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Galaxy S21 Ultra works with Samsung's S Pen stylus. Here's everything we know

CNET logo CNET 1/17/2021 Jason Cipriani
a close up of a remote control: The Galaxy S21 Ultra works with the S Pen. James Martin/CNET © Provided by CNET The Galaxy S21 Ultra works with the S Pen. James Martin/CNET

Samsung finally did it. The smartphone-maker just announced the Galaxy S21 lineup, and with it, the fact that the Galaxy S21 Ultra supports a feature that was once exclusive to the Galaxy Note family of phones: S Pen stylus support. 

a close up of a laptop computer sitting on top of a wooden table: The Galaxy S21 Ultra works with the S Pen.  © CNET

The Galaxy S21 Ultra works with the S Pen. 

That means S21 Ultra owners will soon be able to use the small digital pen to jot notes, take better screenshots, sign documents or draw in their favorite apps. There will be a number of things that the S Pen can do on the Note, however, that it won't be able to do on the Galaxy S21, and the stylus won't come with the S21 Ultra -- you'll have to buy it separately.

We'll walk you through the basics of the Galaxy S21 Ultra's stylus support, including S Pen compatibility, features and where you can store the stylus when not in use. (And here's how to use the new Samsung Galaxy SmartTag.)

Does the S21 Ultra come with an S Pen stylus?

It does not. You can buy one directly from Samsung for $40 that was designed specifically for the S21 Ultra. There are also two different styles of Samsung cases you can buy, both of which include an S Pen. They cost $70 each. 

Alternatively, you can buy and use any S Pen stylus from Samsung, with prices ranging from $25 to $40. 

Can I use the S Pen from a Galaxy Note or Galaxy Tab?

Yes. Samsung has said that the Galaxy S21 Ultra will work with an existing S Pen from a Galaxy Note phone or Galaxy Tab tablet. It won't be able to use every function, however (more below). 

Does the S21 Ultra have a place to store the S Pen like the Galaxy Note?

No. Instead, you'll either have to buy an S21 Ultra case that's designed to hold the S Pen for you, or get really good at keeping track of the small stylus. 

a close up of a remote control: The S Pen works to write or draw in your favorite apps. James Martin/CNET © Provided by CNET The S Pen works to write or draw in your favorite apps. James Martin/CNET

What can I do with the S Pen on the S21 Ultra?

You can use it to tap and navigate through various menus, write down your thoughts or take notes in the Samsung Notes app, or sketch out a new idea in your favorite drawing app. 

What can't the S Pen do on the S21 Ultra that it can on Note phones? 

The S Pen integration with the Galaxy S21 Ultra lacks Bluetooth support, which means you won't get the same gesture feature that allows you to do things like control slideshows or skip songs by flicking the stylus like a magic wand -- see below for the S Pen Pro. 

Another downside to the lack of Bluetooth support is that you won't receive any alerts if you leave the S Pen behind. So if you walk away from the stylus, your phone won't buzz and notify you that the two are parted. 

The S21 Ultra will eventually gain more S Pen features, but you'll have to wait for the S Pen Pro. Screenshot by CNET © Provided by CNET The S21 Ultra will eventually gain more S Pen features, but you'll have to wait for the S Pen Pro. Screenshot by CNET

Want more functionality? Wait for the S Pen Pro

Samsung briefly talked about the S Pen Pro, a new stylus the company plans to release later this year that will include Bluetooth features similar to what the Galaxy Note line has. During its Unpacked presentation, Samsung specifically called out the ability to use gestures with the S Pen Pro on the Galaxy S21 Ultra. We don't currently have a price or an exact release date, however. But if you want more than a basic stylus with your S21 Ultra, you might want to wait until the S Pen Pro is available.

We fully expect there will be more to the Galaxy S21 Ultra's new S Pen capabilities besides, but we'll have to wait until we get the S21 Ultra in our hands and start digging around before we can uncover more features. In the meantime, make sure to check out our initial impressions, and if you're looking to order a Galaxy S21 of your own, we cover everything you need to know to get one on launch day.

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