The Samsung Galaxy S3 is one of the most feature-packed gadgets of the year. It can do so much that it’s impossible to get your head around everything it’s capable of in a few days. We’ve spent an age with the phone, and are here to share what we’ve found.
If you want to get to know your Samsung Galaxy S3 a bit better, check out our round-up of the 50 juiciest tips and tricks for the Android giant. Think we’ve missed something? Drop us a line in the comments.
Galaxy S3 tips and tricks video
See our favourite tips from the full 50 Galaxy S3 tips and tricks in our video.
Update: 2013 Extras
Samsung has confirmed that the Galaxy S3 will get most of the new software features introduced in 2013’s Galaxy S4. These include things like Smart Scroll, the new camera interface and the S Translator, which translates text between languages.
When will the update arrive? At the time of writing, we’re not sure. With Galaxy S4 fixes likely on top of Samsung’s priority list, it could take a few months.
Have the next-generation model already? Be sure to read our top Samsung Galaxy S4 tips and tricks.
Bonus 1: App download problems
A common issue with Android is that sometimes apps will refuse to download from the app store. It’s frustrating. Very frustrating.
If you encounter this issue, there are a few things to try. The first is to ensure you have enough internal memory. Try deleting an app or game you don’t play/use regularly any more.
If that doesn’t help, you need to try clearing the cache of the Play Store app. You’ll find this option in the Play Store’s entry in the Apps Manager menu of Settings. If this fails too, you’ll need to remove your current Google account from the device in the Accounts section of Settings, restart the phone and re-add it.
Bonus 2: Quick-access settings via notifications
The main function of the square function switches within the notifications bar is to let you turn battery-sapping features on and off quickly. However, they also function as quick shortcuts to the full Settings sub-menus they are linked to.
Just hold down on, for example, the Bluetooth switch to be taken to the Bluetooth section within Settings. If you’re a hardcore user, this little tip may save you some time.
Bonus 3: How to sync with iTunes
iTunes is not designed to sync with a Samsung Galaxy S3, but with the help of some third-party software you can make the two hook up.
The app you need is called Easy Phone Sync, available from Google Play. What this does is talk to a desktop counterpart app, called – you guessed it – Easy Phone Sync, available from the company’s website.
This lets you transfer your iTunes library over to the phone without much faffing, including photos and podcasts as well as music.
Also, be sure read our comparison of the iPhone 5 and Samung Galaxy S3 or watch our favourite five picks in the video below.
1. Smart stay
Here’s a neat little gimmicky Samsung Galaxy S3 feature that could come in very handy if you like to read books or web articles on your phone. Smart stay uses the user-facing camera to scan for your eyes looking at the screen. If it finds them, it’ll keep the screen backlight active, rather than let it sleep. You can activate the feature from within the Display submenu of the full Settings menu.
2. Font changer
If you don’t like the standard, fairly serious look of the Samsung Galaxy S3, you can change the font used in the menu systems for a more light-hearted style. There are three other fonts available from the off, and you can download more from Google Play. The font changer option is in the Display submenu.
3. Check out OAP mode
Android can be confusing for people who aren’t massive tech fans. We’re not quite sure why such people would have bought as fancy a phone as the Samsung Galaxy S3, but we’re not here to judge. For this eventuality, Samsung has provided an “easy” UI mode, which simplifies the look of home screens, using large, blocky preset widgets. You can try out this mode in the Home Screen Mode submenu within Settings.
4. Motion controller
The Samsung Galaxy S3 takes the “kitchen sink” approach to features, shoving in everything it can manage. Motion controller options are evidence of quite how far this extends. You can flick between home screens by flicking the phone left and right, and that’s just the beginning. There are bundles of options here, from zooming in and out of web pages by tilting the phone up and down to being able to take a screengrab by wiping the side of your hand across the screen. Check out the full list in the Motion submenu in Settings.
5. Don’t forget folders
To make effective use of your home screens, you need to think about using folders, which store app shortcuts. To make one, just hold a finger down on an app shortcut and drag it onto another app shortcut.
6. Quick search bar access
The quickest way to perform a quick web search on the Samsung Galaxy S3 when on a home screen is by using a dedicated gestural shortcut. Hold down the Menu soft key for around two seconds and you’ll be taken directly to a Google search bar.
7. Customise your lock screens
The custom lock screen of the Samsung Galaxy S3 features a row of icons that can be used to take you directly to any app. By default, the lock screen houses the phone caller, SMS hub, S Voice app and the camera. There’s a dedicated Lock Screen submenu in Settings that lets you define your own shortcuts.
8. Face unlock – it ain’t magic
Here’s a pro tip – if you want to keep your phone secure, Face Unlock isn’t the way to do it. Face Unlock recognises the geometry of your face to unlock the Samsung Galaxy S3 without any fingers needed. It’s more of a fun feature rather than a hardcore security measure, and someone that looks a bit like you may well be able to unlock your phone. Heck, even a picture of you will do it.
9. You can gesture type, like Swype
The Samsung Galaxy S3 features its own Samsung virtual keyboard. One of the neat extras it offers is gesture typing, which lets you drag a path over the letters in words rather than tapping them one-by-one. Many people find it much faster than standard typing, and with a good corrections algorithm it’s arguably more accurate too. Swipe-y typing is enabled in the keyboard menu, under the heading continuous input.
