Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra shows Apple should add Pencil support to iPhones

An iPhone 13 Pro Max in gold, against a white background
(Image credit: Apple)

Samsung’s decision to make the Note an 'experience' instead of a product is just this side of brilliant. It breaks the Galaxy range free of the artificial constraints that kept the S Pen at arm's length from the company’s popular Galaxy S series of phones.

Granted, Samsung started to blur that line between the two ranges last year with the Galaxy S21’s support for, if not full embrace of, the S Pen. Now, with the Galaxy S22 Ultra, the stylus is inside a device that arguably looks more like a Galaxy Note than it does a pure Galaxy S phone.

However, that one small but crucial step brings us a new mobile product idea – and it's one that Apple would be smart to emulate.

A big screen cries out for it

There are many reasons to buy Apple’s top-of-the-line iPhone 13 Pro Max. It has an integrated Lidar sensor, and all those excellent cameras… but then so does the iPhone 13 Pro. In fact, there’s virtually nothing separating the two handsets aside from a bigger battery and the screen size – that gorgeous 6.7-inch Super Retina XDR OLED display.

The extra 0.6 inches you get over the 13 Pro (6.1 inches) is an open invitation not just to Netflix bingeing and Cinematic video creation – it’s a giant blank canvas, crying out for creativity.

Since the earliest days of the iPhone, artists have been painting on its relatively diminutive screen. In 2009, artist Jorge Columbo used his finger to create an iconic New Yorker magazine cover. Back then Columbo told CNet that he welcomed the challenge of painting with his finger on the small screen. "I like using my fingers," he said. "I like the quick eyeballing of colors. I like the endless Undo function. Wish I had a bigger screen, and long drawing sessions depletes my battery.”

As an amateur artist myself, I never had much patience for finger-painting on a screen (granted, I’m nowhere near the artist that Columbo is). Whether it was drawing on an early iPad or on a 5.4-inch screen iPhone, I used a diverse collection of analog styli. The only difference between these drawing implements and my finger was that, obviously, I could hold them like a pencil; and, thanks to their smaller tips, I could see more clearly where I was laying down the digital paint, pencil, or ink.

When Apple introduced its first Apple Pencil for the iPad in 2015, I was thrilled. Jorge Columbo was too, apparently. He sketched another New Yorker cover, this time with an iPad and the new digitizing pencil. The work is sharper and more assured, largely because the Pencil and iPad are in constant digital communication, so the screen knows the exact position, pressure, tilt, and speed of each stroke. Artists everywhere were turned on by the possibilities.

Spread the support

Since then, Apple has shrunk both the Pencil (second generation), and the iPad (iPad mini 6th generation), so much so that I started to look at the iPad Mini, the Apple Pencil, and the iPhone 13 Pro Max and wonder, “Why doesn’t the Pencil also work with the iPhone 13 Pro Max?”

I’ve actually been asking Apple this question since the iPhone 12 series. They usually quickly dismiss the notion.

But can they afford to keep doing that in the face of the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra? This 6.8-inch screen will never be without a stylus (unless you lose it). Whenever you have a flash of inspiration, you can pop out the pen and start drawing in your Android art app of choice. The S Pen is no less effective at capturing pressure, angle, and speed of stroke than an Apple Pencil.

Give us what we want

iPhone users hate FOMO, and will not appreciate the fact that their Android friends can now pull out the hidden S Pen to whip up a quick diagram, take notes, or add AR doodles to a friend’s photo or video.

There is, as far as I can tell, no technical reason an iPhone couldn’t do this. The communication is via Bluetooth, and there’s a digitizing layer in the iPhone screen. I bet Apple could enable this capability with an iOS update, even allowing the Apple Pencil to pair with multiple iPadOS and iOS devices.

What I really want Apple to do, though, is make an Apple Pencil 3 that’s a hair shorter than the iPhone (5 inches should do), and drill a neat little hole in one edge of the iPhone 14 Pro Max (assuming that’s what Apple calls the next big iPhone). Sure, we might give up a tiny bit of battery to accommodate the stylus, but the iPhone 14 Pro Max could be a smidge thicker than the iPhone 13 Pro Max to give us back some of that battery life.

People would say Apple was copying Samsung, but I’d argue that this is a natural progression. Plus, the iPhone 14 Pro Max wouldn't look, as the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra does, like an amalgam of two different aesthetics. It’ll be very much in the iPhone mold, but with a little something extra.

It’s time, Apple: bring the Apple Pencil into the iPhone family.

Lance Ulanoff
US Editor in Chief

A 35-year industry veteran and award-winning journalist, Lance has covered technology since PCs were the size of suitcases and “on line” meant “waiting.” He’s a former Lifewire Editor-in-Chief, Mashable Editor-in-Chief, and, before that, Editor in Chief of and Senior Vice President of Content for Ziff Davis, Inc. He also wrote a popular, weekly tech column for Medium called The Upgrade.

Lance Ulanoff makes frequent appearances on national, international, and local news programs including Live with Kelly and Ryan, Fox News, Fox Business, the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNBC, CNN, and the BBC.