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Samsung Galaxy S4 tips and tricks - Battery Life, Multi-tasking and Keyboard

Battery Life

Musing on Power Saving mode

Like most top-end phones, the Samsung Galaxy S4 has a power saving mode that throttles certain phone features in order to make the battery last as long as possible. You’ll find the Power Saving Mode menu within the My Device tab of the Settings menu. In it are three tick boxes to set the CPU, screen and haptic feedback to low-power mode.

Hardcore battery-saving tactics

If you find that power saving mode still doesn’t do enough for battery life, you can take things further. The top way to conserve battery is to turn off mobile data. You can do this from the notifications bar.

With this turned off, you won’t get any online updates unless you’re connected to a Wi-Fi network. Other tactics include switching off GPS, Bluetooth, vibration alerts, NFC and Wi-Fi. In theory they shouldn’t use much power when the phone is idle, but sneaky apps may try to use them when you’re not looking.

On Screen Brightness

The Samsung Galaxy S4’s screen is much brighter than the Galaxy S3’s. It will burn through the battery pretty quickly if maxed-out. Thankfully, the phone has a commendably flexible automatic brightness mode.

This uses an ambient light sensor on the phone’s front fascia to judge how bright the screen needs to be in each situation – more ambient light means higher intensity is required. You can manually set the brightness without auto turned on, and you can also set the level of brightness within auto mode.

How to turn off all the… nonsense

The Samsung Galaxy S4 is packed with “extra” features that some of you may consider utter nonsense. Thankfully, you can disable just about all of them. Most can be flicked off from the extended power toggles in the notifications bar (access using the top-right “squares” screen icon in the notifications pulldown).


How to video multi-task

Like the Samsung Galaxy S3, the Galaxy S4 lets you pop-out any playing video to watch while you’re doing other things. It stays on-screen as an overlay no matter what you’re doing, until you close it down.

To do this, go to the Samsung video player app, load up a video and press the bottom-right icon in the transport bar. You can then resize the video “postage stamp” with a two-fingered pinch gesture.

How to use multi-screen

Samsung pics 5An arguably much more useful kind of multi-tasking is multi-screen. This lets you have two apps on-screen at once, using Samsung Multiview. This is one of the more substantial extras offered by Touchwiz.

To use it, make sure Multiview is enabled in the drop down notifications power menu. Turning it on will make a little pull tab appear at the left of the screen. Tap on it and the apps drawer will appear. You can then drag these apps onto the screen. With no apps running, the app will fill the screen. Use it while already in an app and they’ll share half a screen each. You can also alter how much screen real estate each gets by dragging the bar that separates them.

How to close running apps

One of the most common reasons for battery life and performance problems in Android phones is apps running in the background. The Samsung Galaxy S4 lets you close these down manually by opening them up in the Application Manager, which you’ll find in the More tab of Settings.

To shut down an app, tap the Force Stop button within each app’s page. Alternatively, there are apps available from Google Play that will close down all running apps in one go - just search for “task manager” in Google play and you’ll find a bunch.

Screen and Video

Best video player

The integrated video player of the Galaxy S4 is pretty nifty, able to cope with more video types than most mobile phones. However, there are even more flexible players out there.

Perhaps the most popular is MX Player. Like VLC on PCs, it’s a media player that claims to be able to play everything. It’s likely that a version with Galaxy S4-optimised hardware acceleration will be released soon too.

How to offset AMOLED colours

The colours of the Galaxy S4 are a little hot as standard – a little oversaturated. One of our favourite software tweaks of the phone is that you can change this. There are colour temperature/intensity modes within Settings > My Device > Display > Screen Mode. For natural-looking colours, opt for “professional photo” or “movie”. They may look dull, but that’s because the other settings are oversaturated.

Screen mirroring

One of the phone’s neatest features is Screen Mirroring. You’ll find this mode in the Connections tab of the Settings menu. It pipes whatever’s on the phone’s screen to another display – which will generally be a TV. It’s compatible with Samsung devices equipped with AllShare and Wi-Fi Direct.

Audio and Music

Audio Adapt – check it out

The Samsung Galaxy S4 has excellent audio output – it’s loud and it’s clean. It also offers a truly intriguing feature called Adapt Sound. You’ll find this mode in the very bottom of the Sound menu (found under the My Device tab of Settings.)

Adapt Sound gives you a hearing test, by playing tones of differing pitches and volumes to each ear. What it does it to measure how good your hearing is, and which of your ears has to “work harder” when listening. It then changes the sound accordingly.

Format Support is excellent

Samsung tends to produce phones with better audio and video format support than the competition, and the Galaxy S4 is no different. It can handle OGG, FLAC and apt-X Bluetooth streaming as well as more common formats. There’s little chance you’ll need a third-party media player app with this phone.

Lock screen

How to customise lock screen animation

The Samsung Galaxy S4 has one of the more OTT Android lock screens. Go near it with a finger and y default light “sparks” will fly out like some sort of kid’s toy. As well as this light effect, you can choose an animated ripple within Settings > My Device > Lock screen. Alternatively, you can grow up and turn off the animation altogether.

