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Samsung Galaxy Smartphones: 10 Hidden Features & Useful Tricks

grand master

 

 

Samsung produces some of the most powerful smartphones available today. Whether you have one of the latest products such as the Galaxy S4 or the Galaxy Note 3, or one of Samsung’s older devices such as the Galaxy S II, there are many hidden features and useful tricks that can help to save you time. In this article, we explore 10 of our top hidden features for Samsung Galaxy smartphones.

 

1. Multi Window: Run Two Apps Side-By-Side

 

Multi Window Right.jpgA key limitation of today’s smartphones is that it’s incredibly difficult to do two things at once. Although multitasking is supported by most smartphone operating systems, it normally involves the use of one application at a time. This makes it impossible to do two things simultaneously: for instance browsing the web whilst watching a YouTube video.

 

On high-end Galaxy devices running Android 4.1.2 or later, side-by-side multitasking is now supported through a feature called “Multi Window”. You’ll need to enable it but once enabled you can run two applications on the screen at the same time. For instance, you can browse the web in Chrome whilst watching a video in the YouTube application.

 

To enable the “Multi Window” feature, navigate to the Settings > Display menu and tick the “Multi window” checkbox.

 

Once the “Multi Window” feature has been enabled, you can activate it by long pressing on your smartphone’s back button. This will open an application launcher that’s docked to the side of the screen. It’s similar to the normal applications list but only the applications supported by “Multi Window” will appear in the list. Many popular apps are supported by “Multi Window”: for instance Chrome, Facebook, Gmail, Google Maps, Messaging, YouTube, Twitter and WhatsApp. However, there are also notable absences including Instagram and most games applications.

 

To open an app in multi-window mode, drag its icon and drop it on the screen. You can drop one application on the top half of the screen and another application on the bottom half of the screen. On all devices except the Galaxy Note 3, the two applications will need to be different (e.g. you could have Chrome and YouTube running side-by-side but you couldn’t have two instances of Chrome running alongside each other).

 

Multi Window.jpg
Multi Window is activated by long-pressing on your smartphone’s back button. You can run two apps side-by-side (e.g. browse the web using Chrome whilst watching videos on YouTube).

 

The “Multi Window” feature will work best on devices with a big display.

 

2. Tidy Your Applications List: Hiding Unused Apps

 

Hide Apps Menu Item.jpgAfter using your phone for a couple of months, the applications list often becomes a little bit cluttered. With most applications, it’s possible to uninstall them to remove them from the apps list. This isn’t possible for all applications however: there are many system apps from Samsung and Google which can’t be removed. For these apps, it’s possible to hide them away using the “Hide applications” feature. Although the apps will still be on your phone, they won’t appear in your Applications list. Instead, you’ll only see the apps that you’d actually like to see.

 

To hide an application icon from your list of apps, open the applications menu and press the menu button on your phone. Select “Hide applications” and then tick the applications you’d like to hide. Finally, press “Done” in the top-right corner.

 

Hide Applications.jpg
Hiding an application on Samsung Galaxy devices.

 

Any applications can safely be hidden: nothing is actually removed from your phone. Applications that might want to hide include:

 

  • Email or Gmail. Most people will only use one of these apps - the other one can safely be hidden to reduce confusion.
  • Google Settings. The one with the green icon: many of these settings are already available through the “Settings” menu. You can hide the icon to reduce duplication of settings.
  • Google+ and G+ Photos. If you’re not a user of the Google+ social network, you can safely hide the icons for both of these apps.
  • Samsung Pre-Installed. Samsung adds various icons to your device for purchasing media. They include Game Hub, More Services, Music Hub, Samsung Apps, Samsung Hub, S Suggest and Video Hub. If you don’t use Samsung’s services to buy media content, you can safely hide the icons from your applications list.
  • Google Pre-Installed. Google adds various icons to your device with the aim of selling multimedia. They include Play Books, Play Magazines, Play Movies & TV and Play Music. You can hide these on your device if you don’t normally use them. You shouldn’t hide the Play Store icon as this is normally required for downloading new apps.

Once you’ve hidden an icon, it’s possible to recover it by pressing the menu button and then “Show hidden applications”.

 

Additional Tip For Sorting Your Apps: If you want to see your applications in alphabetical order, press the menu button on the applications list. Select “View type” followed by the “Alphabetical grid” option.

