Actually, Note 5 #Penghazi is Less Stupid Than I Thought

MacBreak Weekly on TWiT.

Yesterday, I wrote that the controversy over the Galaxy Note 5’s S Pen was overblown. Quickly: if you stick it in backwards, it gets stuck and does at the least significant damage. People cried “recall,” “design flaw,” and invented the (hilarious) hashtag #penghazi. Apple-loving pundits couldn’t contain their glee or smugness. I said that this was silly, that it was akin to trying to shove a floppy disk into a drive upside-down and then blaming the manufacturer when it breaks something.

What I didn’t realize, however, was just how easy it was to do this accidentally. I didn’t understand that until I saw this clip of Leo Laporte, who was just casually discussing the controversy on MacBreak Weekly, fiddled with the S Pen going in butt-first into his Note 5, and lo and behold, not even halfway in, it got stuck.

I had been fiddling the very same way! It didn’t happen to get stuck, so I may have dodged a bullet.

So, I’m obviously reevaluating my hard and fast position of “just don’t do that.” It’s simply too easy for this to happen by accident.

And even if it wasn’t all that easy, before I even came to this new realization I thought about ways that Samsung could address this if it was inclined. Now I feel like these have moved from “could do” to “must do.” (Samsung’s not known for being classy or anything, so who knows what they’ll ever do.)

First, no-questions-asked returns on Note 5 devices. If someone bought this and they’re worried about it, or worse, they’ve gotten it stuck, they can return it for a full refund.

Second, they should cover all repairs related to this issue, free of charge.

Third, presuming they’re not going to redesign the whole phone, they need to make a new S Pen with a wider butt-end, maybe with a rubbery nub, such that it is impossible to stick into the phone backward, and send one to every Note 5 owner, free.

Alternatively, at least issue (free of charge again) a rubbery cap of some sort to put on the end of the S Pen to serve the same function of keeping it from going in the wrong way, some kind of cap that’s more or less impossible to take off again.

And that should be that.

So I largely take back the last post. This is a much bigger problem than I thought.

I’m delighted with my Note 5. It’s a wonderful device, and chances are this S Pen problem would never have even come up for me. Now I confess to being a touch nervous about it, but it’s not enough to make me regret my decision to get this phone. It’s still amazing, and it’s still a keeper.

But I’ll take that redesigned S Pen, now.

Poor Leo.

The Note 5 Backwards-Stylus ‘Design Flaw’ Hubbub is Really Stupid [Updated with Me Being Wrong]

* * * UPDATE: I have largely reversed my position on this due to new evidence. So consider this post an archive of my being wrong, or at least, insufficiently informed.
From the Note 5 manual.

Apparently, some folks have decided to 1) purchase a Samsung Galaxy Note 5, 2) Stick the S Pen stylus in backward, getting it utterly stuck, and 3) Blame Samsung.

What?

It sucks, no doubt, to have your new phone suddenly broken due to something that seems so innocuous.

But come on. You have to wonder, why in the name of sweet flappy jeebus would you want to stick your S Pen in backwards? For one thing, this particular version of the S Pen features a clicky spring-loaded nub on the end of it, which is specifically constructed to eject the stylus from its compartment. This ejector would not function if inserted backward into the phone, so by doing so, you’ve already negated (nay, violated) the whole concept of the S Pen’s design. And there is literally no reason to stick the stylus in backwards. Even if you did so accidentally, when you go to push it in and your thumb or finger feels a point instead of a flat, springy surface, that ought to be a clue that you’re about to commit an error, and so reverse course.

So, fine, I’ll grant that accidents happen. A kid could get ahold of the device and mess with it, or a person who doesn’t know any better might just find the whole “what would happen if” concept irresistible. Sure, Samsung says in the instruction manual not to ever put the pen in backward, but whatever, nobody reads those. It would absolutely been better if Samsung had made sure this kind of thing couldn’t happen by accident, and would have added value to the product.

But do we hold the manufacturers of USB devices responsible if someone tries to jam a plug into a port upside-down, damaging the connectors? If I shoved a floppy disc into a drive backward, and screwed everything up, would that be the manufacturers’ fault? In either case, would we demand a recall of these products? Of course not.

Look, Samsung is a big, rich company, and they can certainly afford to replace some devices or rejigger their design, I don’t feel bad for them or worry about them. Puh-leez. But I have to give an even bigger “puh-leez” (maybe a few more e’s, like, “puh-leeeeeeeze”) to the idea that this is some unforgivable design flaw on Samsung’s part, that they somehow blew it because a few people couldn’t help but “see what happened” if they did something obviously wrong to their expensive, delicate hardware made of super-precise, miniaturized mechanical parts. It’s an $800 piece of technology, folks. Treat it like one.

And for full disclosure: I got a Note 5, it’s amazing, and I have not been tempted to stick the S Pen in backward. Ever.

Update: Andrew Martonik sees the real design flaw.

Google Handwriting is Super Cool

As a Galaxy Note 4 owner, I aspire to make more use of the phone’s included stylus (the “S-Pen”). Samsung does a competent job of offering up ways to use it, be it for marking up images or taking quick notes, as well as some not-bad handwriting recognition. It’s a little convoluted (it is Samsung, after all) but it mostly works.
Today Google put out a new “keyboard,” which I place in quotes because it’s only a keyboard in that it’s a text input extension for Android that takes out keys and replaces them with a blank canvas on which one writes by hand, presumably with a stylus or finger. I’ve only been using it a little bit today, but I can already say that not only is its handwriting recognition by far the most accurate I’ve ever used, but it also offers up intelligent suggestions for auto-complete options, just as it does for the normal keyboard.

My stylus may finally have a reason to live. If you’re on Android, you should absolutely install Google Handwriting Input and at least play with it. It’s a trip.

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