Samsung is riding high at the top of the smartphone market, and the latest Galaxy is expected to provide another boost. If you’re one of the millions of people the world over who’ve bought the S4 already, or you’re just planning to get your hands on one in the near future, then you’ll be interested to learn exactly what it can do.
Motions and gestures
Samsung has added a number of options to control your phone with a gesture or motion of your hand. Go to Apps > Settings > My device > Motions and gestures and you’ll find switches to turn on Air gesture, Motion, and Palm motion.
Motion: There are a lot of motion gestures available on the GS4. A “You have a new message” vibration can automatically trigger when you pick up your phone; holding the phone to your ear when on a contact page will auto call that person; and turning the screen face down will mute it are just a few. You can also hold a point on the screen and then move the phone to pan across an image, and you can tap and hold two points on the screen and tilt it back or forward to zoom in and out.
Palm motion: The palm motions are also the same as on the S3, offering you the ability to sweep your palm across the screen and take a screenshot, and also the option of covering the screen with your palm to pause audio or video.
Air gesture: The exciting additions are the air gestures. You can hold your hand above the sensor on the top right to bring the screen to life and get a sneak peek at notifications, missed calls, new messages, or the time and date. You can wave your hand up and down over the sensor to scroll pages, or left and right to browse horizontally. You can also wave left and right to answer a call, and you can tap and hold an icon and then wave to browse to the home screen where you want to drop it. The last option is Air view. It allows you to hover over an area to see a magnified portion, or to see something of the contents, like a tool tip pop-up (it’s most useful with video clips).
Multi window and Smart screen
You can prevent the display from auto-rotating when you turn your phone to landscape view by pulling down the Notifications bar and tapping Screen rotation. You can also access it in Settings > Display. There are lots more handy options in Settings > My device > Smart screen, including:
- Smart rotation: Rotates based on the way you are viewing the screen, so you can lie down without flicking into landscape view.
- Smart stay: Checks to see if you are looking at the screen and keeps it on as long as you are looking at it.
- Smart pause: Pauses video when you look away from the screen.
- Smart scroll: Allows you to scroll a page by tilting your head, or by tilting your device.
It’s worth mentioning that these features don’t work so well in the dark because the phone can’t see you properly. The scroll takes a little practice to use effectively.
Another great feature in here, which Samsung has been offering on its tablets, is the Multi window feature. Tick it and you can use the slide out panel (activated and dismissed by holding the Back button) to choose an app, and then drag a second app out, and have a split screen, with both apps open at once. You can browse the Web and watch a video at the same time or chat and read simultaneously; it’s a nifty feature.
By default your new S4 will be noisy. Go to Settings > Sound and you can tweak which actions provoke audio feedback. You might want to uncheck the boxes next to Dialing keypad tone, Touch sounds, and Screen lock sound. Haptic feedback is enough to let you know that you’ve successfully pressed something.
The default options for ringtones, notifications, and alarm sounds are dull. If you’d prefer to use your own MP3s then you can. You can long press on the MP3 file that you want to use and then choose Set as then Phone ringtone. You can also go to Settings > Sound > Ringtones and hit the Add button at the bottom of the list and then use Sound picker to choose the right song and press Ok at the top right.
You could go to Apps > My files to explore and find your MP3s, tap and choose copy on the one you want to use, and then navigate to the Ringtones folder and paste it there. You could also post it in the Alarms or Notifications folders. Now if you go to Settings > Sound the file will be available in the relevant menu. If you can’t find the right folder then just create a Media folder on your SDcard and create folders within it called Ringtones, Notifications, and Alarms. If you put MP3s in there then they’ll appear in the Settings > Sound > Ringtones, Notifications, or Alarms list.
Before we leave sounds behind, go to Settings > Sound > Adapt sound, pop some headphones on and do the sound test to optimize your S4’s sound for your own hearing.
There are lots of new camera features for the S4, too many to mention, but basic functionality is the same, you tap on the screen to direct the focus and tap the camera button to take a shot. You can also take still images while shooting video by tapping the capture button. The Mode button opens up a world of options from Best face, to Drama, to Panorama. There’s also an Eraser option to remove unwanted people, and a Dual camera mode so you can superimpose yourself on top of the shot. You’ll get best results with HDR shots, and you’ll also find slow motion video can be a lot of fun.
You can use S-Voice and shout Shoot to take a photo hands-free.
When you review your photos in the Gallery app you can tap and hold on a photo in order to bring up tick boxes so that you can select a batch of images. Double tap or pinch zooms in and out. You’ll find a host of built-in photo editing features are now present as well. When you are in an album in the gallery, you can swipe right to bring up a bar with all your albums on the left hand side, and then just skip to the one you want. There’s also a Detect Text option which allows you to extract text from a photo and save it as a note, or share it via email or messaging (it does require a network connection to work, though).
Long press on any space on your home screen and you’ll get options to set wallpaper, add app icons or folders, and add widgets. You can also reorganize your apps alphabetically by tapping Menu in the app drawer and then choosing View type.
You can’t uninstall a lot of bloatware, but you can disable it and hide it. If you want to get rid of bloatware then go to Settings > Applications manager and swipe to All then choose the app you don’t want to use and tap Disable. It will drop to the bottom of the list. You can also hide app icons from the app drawer by tapping Menu > Hide applications and then choose the ones you don’t want to appear.
If the Dropbox app is pre-installed on your S4 then you might qualify to boost your 2GB of free storage with another 48GB, taking you up to a whopping 50GB for free. You should automatically get it when you log in to Dropbox, or you can go to the Dropbox website to find more details and check the conditions. Not all wireless carriers are participating in this promotion.
The onboard video player will not support every video format, so, if you’re planning to transfer some videos onto your S4, make sure you snag an app like MX Player, which will play virtually any file format.
You can speed up your phone, just a little bit, by turning off some animations. Go to Settings > Developer options and turn off Windows animation scale, Transition animation scale, and Animator duration scale. If you don’t see Developer options in your Settings then you can unlock it by going to Settings > About device and repeatedly tapping on Build number. While you’re there, tap on Android version a few times and you’ll get a Jelly Bean screen.
Fire up the WatchON app to access a personalized TV guide and set up your S4 as a TV remote. If you have trouble pairing your S4, try moving closer to the TV when you set it up.
If you have an AllShare Cast dongle, or Homesync or Wi-Fi Miracast support on your TV, or another device, then you can mirror your S4 screen. Go to Settings > Connections > Screen mirroring to try it out. You can also pull down the Notifications bar and expand the toggles for quick access to Screen mirroring.
We will return to this and add more Galaxy S4 tips as we discover them, but if you’d like to suggest something then please post a comment.