwal suggested that there won’t be a slot for the S Pen built into the Galaxy Z Fold 3 the way there is for the Galaxy Note 20 and early versions of the phablet. Instead, you’ll need to have a case if you want to keep your Galaxy Z Fold and its S Pen in one place. Alleged renders of a Galaxy Z Fold 3 case show how the pen will attach to the accessory.

(Image credit: 91mobiles)

This all sounds a lot like the Galaxy S21 Ultra, which was the first non-Galaxy Note device to add S Pen support. In that instance, the S Pen was sold separately as was the case you could use to store the stylus. There’s no word on whether Samsung is going to follow a similar route with the Z Fold 3 or include the pen and case as a bundle when you buy the phone.

In fact, we won’t really know anything officially until Samsung announces the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and details how the S Pen will work with its foldable. But if it turns out the S Pen is a separate accessory, Samsung would be making a terrible mistake.

Why the S Pen matters to the Galaxy Z Fold 3

If ever a phone stood to benefit from the S Pen, it’s the Galaxy Z Fold 3. The phone opens up to reveal a tablet-sized design that’s tailor-made for sketching out ideas, notes and graphics. And the cover display that serves as the phone’s exterior screen is perfect for quick note-taking too. Throw in Bluetooth connectivity — missing from the S21 Ultra’s S Pen — and you can tap into Air Actions to be even more productive.

A key part of that experience is having the stylus always at hand. Galaxy Note users know what it feels like to pop the S Pen out of their phone and be ready to get to work. It’s hard to see how having a case with a stylus replicates that same experience.

There’s also the potential matter of the Galaxy Z Fold 3’s specs, which aren’t official yet, but have been leaked to a fare-thee-well. Those leaks indicate the battery inside the new Fold is actually smaller than the one in the Galaxy Z Fold 2 — 4,380 mAh vs. 4,500 mAh. There could be a lot of reasons to shrink the power pack, though the most commonly accepted one was that Samsung was making room for the S Pen slot. If that’s not the case — if the S Pen doesn’t have a slot — then why the smaller battery?

(Image credit: Evan Blass)

Much of this could be overlooked if Samsung decided to include the S Pen and its case along with the Galaxy Z Note 3. If these are separate accessories you need to pay extra for, that would be a bigger issue.

No one knows how much the Galaxy Z Fold 3 will actually cost, but the most optimistic rumor suggests it will be around $1,599. That’s certainly cheaper than past Folds, but far more expensive than most smartphones go for these days. (Even the Galaxy S21 Ultra — nobody’s idea of a bargain phone — would cost $400 less than that.) Asking someone to pay extra on top of that four-figure price tag for one of the phone’s coolest features is not going to go down easily.

Galaxy Z Fold 3 S Pen outlook

Again, as much as we know about the Galaxy Z Fold 3 heading into the Galaxy Unpacked event on August 11, much remains in the air about the foldable. It could well be that Samsung surprises us and includes the S Pen with the Z Fold 3 in such a way to make it feel like a valuable addition to the foldable phone. We can reserve judgment until then, even if we also reserve the right to be a little bit worried over what we’re hearing.

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Philip Michaels

    Philip Michaels is a senior editor at Tom’s Guide. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics and old movies. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.

    (Image credit: Evan Blass)

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