Samsung faces S-Pen, Galaxy Note 5 flap: Design flaw or overblown?

If you put the Samsung S-Pen Stylus in the Galaxy Note 5 the wrong way you may break the pen and possibly the device. Does Samsung face a brand or engineering hit?

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Don't put your Galaxy Note 5 stylus in this way or you may give yourself a tech headache. Credit: Larry Dignan

Samsung Galaxy Note 5 customers may run into some problems if they put their stylus into its slot backwards. The big question is whether the issue is a design flaw, overblown problem or a threat to the brand.

In a nutshell, inserting Samsung's S-Pen into its Galaxy Note 5 backward can damage the stylus and/or the device.

Android Police noted the issue and a bevy of tech stories ensued. Samsung's response was that customers should read the manual.

I've been testing the Note 5 and after reading about the hubbub I inserted the S-Pen backward. The reports are true, the pen gets stuck and you have to yank it out pretty hard. The S-Pen definitely catches on the device's innards.

I got away with the mistake once, but the stylus doesn't fit into its slot flush every time like it used to. If I did it a second time it's likely that the top of the stylus could get caught in the phone. A Reddit thread highlights that latter outcome.

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The hubbub revolves around whether the Note 5 should be designed so you can't put the S-Pen in backwards. With the benefit of hindsight, the answer is yes. However, the percentage of users making such a mistake may have been within some margin of error to allow Samsung to proceed with its design.

Here's the catch. Now that the reports of the S-Pen flap are widespread it's likely people will try it to confirm the reports. Whatever Samsung's estimate was for people inserting the stylus incorrectly the company is likely to see a higher rate of issues.

As more people try the upside down stylus trick, Samsung's response of 'read the manual' may only look worse. A recall looks a bit overblown too. One comparison to Samsung's issue is Apple's #bendgate problem when it launched the iPhone 6 Plus. Apple initially faced complaints that the iPhone 6 Plus would bend when put in a pocket. Apple agreed to replace the handsets based on visual inspection.

Should the S-Pen hubbub remain, it's likely Samsung would have to do a similar swap.

In early testing, the Galaxy Note 5 is a productive device that feels smaller than it actually is. The S-Pen is handy and good for notes. From a business user perspective, the Note 5 is a nice addition. Just don't put in that S-Pen in its slot backward.