Galaxy Note 5 and 'inserting it wrong'
Earlier today on MacBreak Weekly, the long-running podcast hosted by Leo Laporte, Leo was joking about the stories involving Samsung Galaxy Note 5 S-Pens getting stuck backwards in their slots when—you guessed it!—his S-Pen got stuck backwards in the slot. You can see it happen in the video below at around the 49:40 mark.
Leo found the story suspicious so decided to see for himself. He thought he'd feel some tightness or other physical feedback and be able to remove it before it got stuck. Unfortunately, that's why it's getting stuck—there's nothing to indicate anything is wrong until it's too late. My colleague, and the editor-in-chief of Android Central, Phil Nickinson wrote about it again today. Teeth marks and all.
I can neither confirm nor deny those are teeth marks on that S Pen. https://t.co/Nn45EXT3BuI can neither confirm nor deny those are teeth marks on that S Pen. https://t.co/Nn45EXT3Bu— Phil Nickinson (@philnickinson) August 25, 2015
People are saying "you're inserting it wrong" in reference to an infamous email from the late Steve Jobs. In the email Jobs quipped "just avoid holding it that way" in response to iPhone 4 reception issues.
With the iPhone 4, if you bridged the antenna gap on the outside of the phone, it would reduce signal reception by a couple of bars. So, if you were in an area with bad reception, you could lose reception entirely.
"Antennagate", as it became known, required both bad signal and antenna bridging, so going to an area with better signal or moving your finger could alleviate the problem. So could putting on a case.
Apple ended up giving away bumper cases to every iPhone 4 customer to address the issue, and updated the antenna in the Verizon iPhone 4 and the iPhone 4s to prevent it entirely.
The Galaxy Note 5 S-Pen problem and the iPhone 4 antenna problem are similar in that both could be reproduced. They're dissimilar in that touching the antenna gap once didn't stick, break, or otherwise render the antenna permanently unusable. Which, unfortunately, is what appears to be happening with the S-Pen.
Some have also tried to draw a parallel to the largely media-manufactured "bendgate" controversy that followed the launch of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Bendgate required people to start a video recorder and then apply incredible amounts of force in order to bend an iPhone. Earlier versions of the iPhone too, as anyone with a repair business would tell you if you bothered to ask. Or any metal phone, really, including those made by Samsung.
There were so few real-world cases of bent iPhones that Apple didn't have to take any extraordinary actions to deal with them. So, bent phones are similar in that they do permanently affect a phone. They're dissimilar in that it appears to take no excessive or brute force to stick a stylus. If you simply picked a metal phone up off the table by the "wrong" edge and it bent under its own weight, that would better equate to what's happening here.
Apple has, however, just this week issued an iPhone 6 camera replacement program (opens in new tab) for a small percentage of devices suffering from a bad camera component. As unfortunate as it is for everyone involved, problems like that happen and companies respond to them.
The issue with the Galaxy Note 5 isn't the first for Samsung. Last year's Galaxy Note 4 had a screen gap so big it could double as business card holder. It won't be their last either. Nor will the camera replacement be Apple's.
Conversely, some are going after Samsung using Steve Jobs' "if you see a stylus, they blew it!" quip from the days of the original iPhone as if to say Apple knew better and was somehow prescient about pens getting stuck in phones. Nothing of the sort.
Jobs was referring to resistive touch screen technology that really needed a stylus to be functional in most situations. That's what we all used in the dark days before the coming of the iPhone and the capacitive revolution.
Apple Stores have been selling capacitive stylus pens for years and anyone who's ever worked in illustration—hi!—will tell you how great pen input is. The Galaxy Note, if nothing else, is an amazingly portable Wacom-style tablet and it's terrific that it exists.
What's not terrific is that the S-Pen gets stuck, and that it's something that could have been avoided with better design. As implemented, it fails secure by locking down. It doesn't fail safe by letting out.
Imagine, with an Apple Watch band, if you slid it upside down into the groove, it became stuck and couldn't be removed without damaging the parts. That would be a terrible experience.
Instead, if you try and insert an Apple Watch band upside down, the lug slides all the way through without the catch firing, preventing it from getting stuck and also letting you know you're inserting it wrong.
That's what good design does—it protects customers from themselves. Even and especially when they make mistakes. It's called poka-yoke and in the case of the pen, it's something that's been solved since the Newton.