 

3. Continuous Input: Faster Typing & Text Input

 

Keyboard Input.jpgMany people still download an alternative keyboard application with Swype and SwiftKey being two of the most popular. Both Swype and Swiftkey integrate a feature called gestural typing. Instead of tapping on letters individually, gestural typing allows you to trace a path between the letters in a word. Based on the path traced by your finger, the keyboard makes a prediction about the word you’re typing. For instance, the path in the screenshot shown to the right translates to the word “hello”.

 

With Android 4.1 and later versions, Samsung has integrated gestural typing technology into the default keyboard. This makes use of technology from SwiftKey. To enable gestural typing, tap the “Settings” button on your keyboard (this can be found to the left of the space bar). Then tick the box for “Continuous input”.

 

Keyboard Continuous Input.jpg
Samsung’s default keyboard comes with a “continuous input” feature.

 

Note that Samsung’s default keyboard lacks auto-correct support. The Google Keyboard application is a free alternative with support for both auto-correct and gestural typing.

 

4. Easy Mode: A Simplified Home Screen for Novice Users

 

If you’re a novice smartphone user, you can simplify the interface on Samsung Galaxy devices by switching to the “Easy Mode” home screen. This will replace the standard home screen with a simplified interface that gives quick access to common features.

 

The simplified home screen provides speed dial shortcuts for calling three selected people (you can choose who e.g. close friends or family members). You’ll also have access to the most commonly used apps, frequently adjusted settings and to the alarm clock application.

 

Easy Mode Homescreen.jpg
Changing to “Easy Mode” gives you a simplified home screen.

 

To enable Easy mode, navigate to Settings > Home screen mode. Select “Easy mode” followed by the “Apply” button.

 

Easy Mode How To.jpg
You can switch between the standard home screen (“Basic mode”) and the simplified home screen (“Easy mode”).

 

5. Headset Control: Zoom & Capture Photos Remotely

 

When taking a photo or recording a video, you can zoom in and out using the volume buttons on the side of your phone. The Volume up button will zoom in to an image whereas the volume down button will zoom out of an image.

 

A little known fact is that the controls to zoom in and out can also be used from an attached headset. By plugging in some headphones (such as the set provided with your phone), you can zoom in and out of your recording without touching your phone. It’s particularly useful if you want to record steady video: pressing the buttons on the side of your device is likely to introduce camera shake. You can record steady video by placing your smartphone on a tripod and using your headphones to zoom in remotely.

 

Camera Zoom.jpg
You can zoom in and out using the volume buttons on your headset.

 

If you’re taking a photo, the remote zoom function can be combined with a voice activated shutter. This can be enabled through the camera settings (available on Galaxy Note II, Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Note 3).

 

Camera Voice Shutter.jpg
Photos can be taken remotely using a voice command.

 

On the Galaxy Note 2 and newer devices, you can configure the volume buttons to take a photo rather than zooming. The setting will also work with an attached headset.

 

Camera Vol Button Setting.jpg
On the Galaxy Note 2 and newer devices, the volume buttons can be configured to take a photo.

 

6. Palm Swipe Gesture: Capture Screenshots More Easily

 

Palm Swipe.jpgOn most high-end Samsung devices released in the past two years, it’s possible to take a screenshot by swiping your palm across the screen. The first device to support this feature was the original Galaxy Note with support since being added to the Galaxy S III, the Galaxy Note II, the Galaxy S4 and the Galaxy Note 3.

 

To enable screenshots through the palm swipe gesture, go to the Settings > Motion menu and check the option for “Palm swipe to capture”. Swiping your hand across the screen will now take a screenshot. Screenshots can be accessed from the “Screenshots” folder in the Gallery application. They’re also copied to the clipboard so you can paste it into other applications.

 

Alternative Method Of Capturing Screenshots: An alternative way of capturing screenshots is to press the power and home buttons simultaneously on your phone. Galaxy Note users can also press the S Pen button whilst holding the S Pen stylus down on the display. 

 

7. Phone Book Gestures: Swipe To Call & Text

 

From the contacts application, there are two gestures for quickly making a call or sending a text message. To make a phone call, swipe to the right over the name of a contact. This will initiate a new voice call. For texts, perform the same gesture but this time swiping to the left: it’ll open up a dialog where you can quickly send a text.

 

Call Text Gesture.jpg

From the phone book, you can swipe to the left to send a text message or swipe to the right to make a phone call.

 

8. USB On The Go: Connect A USB Drive, Keyboard or Mouse

 

Since the Galaxy S II was released in 2011, Samsung’s high-end Galaxy devices have included support for USB On The Go (USB OTG). Through the micro-USB connector, you’re able to attach external devices including a USB flash drive, a USB mouse, a USB keyboard or a USB games controller (this includes a wired Xbox 360 controller).

