Samsung has introduced a new Galaxy Note smartphone, the Galaxy Note 9, and alongside that device it has a new S Pen, which has been revamped to add new note-taking and remote control functionality.
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What new with the S Pen?
When Samsung upgrades the S Pen, it normally just adds more levels of pressure sensitivity or ergonomic comfiness. Not this time around. Now, S Pen comes with a Bluetooth LE (Low Energy) radio so that it can remotely communicate with and control the Galaxy Note 9. You can move up to 30 feet away, and still remain connected to the smartphone. What's the point of that, you ask?
Sure, you wouldn't typically "draw" on your Galaxy Note 9 from meters away, but you'd still probably want to control the phone. With just a click of the side button, Samsung said you can take selfies and group pictures, present slides, pause and play music, and more.
Samsung made it easier to keep the S Pen juiced up. It charges when it’s slipped into the device itself, drawing power from the Galaxy Note 9's own 4,000mAh battery. Samsung claimed that, after just 40 seconds, the S Pen will have enough power to last 30 minutes of use, or up to 200 clicks of the side button. The great thing is that Bluetooth LE requires little power, too, so S Pen won't drain your battery.
What does the new S Pen actually do?
Launch an app
The camera is selected by default, but from within the S Pen's remote settings, you can select any app that you want to launch from the S Pen button with a quick press-and-hold action. So, if you're a huge fan of Snapchat, set it to that instead. The possibilities are endless.
Samsung really highlighted how the S Pen helps with group photos. Once you launch the camera app, you can press the S Pen button to capture a photo. If you press the button twice, you can seamlessly move between the phone's front and rear cameras. There's no odd gestures and no need to set down the camera and run into position before the camera's countdown timer expires.
When the gallery app is open, you can use single or double press on the S Pen to toggle between the image or previous image. Imagine handing off your phone to a parent or friend to view one of your albums - you can control their viewing experience without having to touch the screen.
Record your voice
You can use the S Pen to record/pause a voice recording when the voice recorder app open. We suspect students and journalists will love this.
Control your music
Samsung’s own music app supports using the S Pen as a remote control for audio. You can play/pause the current track, as well as skip forward and backward through a music playlist with simple button presses on the S Pen. It's unclear if this supports third-party apps.
Control a presentation
You can use the S Pen to navigate through presentations. Similar to music, you can skip forward and backward through slides with button clicks.
If you're watching a YouTube video, you can use S Pen button to play, pause, or skip videos - no screen touchse required.
Will it work with other apps?
Samsung’s own apps support the S Pen, and each app has different features for the side button. But Samsung wants third parties to get involved. So, it has a new S Pen SDK that third-party developers can leverage in order to add their own side-button remote control shortcuts into apps. Samsung doesn’t have any partners to announce yet, but it said we can expect to learn more later this year.
Did it keep any old S Pen features?
Yep. It still uses Wacom digitiser technology for sketching, writing handwritten memos and notes, and moving around Android.
Examples of the new S Pen in action
Check out Samsung's promo videos below to see how it thinks you'll most likely use the new S Pen with Galaxy Note 9.