It’s no secret that the Samsung Galaxy S III is the must-have phone this summer. After all, this high-end Android phone has won over reviewers and consumers alike, selling more than 10 million units in less than two months on the market. PCWorld gave it 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Much of the hype surrounding the Galaxy S III is well deserved?the phone comes packed with cool features, including its voice controls, gesture controls, and multimedia-sharing tools.
However, your Galaxy S III has some lesser-known features that could be more useful than its headline-grabbing capabilities. And, despite what Samsung’s marketing campaign may have you believe, not all of these features are specific to the Galaxy S III?some are available, often via downloadable apps, on many high-end Android devices. Read on to learn 15 ways you can get the most out of your slick new smartphone.
Calls made easier
Dialing phone numbers or even tapping a contact’s name to place a call? That’s so 2011. The Galaxy S III’s motion controls allow you to place a call simply by moving your phone to your ear when you’re viewing a contact or a text message.
The phone’s voice controls also allow you to answer and reject calls by voice. And if you really feel the need to touch the screen, you’ll be happy to know that the Galaxy S III speeds up this process, too: When you’re viewing a contact, you swipe left to send a text and swipe right to initiate a call.
If you’re not a Galaxy S III user, but you’re still hankering to try out motion controls, you’re not out of luck: Super Missed Call is a free (ad-supported) Android app that lets you place and reject calls by moving your phone.
Steady that snapshot
Apple has made a big deal about the Siri voice-control features included in the iPhone 4S.
But one thing Siri can’t do is control the iPhone’s camera?unlike the Galaxy S III’s voice controls. When you enable the voice controls for the S III’s camera settings (settings > language and input > voice command for apps > camera), you’ll be able to say “Shoot,” and the camera will automatically capture a snapshot.
Anyone who’s captured an off-kilter shot caused by tapping and accidentally moving a touchscreen will appreciate this voice control as a way to steady a shot, and it can be used to snap self-portraits, too.
Customized ringtones make it easy to know who’s calling without a glance at your phone, but they work only when you’re able to keep your phone’s ringer on.
If you’re in a location where a ringing phone is unacceptable, you could be out of luck?unless you’ve set up custom vibration patterns for certain contacts. Go to sounds > device vibration > create, and scroll to the bottom.
Looking to get this capability on your own Android phone? Head to Google Play and download Contact Vibrate or ViBe.
Wake up in style
Let’s face it: We all have to get out of bed sometime. And what better way to face your day than to be prepared for all it has to offer.
Using the “Briefing” setting on your Galaxy S III’s alarm clock, you can have your phone wake you by reading the time, weather and weather forecast, news headlines, and any appointments you may have lined up. To turn this feature on, go to alarm type in the settings menu and change it to briefing.
Not a Galaxy S III owner? Download WakeVoice ($2.99) from Google Play to get some of these features on your Android phone.
Hear your calls, crystal clear
No cell phone is going to offer perfect sound quality, but you can improve the Galaxy S III’s call quality by customizing it to your needs.
The phone offers a personalized call-equalization setting, which tests each of your ears with a range of tones and frequencies to see how well you hear them. It then creates a customized EQ curve for each ear, allowing you to hear calls as clearly as possible. You can access this feature via settings > call sound EQ settings > personalized EQ.
Get the whole picture
Don’t miss out on those big, scenic shots: Capture the entire thing using the Galaxy S III’s panoramic mode.
When you’re in the camera, just switch your shooting mode to panorama,and you can pan across some gorgeous scenery as the Galaxy S III goes to work, snapping the photos you need and stitching them together to make a panoramic image.
Want to get this functionality on your Android phone? Try out Photaf Panorama (free) or Pano ($3.06), both available in Google Play.
Next: Video, web browsing, location, volume tips and more.
Keep that video playing
If you’ve ever tried to keep a toddler entertained by playing a video on your phone, you know how handy it can be. Until said toddler presses a few buttons, minimizing or stopping the video?then all bets are off.
If you want to keep that child’s attention where it should be?on the video, of course?lock the phone’s touchscreen by simply pressing the power button once when a video is playing.
Samsung’s AllShare Play feature has gained a lot of attention, and deservedly so: It sends the content that you see on your phone over to your big-screen TV (provided that your TV is compatible with Samsung’s sharing technology).
This is a great way to watch a movie or see photos on a big screen, but it also offers a unique way to send a video message. Simply record a video of yourself on your phone, and then play it back on your TV with friends and family watching.
If you’d like to try this with another Android phone, you’ll have to purchase a cable to connect your phone to your TV or have a DLNA-compatible phone and TV or set-top box.
Unlock the lock screen’s potential
Feel like your lock screen doesn’t serve much purpose? Unlock its potential by adding shortcuts to your favorite apps and widgets.
Head to settings > security > lock screen options, and you can choose which items you want to see on your lock screen. Keep in mind that you will have to disable the screen lock in order to add most of them.
And speaking of lock-screen options, don’t forget to enable the camera shortcut while you’re in that settings menu. Once you do, you’ll be able to launch the camera simply by placing your finger on the lock screen and turning the phone sideways, into a landscape orientation.
If your Android phone doesn’t offer these features, download WidgetLocker Lockscreen from Google Play; this $2.99 app offers many of the same tools.
Browse the web, privately
Don’t want to leave tracks as you surf the Web on your Galaxy S III? Turn on Incognito browsing.
To do so, open the phone’s on-board browser, and go to the Tabs window in the upper right. Once you’re there, click the cloak-and-dagger man. Presto, you’re browsing privately. When you close the browser, your history isn’t saved.
I remember seeing picture-in-picture video at a friend’s house back in the 1980s and being absolutely awed by the technology.
If only my 10-year-old self could get a look at the Samsung Galaxy S III’s Pop-up Play feature, which allows you to view picture-in-picture video when using the phone’s video player. You can even use it to create a small video window that can sit on top of other apps, so you can, for example, watch a movie while checking email.
Stick It! is a $1.79 app available in Google Play that will bring some of these features to other Android phones.
Share your location, directly
Whether you’re on your way to meet someone, or waiting for someone to meet you, let them know where you are?exactly.
Open up the S III’s texting interface, then press menu and select add text. When the next menu pops up, select location > Google Maps. From there, you can opt to send your exact whereabouts to a friend via SMS.
Take a screenshot. And another. And another. Taking screenshots with the S III is a snap?all you have to do is swipe the screen with your palm. So go ahead, take some more. And some more. And, well, you get the idea.
Other Android phones don’t make it quite as easy. If you’re using a phone running Android version 4.0 or later, you have to press and hold the Volume Down and Power buttons at the same time.
Give that volume a boost
If you’re struggling to hear a caller, but you’ve already maxed out the phone’s volume, you’re out of luck, right? Not so fast: Samsung’s phone offers a way to add a little bit more volume.
When you’re on a call, an extra-volume button appears on your screen, next to the contact phone. You can use the button to turn up the volume when your call isn’t coming through as loudly and clearly as you might like.
If you don’t yet have a Galaxy S III, you will likely have to root your device to get this kind of volume boost. If you’re daring, you can find instructions for doing so online.
Make the phone a flashlight
Stop digging around your bag in the dark, hunting for your keys.
If you have your S III in hand, you’ve already got a flashlight. The Assistive Light widget?which you can add to your home screen by going to Apps, selecting the Widgets tab, and choosing Assistive Light?turns the camera’s flash into a flashlight when you need it most. Some other Android phones have this widget as well.
Want to add the flashlight feature to your Android phone? Check out Tiny Flashlight + LED, available as a free download in Google Play.