 

To make use of “USB On The Go” functionality, you’ll need a special cable which converts between the micro-USB connector on your Samsung Galaxy device and the standard USB plug used by attached peripherals. When buying an OTG cable, make sure that one end has a male micro-USB connector and that the other end has a female USB connector.

 

USB OTG Cable.jpg
You’ll need a special cable to use “USB On The Go” functionality.

 

For more information, see our blog post on attaching devices to your smartphone using USB OTG.

 

9. Article Reader: Improve the Readability Of News Articles & Blog Posts

 

If you’re reading a blog post or an article on the internet, there are some occasions when reading on a smartphone can be rather frustrating. Many webpages still suffer from poor readability: for instance the font size could be too small on a smartphone or the web page could have too many adverts. Alternatively, some sites spread articles out over several separate pages: this increases the amount of time it takes to load a full article.

 

If you’re using Samsung’s default web browser, a green “R” icon will appear in the address bar when you’re reading a blog post or news article. Tapping on the green icon will take you into a mobile-optimised view where adverts are removed and the font size can be adjusted. Articles that are spread out over multiple web pages are also combined into one page when using “Reader” view. It’s similar to the functionality provided by the Readability application.

 

Browser Reader.jpg
Tap on the green “R” icon to view articles and blog posts in a mobile-friendly format.

 

10. Smart Alarm: Wake Up More Naturally In the Morning

 

For many people, the alarm clock is one of the most commonly used features on a smartphone (and perhaps also one of the most hated features!) On Samsung Galaxy devices since the original Galaxy S, there’s a gradual wake feature known as “Smart Alarm”. If enabled, Smart Alarm begins sounding around 3 minutes before your normal alarm. It’s intended to wake you up gradually: relaxing music is played at a slowly-rising volume. The screen also lights up in gradual stages.

 

To enable Smart Alarm, press the “More” button when creating a new alarm. Scroll down and enable the “Smart alarm” feature. By tapping on the “Smart alarm” option, you can also configure several options including the duration of your gradual wake and the sound to be used. Samsung provides a choice of four relaxing melodies.

 

For more tips on how to sleep better, check out our sleep application round-up from earlier this year.

 

Smart Alarm.jpg
The “Smart Alarm” feature allows you to wake gradually and more naturally.

 

Other Tips & Tricks

 

Aside from the tips and tricks we’ve shared in this article, there are many other things you can do with your Galaxy device. For instance, the camera could be used to measure heart rate and stress levels. Or the NFC chip could be used to read your biometric passport.

 

Have you discovered any hidden features on a Samsung Galaxy device? Are there any tips and tricks that you’d like to share? You can share them below by dropping us a comment: we’d really love to hear your favourite tips!

 

Ken Lo writes about mobile technology and the mobile industry at Ken's Tech Tips.

35 Comments
good to be right

Thanks Ken , I don't use a Samsung phone ( although I do have a Samsung tablet  ) but still found this to be an interesting read .

enigma
Another great blog. Some hidden features on my S3 which I didn't know about, thanks :-)
pupil

Didn't know half of these. Thanks.

As a Samsung Galaxy S2 owner, I'm frustrated by not being able to delete all the Samsung bloatware on my smartphone....but it sounds like Samsung have come out with some cool features. I particularly like Smart Alarm. And Multi Window is a nice touch.

top cat

Pretty sure many of these aren't available on my Galaxy Ace 2, so I guess it's not "high-end". Certainly #1, #4 and #6 aren't.

But #7 is just annoying. A few times, when just wanting to look up and/or edit someone's contact details, I've ended up accidentally calling them instead, with the slightest drag of my finger to the right instead of a tap. It's especially annoying as it's pretty difficult (maybe impossible) to back out of such a call before it starts ringing at the other end. Cue much embarrassment (plus the loss of 10p in credit) when I have to say, "Oh, sorry - I didn't mean to call you" ... worse still if it happens at an unsociable hour. Smiley Frustrated There should be an option to switch this functionality off, but there isn't.

I've enjoyed #10 though, ever since getting my phone in July. (I've actually got 6 musical alternatives on my phone, not 4.)

heavy hitter

Thanks for reminding about a couple of these, good blog again, thanks.Smiley Happy

enigma

Another great read kenlo. Nice tips for if ever I get a Samsung smartphone.

consultant

Thanks

Lots of useful information Smiley Happy

professor

USB on the go looks awsome! 

consultant
Thanks a lot for this information very helpful indeed