Samsung S-pen vs Apple Pencil: War of The Stylus [2020 Update]

‘War’ might be stretching it a bit, but it does seem like one. Samsung and Apple are currently two of the most popular brands in the smartphone industry. Be it phones, tablets, laptops or even styli – it does feel like they make products in competition with each other.

Along with phones, both brands have done exceptionally well in the tablet industry. For a long time, the iPad was one of the best in the market, but the Samsung Galaxy Tab range has proven to be quite a match. And along came the digital stationery.

While a stylus had been an interesting addition when the first touchscreen phones arrived, they had little to no extra function back then. This means they worked the same way finger tapping works on touchscreens today.

Today, these ‘accessories’ have advanced utility, and who other than Apple and Samsung would make the most advanced ones?

So let’s see if we have a clear winner in the Apple Pencil v/s Samsung S-pen duel.

S-Pen v/s Pencil: At A Glance

The main differences between the Samsung S-Pen and Apple Pencil are:

  • Design – It is clearly visible that the styli live up to their names; the S-Pen looks more like a pen with a glossy body and the Pencil actually looks and feels like a pencil with a matte finish.
  • Nib – The S-Pen has a rubbery nib, providing sufficient friction, whereas the Pencil has a hard nib that allows smooth strokes.
  • Purchase – You get an S-Pen with the tablets and phones in Note range and the price of it is built into the price of your device. The Apple Pencil is something you have to buy separately.
  • Additional functions – The S-Pen has a button and multiple gesture control functions that you can use with your tab or phone. The Pencil does not come with any such extra features.

The Samsung S-Pen and Apple Pencil both have some excellent features.

The Samsung S-Pen

The first S-Pen was released in 2011 as part of the Samsung Note range (which it still is). Since then the pen has evolved in both design and functionality and is now also commonly used with Galaxy tabs.

Initially created to work as a stylus, the S-Pen has been around for a long time with most of their Note phones. Since it is now compatible with several Samsung devices, it has a variety of uses.

Samsung adds an S-Pen to each of its Note phones and there are slightly larger versions with most of the Galaxy S series tablets. Each S-Pen had some updated features compared to its predecessor.

The latest ones are of the Note 10 and Galaxy Tab S6.

Supported Devices for S-Pen


Apple Pencil (2nd gen)

Apple Pencil

First released in 2015, the Apple Pencil was also made to serve as a regular stylus – to help with navigation. You may not know this, but Steve Jobs himself was not in favor of the pencil. But the latest Apple Pencil serves a greater purpose.

Unlike the S-Pen, the Pencil is not a package deal – it is a completely individual product that you have to buy and does not come with any phone or tablet.

The Pencil works just like a regular pencil with thicker lines appearing with greater pressure. The tilt sensitivity on the stylus is amazing and it creates broader, less defined lines the same way a graphite pencil does. It is one of the reasons this stylus is preferred by artists.

Apple has only created 2 versions of the Pencil so far, so the 2nd generation is the latest. There are some basic differences between Pencil 1 and 2, and among them, design and device compatibility are the major ones. All in all, Pencil 2 is more advanced and easier to use.

Supported Devices for Apple Pencil (1st Gen)

Supported Devices for Apple Pencil (2nd Gen)


Features

It is quite interesting that even though they are both styli, the S-Pen looks and feels like a pen and the Pencil feels like a pencil in the hand. The manufacturers definitely take their labels seriously.

So which one do you need? Remember that you don’t need a stylus for regular usage. All the tablets and phones mentioned above work just fine without one. Styli have special uses and are mostly useful for work or studies.

