The minute you start using the best stylus phone, you realize what you've been missing all these years. Yes, touchscreens are fantastic, but there are a lot of situations in which using a pointing device is easier and more precise.
Let's be honest: we've all fumbled with our fingers, whether it's a simple task like opening an app (and opening a pop-up ad by mistake) or something more involved such as editing a photo, where tiny differences in movement make all the difference.
A decent stylus, in contrast, can make the experience of using our phones much easier, faster, smoother, and more relaxing. They also let you draw, sketch, and hand-write notes in a way that's not so different from a real pen on paper.
Samsung the stylus smartphone king
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So what are the best stylus phones available today? Apple fans may howl in anguish, but we have to be realistic here. The iPhone is a great phone, but it doesn't come with a stylus; nor is it optimized for one. So while the Apple Pencil 2 is the best stylus for iPads, iPhone users' only option is third-party pens.
Once Apple brings out a dedicated iPhone stylus, we'll no doubt include it on this list. But right now, the best stylus phones almost all come from Samsung, thanks to its brilliant S Pen. And to keep it simple for you, one of these stands head and shoulders above the rest. Number one on our list, the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, is hands-down the best stylus phone, and as long as you can afford one, you don't really need to look elsewhere.
We're not all made of money, of course, so we've also included some lesser stylus phones on our list. They aren't quite as good, but they still offer a decent experience, and you should be able them to get for a smaller sum. (This page will update automatically with the latest deals, so do keep checking.)
Not all S Pens are the same
A quick word of caution before we get started, though. There's not just one S Pen, there are several versions, and they don't all have the same capabilities. The current line up includes the the Galaxy Note S Pen, the Galaxy S21 Ultra S Pen, the Galaxy Tab S Pen, the S Pen Fold Edition and the S Pen Pro.
In other words, if you have an S Pen for one Samsung phone, don't necessarily assume it will work with all of them. In fact, if could even damage the screen.
The best stylus phone in 2023
There's no doubt about it: the best stylus phone available today is the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra. It comes in the box with the latest version of the S Pen, Samsung's proprietary stylus. With 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity, this is great for anyone who takes notes or sketches, and features a low 9ms latency. And as this is the latest big phone release by Samsung, it offers the best stylus experience, no question.
In our review, we found it a joy to use, with low latency, whether we were using brushes in Photoshop Lightroom or doing some digital sketching. You can also use it to jot down ideas, perform Air actions, open a new note directly on the screen, or use the S Pen to text feature to convert your handwriting to text as you write on the screen.
And that's not all. You can also control apps remotely using the S Pen via Bluetooth. For example, you can quickly launch apps, such as the Camera app, by pressing and holding the S Pen button. Then, while using said app, you can use as a shutter release. The Bluetooth will work up to 30 feet away.
The S Pen slots nicely into the side of the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra for charging. When you insert it into the slot, charging begins: it's that simple. A full charge takes as little as 40 seconds. That said, if you don't want to drain your phone's battery, you can set it to only charge when the phone itself is charging. Note that the S Pen still works when it's out of charge, you just lose its remote features.
While playing music, you can turn the volume up if you lift the S Pen up while pressing and holding the S Pen button. Similarly, you can turn the volume down if you lower it. Overall, Samsung has put thought into making the S Pen useful beyond just writing and drawing, and it's really followed through. And there's a lovely 6.8 inch screen to use it on too: the brightest ever produced for a Galaxy, with a brightness rating of 1,750 nits.
In short, this is the best stylus phone available today, and as long as you can afford it, you don't really have to look elsewhere.
For more details, see our full Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra review.
Like the S22 Ultra above, the Note 20 Ultra is another lovely Samsung phone with great S Pen integration. However, with the exception of a slightly bigger (6.9 inch) screen, it's beaten by the newer S22 Ultra in most respects. For instance, the latter has a faster processor, better cameras, and two optical zoom levels (3x and 10x), to just 5x in the Note 20 Ultra.
That said, in our review we found using the S Pen for note taking, sketching and using apps to be an excellent experience. Nicely integrated on the left of the phone's base, the stylus feels beautifully natural on the screen, with the same Bluetooth connection and low latency as on the S22 Ultra. And so you can use it to switch modes, open apps, operate a shutter release with the camera and so on, just like with the latter, and it offers virtually instantaneous action
In short then, get the S22 Ultra if you can: it's a better phone overall. But if contract or price push you towards the Note 20 Ultra instead, there's still a lot here for stylus fans to like.
