The S Pen is tough to replace. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
A whole lot of folks aren’t very happy about looking for something to replace their Note 7. Before we go there, though, let’s all agree that this is just stupid and move on. Samsung doesn’t want you to use a phone that has a higher than normal chance to hurt you. Don’t do it.
Back to saner things, it’s tough to replace a Note 7 if you used the one unique feature it boasts — the S Pen. There are other phones that have a good camera and a big screen. They seem like a fine choice as a replacement, and for some, they will be. But if you used the pen, you’re going to be forced to use an older model from Samsung or learn to stop using it. That kind of sucks, but it didn’t have to happen. Android has support for a potentially better way to use a stylus that nobody bothered to implement on any serious level.
Bluetooth Active Stylus support just didn’t take off. We can’t really blame anyone. Samsung has things figured out using Wacom’s tech and a separate digitizer in the screen and they didn’t have to change anything. Trying to compete with the Note series by bringing your own stylus was something LG and NVIDIA have done, and nobody seemed to care and still bought the Note if they wanted or needed stylus support. App developers could build their stuff with Active Stylus support, but it makes more sense to target the Note because that’s what people are using. It’s the ultimate catch 22 — for it to happen, someone has to do it and nobody will do it because it isn’t happening.
If you write Android apps, now is a perfect time to support an Active Stylus for note taking or drawing.
That sucks for ex-Note users, but it’s also pretty sucky for the rest of us. A digital stylus can offer the same or better pressure sensitivity and accuracy as using a stand-alone digitizer and has the potential to do more. But with only a few apps supporting them (all I can find are from companies who make the stylus themselves) they work no better than the 99-cent rubber-tipped stylus you can buy at that cell phone dude kiosk at the mall. I had plans to find the best active stylus to try and help folks who had to give up on the Note 7, but abandoned the idea because there just isn’t one. We can add it to the list of other potentially great things that Android could do (like MIDI or low latency audio over USB C) if anyone bothered to make a thing that did it.
Now is a perfect time, though. If you’re reading this and work on Android apps, there’s a large chunk of people with a need for you to support a good stylus. And there are likely plenty of others who would be willing to give it a try if it worked on their phone as well as it does on the Note. And there’s at least one dude who wants to use it and tell as many people as he can about it. Holler at me.
In the meantime, sorry ex-Note 7 users who depended on the S Pen. Enjoy your Note 5 and be ready for next year.