You would think that, with as much as the Galaxy Z Fold 5 costs, Samsung would throw in a stylus for good measure. Unfortunately, the $1,800 book-like foldable that opens into a tablet has no accompanying S Pen like the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra. If any device could benefit from the S Pen, it’s the Fold 5's inner 7.6-inch display.
The S Pen is an accessory for the Z Fold 5, just as the Apple Pencil is a peripheral for its tablet ecosystem. But it’s hard to think of it that way when the Galaxy S23 Ultra already has it embedded inside the chassis.
Samsung sent me its newest Slim S Pen Case not only to protect their review unit but also so I could test the S Pen on a foldable. I haven’t had much experience with the stylus outside the Galaxy S22/23 Ultra, but I can already tell that this isn’t something I would use frequently enough to justify the cost. The case is an extra $100, which is quite a bit of cash on top of the already exorbitantly-priced Z Fold 5. However, it’s no more than buying the Apple Pencil for the iPad, which that could cost upwards of $2,200. And like the Apple Pencil, you should only buy the S Pen case for your foldable if you plan to use it.
Since this is my first time with Samsung’s S Pen case for its foldables, I was unaware of the dire situation before this current iteration. 9to5Google says the S Pen case for the Z Fold 3 was a “travesty,” while the one meant for the Z Fold 4 added unnecessary bulk. This time, Samsung promises a 27% slimmer experience, as it’s shaved off a bit of the S Pen to sit more flush on the back of the case. So far, it’s thin enough that I hardly notice it’s there when it’s docked.
The S Pen Case comes in two pieces for the back and front of the Z Fold 5. The back piece features a slot for the stylus to reside and adds a bit of a bumper around the triple camera array. The other piece of the S Pen Case goes on the front of the Z Fold 5. It’s thicker than most Fold cases are for this side of the device, but it still requires adhesive strips to stay affixed to the screen.
The Slim S Pen case does come in a variety of colors. Samsung sent me the black one, but there’s a white one with a pretty peach S Pen and a sky blue case with a lime green S Pen. I would consider the lighter-colored variants because of the fingerprint marks I’ve left on the black case are garish. It took me a while to scrub them out and prepare the Z Fold 5 for photos.
The S Pen resides inside its own little housing on the back of the Slim S Pen Case. When you’re ready to use it, flick down the tab that holds it into place, and it pops out. It’s easier to do this when the Z Fold 5 is closed than when splayed open in tablet mode. Unlike the Galaxy S23 Ultra, where the S Pen pops out of the bottom of the case, the S Pen on the Z Fold 5 pops outward, which means there’s a propensity for it to hit the floor.
The S Pen experience on the Z Fold 5 is the same Samsung experience as on the Galaxy S23 Ultra. Press the side button on the stylus, and a menu pops up on the screen with various options, including creating a new note, writing on the screen, or highlighting a sentence to translate. There’s also the Smart Select feature, my favorite because it lets you select a portion of a video and turn it into an animated GIF. I’ve already made countless animations from the music videos in my TikTok feed. Now shitposting is easier than ever.
But I realized after making too many GIFs that I don’t need the S Pen to do all that. Samsung will let you take advantage of features like Smart Select if you add the shortcut to the Edge panel, a little tab that sticks out on the right side of the interface on the inside of the Z Fold 5.
While I like the S Pen for the Z Fold 5 more than the one on the Galaxy S23 Ultra, I can see now why Samsung didn’t bundle this in by default. The stylus is nice to have, but it’s not for everyone. Like the Apple Pencil, the S Pen is nothing more than an added extra. Yes, it’s nice to take advantage of the expansiveness of the inside display. But it costs $100 for a case that adds quite a bit of density to an already heavy device that weighs down my pockets. If you really want a pen for artistry, I would suggest the Apple Pencil-esque S Pen Pro instead, which costs the same but is big enough that it won’t disappear in a pencil pouch. At least this way, you have an accessory that’s the width and the weight of a pen without adding bulk to your foldable.