Samsung is experimenting with additional features to put in its S Pen, the stylus which comes with the Galaxy Note series of phones, and is also compatible with some of its tablets. The latest potential feature is one that will be loved by international spies and selfie fans alike, as Samsung may put a tiny camera in a future S Pen.
While it sounds like something Q would have designed for James Bond back in the 70s, this may make some sense today when it’s linked with where screen design is headed on our phones. Samsung’s possible plan has been revealed in a patent, which shows not just an ordinary camera lens in the top of an S Pen stylus, but one with an optical zoom. Optical zooms are rare on smartphones, due to space and size restrictions inside; but by using a periscope-style system, one small enough to fit inside a stylus could be possible.
What’s interesting here is how the pen will be used for photography. The patent shows the S Pen on its own, and also emerging slightly from its storage slot on the phone. Samsung, along with many other companies, is experimenting with ways to provide a full-screen visual experience without a notch. Vivo, Oppo, Xiaomi, and Honor have all used pop-up cameras. Could the S Pen pop out from the body and act as the selfie camera, allowing a future Note phone to have a full-screen display?
With the S Pen out of the phone, the camera should still operate, allowing you to take all manner of photos without having to reach for the phone itself, at least for a short amount of time. For the Galaxy Note 9, Samsung added a Bluetooth connection to the S Pen, enabling it to act as a remote shutter control for the camera on the phone, and to interact with presentations, among other features. The battery inside lasts for 30 minutes or so, so a camera-equipped S Pen, especially with an optical zoom feature, may not have the power to work for much longer without returning to the phone for a quick charge.
Will we see a camera-equipped S Pen inside the Galaxy Note 10? Patents don’t always show inventions destined for release, so there’s no way of knowing when, or even if, this will become a real product. Samsung has also covered laptops and tablets in its patent application, which was filed in 2017 and recently approved. For now, it remains an interesting glimpse of how Samsung is working to make the S Pen more useful to more people.