10. You can have up to seven home screens
Samsung gives you control over how many home screens there are in your Galaxy S3. To add or delete home screens, head to a home screen and use the pinch gesture to zoom out and see the whole roster of screens. From there you’ll be able to add additional ones, or drag existing ones into the virtual dustbin.
11. Contacts book touchscreen gestures
From within the Contacts book, you can call and text people directly using touchscreen gestures. A right-to-left swipe across a contact entry will message them, and a left-to-right swipe will call them. It’s a lot quicker than tapping on their entry and then tapping again on their phone number.
12. Install Facebook and Twitter for quickie contact-gathering
The Samsung Galaxy S3 is a fantastic social networking tool, but you can make your social apps work for you too. Install the Facebook and Twitter apps and you can use your friends and followers lists to pull contacts into your phone’s Contacts book.
13. Avoid people with block mode
If you’re just a little too good at making friends and influencing people, you may want to check out the block mode. This lets you control the sorts of notifications, calls and alerts you get at certain times of the day. The most obvious use is to stop people from ringing you while you’re asleep. The Samsung Galaxy S3 also lets you keep up a list of “approved” contacts that can get through at all times. You’ll find the blocking option in the Settings menu.
14. Make use of notification bar settings options
The quickest way to increase battery life is to manage the connections that the Samsung Galaxy S3 uses. 3G is one of the biggest drains on a smartphone’s battery, cutting stamina from several days to a day and a half. The pull-down notifications bar lets you turn off connections within a screen tap or two. Connections we recommend managing include Bluetooth, 3G, Wi-Fi and GPS.
15. Investigate power saving mode
When your battery level gets a bit low, the Samsung Galaxy S3 comes with its own emergency power saving mode that cuts down the power-draining features used by the phone. These include haptic feedback, screen brightness, CPU speed and the background screen colour in the internet browser.
16. Boost battery with a dark background
The Samsung Galaxy S3 has an AMOLED-type screen. As it does not use a universal backlight, this display uses more power when more of the screen is bright white. Use a dark or black background and you should find that the battery lasts that little bit longer.
17. You can change brightness from the drop-down notification bar
Along with connectivity settings, the notifications bar also has a brightness slider. It’s the quickest way to change brightness. There’s also an “Auto” tickbox, which lets the Samsung Galaxy S3 use the ambient light sensor on the front of the phone to judge how bright the screen needs to be, altering the backlight automatically depending on the surroundings.
18. You can record radio using the FM tuner
FM radio isn’t really cool anymore, we’ll admit, but it uses a whole lot less battery than streaming internet radio over 3G – and it doesn’t demand you’re connected to the internet either. The FM radio uses your earphone cable as an antenna, and the Samsung Galaxy S3 even lets you record radio to the internal memory. You can then easily pull recorded files off the phone to archive on a computer, if you like.
19. Check out the custom EQ setting in the music player
Don’t like the sound that your earphones produce? The Samsung Galaxy S3 lets you tweak audio output with a custom equaliser. There are loads of presets included, or you can choose your own settings, with a 7-band EQ, 3D effect, Bass boost, reverb, and Clarity treble optimiser. You’ll find the shortcut to the EQ on the playback button bar of the music player.
20. Use Music Square for auto playlists
Gimmick or genius? Music Square tip-toes along the divide. It analyses your music and decides whether it’s relaxed or exciting, joyful or passionate. You can then pick exactly what mood you’re after using the Music Square interface – which looks a bit like a Korg Kaosspad. It works remarkably well, and is a boon if you like playlists but can’t be bothered to make them.
21. You can edit videos in the video player
The integrated video player of the Samsung Galaxy S3 is excellent for several reasons, primarily because it can play loads of different video types. It does more besides, too. You can trim videos from within the app, which is handy for those who love making their own little videos using the phone’s camera.
22. Check out AllShare
AllShare is Samsung’s take on DLNA. Sound like tech jargon? DLNA is a wireless standard that lets you stream video and music over a Wi-Fi network. AllShare uses DLNA and packages the tech into an easy-to-use package, especially if you’re piping content between Samsung brand devices. Plenty of Samsung gadgets support AllShare include tablets, Blu-ray players and TVs.
23. HDMI adapter
The Samsung Galaxy S3 does not have a dedicated video output, but there is a way to output video from the phone without using Wi-FI – the Samsung MHL adapter. This uses the microUSB port on the rear of the phone to send up to HD video and surround sound to TVs and other devices. The £20-odd adapter plugs in to the socket and ends in an HDMI socket, letting you jam in a standard HDMI cable.
24. Consider a battery booster
There are plenty of batteries available Samsung Galaxy S3 – standard-size ones, extra large ones and dodgy knock-off ones that might set your house aflame. Some will double your battery life, such as the top-quality Mophie juice pack that’s made specifically for the Galaxy S3. The phone slots into the battery pack, increasing the body size without ruining ergonomics.
The Mophie Galaxy S3 battery pack
25. Forget the 64GB edition
Our buyer’s tip is to forget the 64GB edition of the Samsung Galaxy S3. It’s not widely available in the UK – the 16GB and 32GB editions are far more common – and it’s not really worth the extra cash. The Galaxy S3 has a microSD memory card slot, and expanding the memory using one of these cards is much cheaper than spending the extra on a phone with greater internal memory.