Getting Smarter About My Smartphone

The Samsung Galaxy SIII... in ravishing Pebble BlueI’ve been proud Android smartphone user for a couple of years now. I’m a big fan and I’ll stack a top-of-the-line Android phone up against an iPhone any day of the week, but I have to admit that Apple does a much, much better job of publicizing their phones’ features.

I recently purchased the Samsung Galaxy SIII, widely considered to be the best Android phone on the market today (and I mean exactly at the time I’m writing this – because tomorrow, who knows!). But what makes this phone so special? Pick it up and start playing with it and your first impressions will likely be, ?It’s so fast! It’s so thin! It’s so shiny!? But like me, you probably won’t have a clue about all the cool things it can do initially*. The GS3 is much more than just a pretty face: it’s stuffed with innovative features. You just have to know where to find them.

I’ve been doing a little research into my new smartphone and have been completely blown away by some of the features I’ve discovered. Here are some of the coolest hidden things that your Samsung Galaxy SIII can do:

The Best Part of Waking Up is Your Samsung Galaxy SIII

Alarm settings screen

Set your alarm mode to ‘briefing’ to wake up feeling like Tony Stark!

Remember that scene from Iron Man where the girl at Tony Stark’s house is woken up by a computerized voice greeting her and reading the surf and weather report? Yeah, the GS3 can totally do that. It will also read you the top news headline and tell you about any events on today’s calendar.

Oh, and if all that’s too much for you at 6:45 AM in the morning you can just shout ?SNOOZE!? at it and it will leave you alone for another ten minutes.

You can find all these features under the options for the pre-installed Clock app. Just create an alarm and set it to ?briefing’ mode.

Talk To Me, Baby


Samsung’s S-Voice is absolutely nothing like Siri, really!

The GS3 comes pre-installed with something called S-Voice, which is apparently Samsung’s latest effort to get sued by Apple for blatantly ripping off Siri. S-Voice has some cool features, but in practice it just doesn’t work that well and seems kind of gimmicky. But you don’t need it anyway. The GS3 runs Ice Cream Sandwich, and its voice recognition capabilities are already phenomenal.

Texting with voice input

Talk to the one thing that really understands you… your phone!

Tired of typing out your text messages? Why not just speak them instead? Click the microphone icon on the on-screen keyboard and just start talking. The phone’s voice recognition is impressively fast and accurate. Many of the pre-installed apps also understand voice commands: you can answer or reject an incoming call by just saying ?Answer? or ?Reject?, you can take photos by saying ?Capture? or ?Cheese? and you can even use voice commands to adjust the volume on the music player.

To activate these features and learn more about them, go to the main Settings for the phone, then select ?Language and Input? and click on ?Voice cmd for apps.? You can also set the phone for ?Driving Mode? where incoming calls and new notifications will be read out to you by your phone.

Lock Screen Love

Ooh, looks like I’ve got mail!

Besides the oh-so-pretty ripple effect that follows your finger when you slide-to-unlock, the GS3’s lock screen offers quick access to all kinds of features. Note the four icons at the bottom: they are customizable, and dragging your finger up from any of them (say, for example, the camera) will load that app immediately. You can also drag the notification bar down to check out alerts without having to unlock your phone. Text messages float in the lock screen, and appointment reminders will replace it until you tell them to go away. You can also configure your lock screen to show the weather or a stock ticker.

Tiny Flashlight + LED

All of this can be configured from Settings > Security > Lock screen options.

One last lock screen feature I want to mention is cheating a little bit since I’m mostly talking about stock, pre-installed apps here, but this is too cool to pass over: download the free app ?Tiny Flashlight + LED? from the Play Market. It turns your phone’s LED camera flash into a very bright flashlight at the touch of a button, which is nice, but not revolutionary. But if you go into the settings (by touching the circle at the upper right of the app, then the tool icon) you’ll discover that you can set it to turn on for 20 seconds just by shaking the phone when you’re on the lock screen. So if your power goes out and all of a sudden you’re in the dark you just pull out your phone and give it a shake and you’re back in business. Nice.

Shake It Like A Polaroid Picture

The Motion Settings menuThe first thing that any new GS3 owner should do with their phone is to go to the main settings menu and select ?Motion’. Every smartphone owner knows about simple touch gestures like flicking up and down a list to scroll quickly or pinch-to-zoom (although the calendar app adds a cool use for this – zooming in and out of calendar, from days to weeks to months), but Samsung and Google have added an impressive number of intuitive motions to the gesture control alphabet.

A few of my favorites: swipe left on a contact to text them, swipe right to call them. Want to capture what’s on your screen? Swipe your entire hand across it. Ever had a text message conversation get to the point where you realize that it’s simpler to just pick up the phone and call the person? While on the text message screen, pick up the phone and hold it to your ear and the GS3 will make the call. Brilliant!

Swiping contactsShaking also happens to be the default ?refresh’ motion for many things. From the Bluetooth screen or the Wi-Fi screen try shaking your phone to look for nearby networks and devices.

There are too many motion-activated abilities on this phone to list here, but that’s okay. Clicking on any of them in the settings menu will allow you to enter a tutorial mode where you can try the gesture out for yourself. You’ll be panning, tilting and shaking in no time flat.

Pics Or It Didn’t Happen

If you’ve seen the TV commercials for the Samsung Galaxy S3, you know that it is supposed to allow you to watch a video and do other things with the phone, such as text. This actually works as advertised – clicking the box in the lower right hand corner of a video will put it in a small window and then you’re free to navigate the phone as usual while the video plays. Why you’d want to do this is another question entirely. For my money, there are several video and camera features on the phone that are far more useful.

The camera offers the ability to take a bunch of shots and then stitch them together into a panorama. It works pretty seamlessly. After you’re done, you can hold the screen and move the phone back and forth to sweep across the scene. There is also a burst mode for taking a bunch of shots back to back. But one of my favorite features, which I mentioned before, is being able to stabilize the camera with both hands and tell it to take a picture by saying ?shoot? or ?capture.?

Take pictures with voice commands

Flicking a toggle on the camera screen switches over to video mode. A cool feature in video mode is that you can snap still shots while you are recording! You can also pinch-to-zoom to zoom in the camera.

It’s the Little Things

There’s so much more. You probably figured you could assign your contacts custom ringtones, but did you know you can also assign them custom vibration patterns? Love of your life calling? How about giving them the ?heartbeat’ vibration? Hair stylist? You can drum out a custom pattern: ?Shave-and-a-haircut, two bits.?

The Samsung Galaxy SIII does a great job of making the basic jobs of smartphones fast, easy and hassle-free. You don’t have to know about any of these features to really enjoy using it. But this phone is packed with clever little surprises that can make your life that much easier, so it’s worth exploring!

* To be fair, Samsung does discuss some of these ?hidden’ features in the phone’s thick manual. But who actually reads those things??

Tom BraunAbout Author: Tom Braun (15 Posts)

3 comments for “Getting Smarter About My Smartphone

  1. Christian
    01/08/2013 at 8:16 PM

    Thanks for writing this! I just purchased a GSIII and am trying to learn all I can in between parenting & work. This helps a lot! :-)

  2. 03/03/2013 at 12:14 AM

    I’ve bookmarked this page. Great information for a great phone.

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