So, yeah, if you're even thinking about blaming customers for this, or telling them to RTFM, please stop. Just like Gorilla Glass is used to minimize the chances of screen scratches from keys in the same pocket, poka-yoke needs to be used to minimize the chances of a pen getting stuck.
Customers may be making a mistake by sticking the pen in the wrong way, but Samsung made one first but not designing the mechanism in a way that minimized or prevented it from happening.
I've already piled on Samsung's lack of design consideration enough for one year, so I'll leave it at that.
Except to say this: Apple is rumored to be readying an Pen for use with the rumored iPad Pro. It sounds like it might be more of an optional accessory than something built into the device. Either way, I hope the S-Pen issue causes Apple's hardware design team to be even more thoughtful and considerate about the error-proofing of their products.
And I wish Samsung, and those affected, the very best of luck in getting this resolved quickly and to everyone's benefit and satisfaction.
Update: ATT says not our problem. Send it to Samsung. Kind of makes me want to buy an iPhone next time. #penghaziUpdate: ATT says not our problem. Send it to Samsung. Kind of makes me want to buy an iPhone next time. #penghazi— Leo Laporte (@leolaporte) August 25, 2015
Update: It was (rightly) pointed out that "you're holding it wrong" is the headline used by Engadget when reporting on Steve Jobs' email, not the actual quote. The actual quote was "Just avoid holding it that way". We've updated to correct that. Thanks Kenny!
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Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.
The pen is SO easy to tell which end goes in first, this is pure idiocy at its best.
Just like people blame apple for their phone bending when they stick it in their skinny jeans and plop 300 lbs on it and expect it to take that sort of abuse.
If you can't insert the pen right, get a flip phone, you're too dumb to use anything else.
THAT's how this has everything to do with Apple. Because people need to know that other big companies making popular products also have some problems now and then, it's not just Apple in click-bait articles all the time with #gate this and #gate that.
Instead of writing about what Samsung does, we can focus something more related to Apple like we didn't have article about finance related apps for long time.
Article like those made me to come to iMore and to be frank I have lot of Apps and Games suggested by you guys.
Coming to design part we all know that everybody does mistakes including Apple from iPhone 4 to bend-gate but none of them are deal breaker to be frank I'm using iPhone 6 and I use little tight jeans but I'm not afraid that it will bend. We should not just bash companies for mistakes that may happen I mean people work insanely hard to make a product from design to final product there are 1000 things that could go wrong but one or 2 may not get caught during testing or some times its a design flaw itself.
Pls keep iMore more constructive and I would request you to stop bashing companies. And it's just a suggestion!!!
And antenna ?
And keyboards scratching macbook displays ?
Scratched watches because you have band too loose.
I really am thinking of selling all my mac gear. This is not community. This has nothing to do with apple. This is schoolyard bullying. This is being trying to be smarter than you really are. Using big worlds like industrial design in context that is bit blurry.
How about making a shift for imore from being snarky and sometimes to entertaining to more useful.
We should be aiming for higher values. This is something really low.
imore should be about empowering people by using their software and hardware better ways. It should aim for positive ends by giving people advice.
This is aiming for feeling better because you own something and are rooting for one company.
Anyway I am not defending Samsung, this is a problem but anything from you Rene to get a shot in on Samsung because you hate them so much.
Renee just really despises Samsung for some reason.
I agree, if a grown person knows the stylus will get stuck if they put it in backwards puts in in backwards, they deserve what they get. But to a person with a toddler that gets a hold of the Note while Mom or Dad is in the kitchen, or to the parents of a teenager that thinks it's a great joke to pull on the folks without appreciating how expensive they are, the "it's YOUR fault" line doesn't fly.
So it's a two-way street. The user DOES need to be more careful, but it definitely is a design flaw that Samsung should have prepared for beyond a write-up in the User Guide. Make the end of the pen wider than the hole. Done.
It was real ugly about this, and you lose faith in humanity at times.
I think about 30% of people whose comments I disagreed with just couldn't see the full picture or didn't think it through. 10% joined in with funny comments or analogies but with no malice. The rest were just awful. I am 56 and waiting for my mummy to take me to the store now. It may seem like I don't get out much, I know. :D
Welcome to the tech world. :)