How to customise lock screen content

You can also choose what goes on your lock screen. A “personal message” (not our personal choice), a clock, your favourite apps, a camera shortcut – and the standard app shortcuts of the standard nav bar can all be turned on and off. You’ll one more find these options in Settings > My Device > Lock screen.


Enabling Swype-style continuous input

The fastest kind of mobile phone typing – for most people at least – is using a Swype-style keyboard. This lets you drag a path over the letters in a word rather than having to tap out each letter separately. The Samsung keyboard offers this style of typing, but you have to enable it manually. The tick box you need is called continuous input and you’ll find it at Settings > My Device > Language Input, after pressing the “cog” icon in the Samsung Keyboard menu item.

Samsung picsEnabling Handwriting recognition (and when to use it)

The Samsung Galaxy S4 keyboard has integrated character recognition, which can decipher letters from your scrawls. Make sure it’s turned on in the keyboard menu mentioned in the past tip, then – when using the virtual keyboard – hold a finger down on the button just to the right of the Sym key.

This brings up a menu that houses the handwriting mode, whose symbol looks like a “T” with a pen next to it. Using handwriting is only advised when you’re using a stylus, as handwriting with a finger feels… weird.

How to change the keyboard

If you don’t get on with the Samsung keyboard, you can install third-party ones downloaded from Google Play. The most popular of the lot is Swiftkey, which costs £2.99 – but there’s a free version you can try out too (however, it’s very similar to the Samsung one).

Others include Touchpal, the excellent Swype and Go Keyboard. Once downloaded, you can select different keyboards from within Settings > My Device > Language and Input. You’ll find keyboard selection under the “Default” menu item.

S Health

What it can and can’t do

S Health is the Samsung Galaxy S4’s fitness tracker. However, it doesn’t work the way you may expect. Rather than using GPS to track the routes of runs or cycling, it’s a more simplistic tracker that measures your steps using the accelerometer within the phone.

The benefit of using the accelerometer rather than GPS is that it doesn’t completely kill the phone’s battery – so it can run in the background pretty happily. Drop the step tracker widget on the home screen and it’ll count your paces throughout the day pretty effectively.

Other S Health abilities include noting down exercise (through manual input), inputting your weight over the weeks and writing down what you’ve eaten. It’s a pretty manual affair, aside from the pace counter.

The better run trackers

If you’re a runner, using a GPS-enabled run tracker is a much better solution. These will show the exact route you ran on a map and tell you how far you ran. The most popular GPS running apps include RunKeeper and MayMyRun. You’ll also find GPS cycling apps on Google Play.

It’s the one use for the barometer

S Health is also the one part of the Galaxy S4 that currently uses the barometer and thermometer. Yep, the phone actually has those inside its plastic bod. Go to the Comfort Level part of the app and the phone will calculate the moisture level in the air and the temperature. Useful? Absolutely not, unless you have OCD.


Using digital zoom

The Galaxy S4 has a 4x digital zoom function. It reduces the quality of the shots you’ll capture but may come in handy. There are two ways to zoom in and out. You can either use the two-finger pinch gesture on the touchscreen or the volume rocker – volume up zooms in, volume down zooms out. If using zoom, we recommend turning on Anti Shake.

Top photo tips

The key to producing well-composed photos is to understand the geometry of your scene. Wonky horizons are a dead giveaway of a newbie photographer. Photos don’t need to be straight all the time, but everything should be deliberate. To get horizons in order, turn on the grid overlay and use it to line-up your scene. Within the Settings menu of the camera app, click the cog tab and scroll down to Guidelines – then switch ‘em on.

Using Remote viewfinder

A neat application of the Galaxy S4’s Wi-Fi Direct functionality is Remote Viewfinder. This lets you use the phone to control a Samsung camera that also has Wi-Fi Direct. The most obvious current choice is the Samsung Galaxy Camera - pretty much the “smartest” camera on the market at present.

Removing stray objects

One of the most interesting-sounding photo modes of the Galaxy S4 is Eraser. This is a multi-exposure mode that is used to rub out moving objects from scenes – the typical use scenario is that you’ll be taking a photo of some people, but don’t want passers-by in the shot. The mode detects the errant objects and merges the shots to get rid of them. It won’t work perfectly unless the phone is used with a tripod, but it’s a neat trick.

Useful photo modes vs rubbish modes

The best photo modes are those that aren’t based on gimmicks, but actual photographic principals. Here are the good and the bad

The good:

HDR – merges two exposures to increase detail

Panorama – takes a wide shot

Auto – automatically sets photo parameters

Best photo – a burst mode that takes multiple shots in one

The not so good:

Eraser – Takes multiple shots and lets you remove moving objects from the scene

Drama – Merges multiple exposures for funny effects

Sound & shot – Takes audio and video at the same time

Best face – lets you pick the “best face” out of multiple shots

Animated photo – creates an animated GIF where most of the image is static

These modes aren’t useless, they’re just gimmicky because they use ”advanced” editing techniques that will generally result in lower quality snaps – primarily down to wonky auto-compositing of images.

