Samsung Galaxy Note 5 Stylus Can Damage Smartphone - InformationWeek
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8/25/2015
06:10 PM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman
Commentary
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Samsung Galaxy Note 5 Stylus Can Damage Smartphone

Inserting the S Pen backwards can wreck the Galaxy Note 5's ability to detect the stylus.

Samsung Galaxy Note 5, S6 Edge+: Side By Side
Samsung Galaxy Note 5, S6 Edge+: Side By Side
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

Samsung may have a big problem on its hands. Its Galaxy Note 5 has a critical design flaw that can easily break the phone's stylus functionality. It's serious enough that a recall or replacement program might be in order.

The Note series devices have always included a stylus that Samsung calls the S Pen. The S Pen is generally tucked into the handset's frame. In past iterations of the hardware, the S Pen could only be inserted one way: pointy-end in. A nub at the top of the stylus prevented it from being stored incorrectly.

The Galaxy Note 5 is different.

In order to clean up the exterior design, the Note 5's stylus sits flush with the bottom edge of the handset. The stylus is thus a uniform size and shape along the entire length (with the obvious exception of the tip). This means it can be inserted into the slot in either direction -- point first or top first. Herein lies the problem.

If Note 5 owners accidentally stick the top end into the S Pen slot, it can become stuck. (To be clear, there's no resistance or indicator when the stylus is inserted incorrectly.) Worse, when inserted incorrectly and then removed, the stylus has damaged the sensor that determines whether the S Pen is inside the Note 5 or removed. Yikes.

(Image: Samsung)

(Image: Samsung)

With a damaged sensor, the S Pen's Action Center control panel won't appear, and the stylus's main functions are rendered more or less useless.

Android Police demonstrated the flaw on video and permanently ruined the handset's S Pen sensor. Moreover, the S Pen became irretrievably wedged inside the handset. Ars Technica was able to repeat the flaw. The publication fiddled with the stylus a bit and got the sensor working again, but Note 5 owners shouldn't bank on being able to resuscitate their handsets in such a fashion.

[There's still a lot to like. See Samsung Galaxy Note 5: Top 5 Features.]

How serious is this really? Many Note 5 owners will likely never stick the S Pen into the phone the wrong way on purpose, but accidents happen. Since the stylus slides in either way, it could be easy to pop it in backwards when not paying attention. Moreover, children playing with the phone might not know to put it in correctly and accidentally damage the handset.

The Note 5 is an expensive handset. Prices for the phone start around $700 and ramp up to $900. Since the entire point of the Note 5 is the S Pen accessory and its added functionality, it would be a shame for consumers to shell out lots of cash only to end up with a busted device.

Samsung has yet to respond publicly to the matter. Until it does, phablet lovers may want to put their Note 5 purchase on hold.

Eric is a freelance writer for InformationWeek specializing in mobile technologies. View Full Bio
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yalanand
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yalanand,
User Rank: Ninja
8/31/2015 | 11:47:06 PM
Re: Stuff can be broken
@great.thinker: did you know you could use a q-tip as a stylus for your Galaxy Note?
yalanand
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yalanand,
User Rank: Ninja
8/31/2015 | 11:45:54 PM
Re: Stuff can be broken
@sachinee: do people even need the stylus? I haven't seen a single of my colleagues take out the stylus to scribble a note, and I would have blamed them for being old fashioned but I see the newer kids on the block who are in their early or mid twenties take notes in a notepad. They forget that they have a phone which can do that. Once I asked one of them why don't they do so, they said it looks futuristic but isn't really comfortable to hold, and the stylus offers less friction so words can't be written nicely.
SachinEE
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SachinEE,
User Rank: Ninja
8/25/2015 | 11:23:28 PM
Re: Stuff can be broken
@great.thinker: True. Although that kind of design element is alarming, but it isn't deal breaking. You can always go to a service centre (Samsung has one service centre at every corner of the world) and get it out, and buy a new stylus.
Great.Thinker
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Great.Thinker,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/25/2015 | 6:34:55 PM
Stuff can be broken
Also, your ear may be damaged by inserting a Q-Tip into it. Seriously, there are plenty other problems that have plagued our smart phones ever since the first one was sold We have had micro-USB plugs, micro SD cards, SIM cards, and even micro-HDMI plugs to slide, poke or jab into our smart phones, either backwards, upside down or sideways. Devices have volume buttons and power buttons that go haywire, batteries that can be improperly inserted, and any number of ways that peanut butter might foul up a device's operation. It is striking how few mainstream media mentions there have been over the years about any problems these have caused consumers! These are all very pressing concerns to the smart phone buyer. Let us not forget what the situation is that we have here. The people who are bending and snapping their devices or are abusing a stylus may also be the same people who break keys off in locks or drive their cars over curbs. Still, they continue to buy ear-buds to replace the old set they clumsily yanked the wires out of. As for the Note 5 and the stylus it comes with, the onlly problem that will be confirmed is operator error.
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