This is what the Galaxy Note 10 might look like, judging by leaks and rumors.
Back in February, patent number 10,198,649 filed with the USPTO gave us a glimpse of what the future may hold for Samsung’s Galaxy Note series. Spotted by Patently Mobile, the documents describe what certainly looks like an S Pen – an S Pen with a built-in camera. The patented camera system resides in the upper portion of the stylus. Light enters through a lens placed either on the side of the S Pen or on the top of the stylus, where the clicker is currently found. Moreover, the camera is described as having optical zooming abilities. Cool stuff, right?
The S Pen simply isn’t big enough
We’re not saying that Samsung is incapable of putting a camera inside a stylus. A company of Samsung’s proportions is most certainly capable of putting a camera on practically any gadget. But there’s a problem: the Galaxy Note S Pen isn’t big enough to fit a camera that’s actually good.
The S Pen shipping with the Galaxy Note 9 measures 5.7 by 4.35 millimeters in thickness. By comparison, the smallest camera module in the Galaxy S10, its 10MP selfie shooter, measures roughly 8.7 by 8.7 millimeters, together with all the necessary lenses and its metal housing. There’s no way it can possibly fit inside an S Pen as big as the Note 9’s.
The connection would be problematic
But let’s imagine that Samsung makes the Galaxy S10 S Pen a bit bigger and/or equips its stylus with a super-tiny camera – something based around its new ISOCELL Slim 3T2 sensor, for example. This sensor measures only 5.1 millimeters in diagonal, and even when you throw all the necessary lenses and circuitry into the equation, its camera module might still be small enough to fit inside a stylus. That would be a problem solved, right? Well, not really.
Battery life would be unacceptable
But again, let’s assume that Samsung has the wireless connection issue already figured out. It is 2019, after all, and advancements in technology never stop. Unfortunately, keeping the S Pen charged would still be a major challenge.
Instead of a battery, the S Pen with the Galaxy Note 9 uses a supercapacitor. This is an energy storage device that charges rapidly and has a much longer lifespan compared to a typical lithium-ion cell. However, it can hold only a small fraction of the charge a battery of equivalent size would. Its reserve is sufficient for powering the S Pen’s Bluetooth radio for 30 minutes or through 200 clicks of its button, whichever comes first, but that’s far from enough energy to power a camera and a faster-than-Bluetooth wireless connection.
To have a usable camera in the S Pen, Samsung would need to use a fairly big battery instead of a supercapacitor. There simply won’t be a way around this. However, a battery would recharge more slowly and would show signs of degradation in about a couple of years of use, if not sooner – not something you want in a device not meant to be serviced.
Will an S Pen camera be crazy enough to work?
At this point – and given the evidence in the patent mentioned above – it is hard to imagine a camera in the S Pen being practical. But there’s still a way Samsung may be able to pull this one off. Perhaps this wouldn’t be a camera you’re meant to take out and wave around. Perhaps the S Pen would act as a pop-up camera and snap out in place when it is needed, while the power and data connections are handled reliably through metal pin connectors. It does sound like a crazy concept, but it just might be crazy enough to work.
Still, we think that the chances of seeing a camera in the Galaxy Note 10 S Pen are slim. We’re not trying to spoil the excitement around the next big Galaxy. Rather, we want to help everyone set their Galaxy Note 10 expectations straight, because right now, technology may not have advanced enough to allow Samsung to fit a good, easy-to-use camera inside an S Pen of its current size. We hope Samsung proves us wrong this coming fall.