What's your favourite tip or trick? Is there one we've missed? Let us know in the comments.


May 5, 2013, 3:33 am

If I set the phone down while playing music, the music pauses. This drives me nuts!!!


May 5, 2013, 3:10 pm

To take a screenshot, you can also swipe the entire side of your hand across the screen. And don't forget scrolling the web just by tilting your head or the phone. I'm surprised you didn't cover the music square in the default media player. It scans all your music, then a grid with Exciting on the top, Calm on the bottom, Joyful on the right, and passionate on the left lets you set the right mood. There is also a feature to allow you to use your phone as a remote control for certain television sets. It does the standard controls, but then also recommends shows to you. Samsung has added a variety of lock screen options as well. You can unlock with facial recognition, voice recognition, or both combined, type in a PIN, a visible pattern, or a password. Many of these can be combined for added security. For those of you who take tons of photos, there is also a story album feature. When the phone 'notices' a lot of photos were taken on the same day/week, or even at the same location, it suggests and presents an album of photos which you can then turn into an actual book to get mailed to you. The layout is automatic, but can be changed to your liking. The gesture technology is also a neat feature which allows you to interact with your phone in a totally new way. Answer a call by waving your hand (which automatically puts speaker phone on), change songs or switch through photos, and even scroll through a web page. The Drive mode is also a great addition which can be turned on in the notification bar. It reads out texts and emails, answers phone calls, navigates, and controls your media. A driving mode menu stays on the screen with a dimmer setting to conserve battery.

I am very pleased with this phone. while some of the features have been labelled gimmicky, I actually enjoy and use the majority of them. I think something else for people to remember is that in a world where it is difficult to vastly improve on phone tech, this phone has actually added some innovative features. While some are considered cheesy, they are also the very first version of new features that will surely improve and expand with future models. This phone has excited me and people I show in a similar way the first iPhone did.


May 7, 2013, 3:28 am

Go to settings, then motion, uncheck the one that says, flip over (turn over) for mute. :)


June 18, 2013, 8:08 am

Galaxy S4 I purchased There is No Radio Icon..Is it there or Not..Please Help me

Tammy G

July 30, 2013, 3:16 pm

If you wait like maybe 5 seconds after your screen is black to flip your phone it shouldnt pause the music. This is how mine works for me.


August 5, 2013, 10:37 am

When I take a screenshot, it comes up to be edited automatically. How can I change this?

Griff Bell

August 12, 2013, 3:30 pm

How can I turn off email alerts and text messing notifications when I'm talking on the phone?

Griff Bell

August 12, 2013, 3:40 pm

How do you remove the notification alerts from email or text messaging when you are talking on the phone?

Abin Thomas

August 27, 2013, 6:21 am

Settings > My Device > Display > Scroll to bottom and uncheck 'Edit after screen capture"


August 28, 2013, 5:46 pm

My phone keeps on shutting down by itself sometimes. anyone knows y? or is it apart of its features to save battery?

LG can suck my dick

September 6, 2013, 3:19 am

defective, return it


September 17, 2013, 6:20 pm

Help.. My phone will not screen shot when I hit the power and home button.. How else can I get this accomplished???


September 18, 2013, 12:15 pm

how do i change the key entering sensitivity please ?


September 21, 2013, 3:23 pm

my s4 shuts down when i open a game.. how can i fix this?


September 21, 2013, 4:18 pm

Hate the key pad. it is very sensitive and makes up its own words. Sometimes I have to correct so many times I give up. Even after I edit/proof, it will still come up with a language of its own.


September 22, 2013, 6:54 pm

Its not there. Rather download TuneinRadio app.


September 24, 2013, 11:18 pm

how can i download the animated photo to share it off of my computer??? when ever i download it or share it, it just shows up as a picture, a still image.


September 26, 2013, 4:05 pm

By swiping the side of your hand across the screen, if using the SGS4


September 26, 2013, 6:15 pm

You have to save the image as a .gif or .png file format. If you save it as a .jpg it will not support animation


October 2, 2013, 2:09 am

I highly recommend swiftkey available on google play. Ive used on my last 3 phones. It was literally the first app I installed when i got my SGS4.


October 3, 2013, 11:29 am

A.I.Type is even better.


October 9, 2013, 1:34 pm

i bought s4 a few days ago and its great but i got one problem when i take a picture and i go into the gallery instead of a picture theres a black icon of person with a lightning bolt in his head and the picture i took isnt there - someone said its the version of the phone but matbe someone can help me ty


October 20, 2013, 9:41 pm

Will be getting rid of this S4 and having my iphone back. Don't get me wrong it's got a lot of technology but,until Samsung make a phone you can just pick up and use like the iPhone they will never crack the market. iPhone does everything you need it to with so much ease

Darian Tavana

October 21, 2013, 11:59 pm

How can I disable smart launcher on my s4?


October 31, 2013, 1:03 pm

Pretty sure they already "cracked the market" LOL. If you're a "paint by numbers" person then you want apple.

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