For more details, see our full Galaxy Note 20 Ultra review.
The predecessor to the S22 Ultra, 2021's S21 Ultra, is the only other Galaxy phone to support the S Pen (the Galaxy S21 and S21+ do not support the S Pen at all). And so if the S22 Ultra is out of your price range, you may be tempted to invest in the S21 Ultra instead, which offers the same battery life, the same IP68 water resistance, and pretty similar specs overall.
However, note that the S21 Ultra doesn't come with an S Pen, so you have to buy one separately. It doesn't integrate into the phone like it does on the S22 Ultra, so if you want something similar, the closest option is to buy a supporting case. Plus, the standard S Pen for the S21 Ultra doesn't offer Bluetooth functionality. (On the plus side, that means it doesn't mean charging. On the downside, it rules out remote features like operating a wireless shutter.) If you want that, you'll need the pricier S Pen Pro, which costs $99.
In fact, if you want all of those things, the money you'll spend means you may as well buy an S22 Ultra! However, if you're happy with just the standard S Pen, and don't need the fancy Bluetooth features, you may still prefer the S21 Ultra if you can get it for a lower price.
For more details, read our Samsung S22 Ultra review.
Want to use a stylus on a phone that folds out into a big screen? Then you want the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4, which provides a smooth, expansive 7.6 inch display. This extra screen real estate is great to use with a stylus, whether you want to quickly make notes (just press the side button on the S Pen and start writing), handwrite an email or message and convert it to text, annotate a PDF, or take notes during a videoconference (by running the Samsung Notes app on the bottom half of your screen simultaneously.)
However, note that while the Z Fold 4 supports the S Pen, it doesn't come with one; as with the S21 Ultra (above) you'll have to buy that separately. Again, you'll have two choices: in this case, between the premium S Pen Pro, which comes with Bluetooth and needs charging, or the cheaper S Pen Fold Edition, which doesn't have Bluetooth and so doesn't need charging.
For full details, see our Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 review.
The Galaxy Z Fold 4 may be the best foldable phone right now, but it sure is expensive. So if it's out of your price range, the older Galaxy Z Fold 3 is a decent alternative, that also supports the S Pen Pro and the S Pen Fold.
It's cheaper for a reason: some of the specs are a big climbdown from the Z Fold 4. For instance, the processor's not as fast, and rather than the 50MP cameras sensor in the latter, you have to make do with a 12MP one.
But there's also a lot to like, including the big 4,400Mah battery, IPX8 water-resistance, and 900 nits of brightness (just 100 nits less than on the Fold 4). Plus you get the same beautiful 7.6 inch AMOLED unfolded display, and 6.2 inch HD+ front cover display, and pretty much the same, excellent stylus experience.
For more details, see our Samsung Galaxy Fold Z 3 review.
The oldest and (potentially) cheapest Samsung phone on our list, the Samsung Note 10+ 5G nonetheless provides a good stylus experience.
Don't get us wrong: its successor, the Note20 Ultra (number two on our list) is better. A better phone in general, with superior cameras, more versatile zoom and a faster processor. And of the two, the best stylus phone specifically, with a faster refreshing display and lower latency.
That said, the Galaxy Note 10 Plus is still a powerful and impressive phone overall, with a nice 6.8-inch AMOLED display, 256GB-512GB of storage, and strong battery life from the 4,300 mAh battery. And you'll probably find one at a much lower price than other phones on this list.
For more details, see our full Samsung Note 10+ 5G review
As we stated in our introduction to this article, Samsung make the best stylus phones today. But maybe you have a reason for avoiding Samsung products specifically. In which case, here's our top alternative.
Released this year, the refreshed version of the Moto G Stylus 5G features a built-in stylus that slots into the phone, and does a good job at tasks like notetaking, editing photos, and navigating the interface.
More generally, the phone has a nice 6.8 inch LCD display, with 1080p resolution and a 120Hz refresh rate, a zippy Qualcomm Snapdragon 695 processor, a generous 5,000 mAh battery, and a decent 50MP + 8MP + 2MP rear camera setup. These are all pretty impressive specs giving the affordable price.
Be aware, though, that the stylus is fairly basic, and can't do all the cool tricks that Samsung's latest S Pen can. But given that that the Moto G Stylus 5G is around half the price of the Samsung S22 Ultra (number one on our list), that might not be a problem for you.