Here are some of the major features of the Samsung S-Pen and the Apple Pencil, so you can make an informed decision:


S-Pen

Apple Pencil

Body

Glossy exterior, one button on the side

(For phones, there is a tail cap at the bottom with a spring so it goes into the slot and locks at the bottom of the phone;
For tablets, no such additional feature)

Seamless matte finish, no buttons

(1st generation had a connector at the bottom and a cap to cover it;
2nd generation has no cap)

Dimensions

Each stylus is a different size, designed to match the device, for example,
For Phones, (Note 10) 5.8 x 4.35 x 105.08mm;
For tablets, (Tab S4) 9.2 x 139.86 x 9.2 mm

8.9 x 166mm

Colors

Matching the cover of the device – Aura Black, Aura Glow, Aura Blue, Aura White, Yellow, Ocean Blue, Lavender, Black

White

Supported Devices

Samsung Note range (all Note Phones / Note Pro),
Galaxy Book/ Tab S3/ Tablets / Tab A 9.7 / Tab A 10.1

1st Gen - iPad range (including Pro, Air, mini)
2nd Gen – only with iPad Pro 11” and 12.9” (3rd Gen onwards)
*Not compatible with all iPhones

Connection

Connects automatically, Bluetooth also available

Connects automatically

Charging

Phones – Charge by inserting it into the dedicated slot on the Samsung set;
Tablet – Does not require charging

1st Gen – Connector at the bottom;
2nd Gen - Attaches magnetically to the side of iPad for charging

Tip

0.7 mm, Pointed, Soft material (rubbery)

More rounded tip, Hard material

Pressure Levels

4096

*Not disclosed by Apple

Switching Between Tools

Designated button

Tap on the lower section

Gesture Control

Multiple gestures can be used to operate the tab or phone remotely, for example, to:
-Swipe
-Control apps
-Change camera angles
-Take pictures
-Change volume levels

None

Pros and Cons

If you look at the features, they both have equally positive aspects. All of them are beyond what one expects from a stylus. Both products are great for taking quick notes, at a meeting or even a lecture.

They are also great for drawing and sketching or even photo editing if you’re into that. The Apple Pencil works great if you are a newbie illustrator, just learning to work with digital art or graphics.

The Samsung S-Pen has more additional features to use with its designated device. It improves the ease of use and functionality of the device. Since they come as a set, the stylus size is well matched to the screen of the device. Also, there is hardly any issue in the compatibility with the devices.

However, some issues have come to light:

Samsung S-Pen

Samsung S-pen Note 10

Pros

  • Size is very comfortable to hold and provides a good grip,
  • Rubber tip provides good friction when writing on the screen

Cons

  • Has been found to lag slightly (a slight delay between the actual stroke and the strokes appear on the screen),
  • Charging (on phones) takes slightly longer compared to the Pencil

Apple Pencil

Apple Pencil

Pros

  • No lagging issues, strokes appear fast and accurately on the screen,
  • Fast charging and battery life of up to 12 hours

Cons

  • Some users found it too thin and uncomfortable to hold,
  • No gesture control like the S-Pen

All Samsung S-pens come with phones and tablets. So their prices are included with the device you purchase. However, you can find a replacement for almost all of them on Amazon for and they don’t cost a lot either.

Check it out for yourself:

Samsung Original Official Galaxy Tab S6 (T860) S Pen Stylus EJ-T860B (Cloud Blue)
Original Official Samsung S-Pen; Pressure sensitivity levels: 4096
Samsung Galaxy Replacement S-Pen for Note10, and Note10+ - Black (US Version with Warranty)
4096 levels of pressure sensitivity; Us version: comes with Quick Start guide (information on the retail package)

The original Apple Pencil can be currently bought on Amazon for less than $100, whereas the Apple Pencil 2 costs a bit more.

Check it out:

Sale
Apple MK0C2AM/A Pencil for iPad Pro, White (MK0C2ZM/A)
Package Content: Pen tip, lightning adapter; Designed For: 12.9-inch iPad Pro; 9.7-inch iPad Pro

Final Thoughts

Both products are quite premium and are at the top of their game. Other than an occasional lagging issue (on the Samsung S-Pen), there have been almost no complaints from customers.

The Apple Pencil is often preferred for drawing or creating designs, while the Samsung S-Pen is more suited for notes and writing. Even this is not an absolute classification; it varies from user to user.

The S-Pen comes with the Samsung device (and even the replacements don’t cost much). However, the Apple Pencil needs to be bought separately, and there is an obvious price difference.

So whether you prefer the Samsung S-Pen or the Apple Pencil, remember to look for further details about the products on the official websites.

It really comes down to your needs and budget. It also depends on what device you currently use and what you use it for. If I could, I would buy them both.


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