Samsung Galaxy Note S-Pen Hands-On (Video)

The Samsung Galaxy Note is an unusual phone in many respects, though I’ve noticed most people focus more on the size. As a fan of big phones that’s not what interests me most. It’s the S Pen that I’m intrigued by.

Unlike the digitized pen for the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet, the S Pen doesn’t have a power supply inside which is why it can be so small. Still, because it’s an active digitizer and not just a capacitive stylus the Note can sense how much pressure you’re applying with the pen and, in some applications, translates that into thicker or thinner lines.

To demonstrate the power of this Samsung invited portrait artists to their booth to create on the spot drawings of CES attendees right on the Galaxy Note. While impressive, I found that it took some effort to create differentiating lines with the S Pen. I’m not sure how long it would take to become proficient.

Galaxy Note S Pen

At the company’s press conference they showed the S Pen inside of a bigger, traditionally-sized pen. One that wouldn’t fit in the phone’s small stylus port. Turns out that’s an accessory for the S-Pen called the Holder Kit that doesn’t add any functionality, just makes the pen a more comfortable size.

It also means you can’t tuck it away in the body of the Note. That would greatly increase my chances of losing it, for other people it may help them keep track of it.

I am surprised that this accessory doesn’t come with the device. The rep we spoke to didn’t know how much it would cost. If it’s more than $5 I might have to call shenanigans.

The idea of the S Pen is solid, especially if you are a big note-taker, as I am. However, I’m not convinced I would make handwritten notes if I owned this phone. I don’t feel too comfortable doing so on the ThinkPad Tablet, but perhaps something pocket-sized would tempt me to use it more.

That Samsung worked with developers to bring S Pen-enabled apps to the device beyond the typical memo/note-taking program you’d expect is a big bonus. Users can take screenshots and mark them up, send postcards using their own pictures and handwritten notes right from the phone with Touchnote, and, coming up, Soonr Scribble for marking up documents.

For those not convinced that a smartphone this size still works as a phone, then pen integration may change a few minds on that score.