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Galaxy Note 9: Why do you want a phone with a stylus in 2018?

The stylus has come full circle and the Note 9 proves it still makes a mobile device better for having one.

The Galaxy Note isn't the first time we've seen how useful a stylus can be. There was a time when the best mobile devices all had a stylus. Whether you're talking Palm's Grafitti handwriting recognition software or the absolute marvel that was WinPad on early Windows mobile devices (seriously, it was awesome and ahead of its time) the stylus made an impact in how you used your mobile and what it could do.

The stylus faded from memory as other features like scroll wheels and trackballs came along, until someone figured out that you could do "everything" you needed to do with just a good touch display. Nowadays, there's not much talk about using a stylus outside of one specific device, the Samsung Galaxy Note. The Note proves that we might have stopped needing a stylus, but there are still some really cool reasons to have one.

Unless you're playing Brick Breaker, a good stylus is better than a trackball every time.

Of course, that assumes that you're talking about a good stylus, which the Note line most certainly has. Samsung doesn't include the S Pen as a tacked-on accessory; it's a part of the phone and everything is built with whats needed to make it work exceptionally well. Samsung phones, especially the Note in particular, can turn you off because of the size or the interface (to each his or her own there), but you can't deny that the S Pen was a lot better than you imagined it would be when you first used it. If you haven't ever used one, you need to skedaddle off to a carrier store or a Best Buy and do so. You'll understand when you do.

But working well is only one piece of the puzzle and without a reason to ever use it, nobody would care how precise it can be. Thankfully, there are also some great reasons to use one.

Quick Notes while your screen is off can be a huge time saver if you find yourself making any sort of list or regularly have to jot down thoughts. The Note may be great for gaming or watching YouTube, but it's also a very capable productivity device for folks who need to work on the go. Taking notes by scribbling out your own version of shorthand cryptic code (I've been told that mine resembles chicken scratch) on the screen is awfully handy.

Cutting a video into a cool animated gif (G as in gift. Nobody would ever say Jraphic.) is awesome with the S Pen. Pop out the S Pen while you're watching a video, tap Smart Select from the Air Command menu, and crop away.

The S Pen is great because it's supported by other hardware and specialized software. It's an integral part of the Note 9, not just an afterthought.

There are some great system utilities that are made greater because you have an S Pen. Text translation, screen magnification, handwriting input, smart text selection, and screen annotations simply work better when you can use the Pen than they would without it. Precise selection and quick screen navigation are better with a stylus that anyone's finger and it just clicks in a lot of ways.

Digital art wouldn't be as interesting as it is today without the great pen input a good inductive stylus can provide. The S Pen is a very good inductive stylus and apps like SketchBook take full advantage of it. The results can be remarkable.

You can even use it to do horrible things like work with spreadsheets. Everyone knows working with spreadsheets is like stepping on Legos. Doing it on a phone is like stepping on broken Legos made of glass and rusted razor blades. The S Pen makes it less painful because you can use the tiny tip of it instead of your big honking finger and that means you don't have to zoom in so tight you can't see anything but the cell you're editing. Spreadsheets on the phone will always suck, but until Elon Musk invents something better at least we have the S Pen to use.

These all have a few things in common. One: They depend on the S Pen working great and not being laggy and skipping around the screen like it's drunk. Two: They take advantage of having a tiny spot you can use to select a thing instead of a finger and a software algorithm that tries to guess the thing you meant to touch. It took a while, but eventually, someone realized that trackballs and click wheels really couldn't replace a good stylus. The S Pen is going to get better year after year until Samsung figures out a way to replace the precision it offers. I expect we'll be seeing it for a good while longer.

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