All the S Pen outrage illustrates is the sorry state of tech coverage

Like the iPhone 6 Plus's BendGate, the Samsung S Pen controversy is manufactured by petty outlets chasing clicks

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All the S Pen outrage illustrates is the sorry state of tech coverage Take the outrage with a grain of salt
By  Tom Paye Published  August 26, 2015

You may have heard this week that Samsung's new Galaxy Note 5 has a "serious design flaw". Apparently, if you slide the S Pen into its slot backwards (i.e. with the nib pointing outwards), it'll permanently damage the mechanism that detects whether the S Pen is in its slot.

The "flaw" was first picked up by Android Police, which also posted a video demonstrating the damage that can be caused. Before long, it was picked up by all the big tech sites, with journalists decrying the lack of oversight that Samsung had shown with its latest model.

It's all rubbish, though. This debacle speaks more to the sorry state of tech journalism than it does to the perceived slights of handset manufacturers.

While Android Police authoritatively states that this issue will be encountered by some users, I'm not so sure. Any fan of the Galaxy Note range knows perfectly well that the S Pen goes in nib-first - we're onto the fifth generation of the device and so far, there hasn't been an outpouring of angry users confounded over which way the stylus slots in. It's patently obvious which way the S Pen goes in - you wouldn't put a normal pen into a pen jar with the nib up, would you?

Samsung has rightly responded with a simple message: don't put the S-Pen in the wrong way around. It's clearly stated in the user guide which way around the S-Pen goes in, but if you need a user guide to tell you that, I'm not sure you should be trusted with a pencil, let alone a smartphone stylus.

Meanwhile, the issue is being compared to the infamous AntennaGate scandal surrounding the iPhone 4 launch. Apple's insistence that "you're holding it wrong" didn't do much to quell angry columnists, who claimed that users should be able to hold the device any which way they like. And I actually sympathise with that view - there are various ways that you can hold a smartphone, and you shouldn't be punished because of your personal preference. You don't deserve any sympathy, though, if you feel so entitled to think that a solid object should fit into a slot whichever way you choose.

The S-Pen controversy actually has more in common with the iPhone 6 Plus's BendGate. At the time, I maintained that the 6 Plus was plenty robust enough, and that in the videos demonstrating how easily the device bends, people were clearly using a lot of force - force that wouldn't come into play during everyday use. If you were stupid enough to try to bend your phone, you'd probably end up with a bent phone - what else would you expect?

Indeed, that's where the two controversies have the most in common - they're both manufactured by increasingly petty tech journalists chasing clicks. Reviewers now look for the tiniest flaws, and blow them completely out of proportion in the hopes of creating the next AntennaGate or BendGate. No consideration is given to real-world, everyday use - it's all just scaremongering and hyperbole, designed to create an outrage out of nothing.

It's getting to the point now where gadget reviewers will only be satisfied with a device that can survive being placed on the surface of the sun. And even then, they'd no doubt find a software issue to complain about.

The fact of the matter is this: the high-end mobile device segment has never been better. The iPhones and Galaxy Notes of this world are near-perfect embodiments of the touch-enabled smartphone concept popularised by the first iPhone. Unfortunately, that fact makes for some pretty boring tech coverage, hence the big outlets' need to manufacture controversies. As a friend pointed out, it's like middle management that looks for things to critique in order to justify their own existence.

So whether you're an Android or an Apple fan, take the outrage with a grain of salt.

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