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10 Tips & Tricks for the Samsung Galaxy S4

Got a new Galaxy S4? Well, we've collected 10 tips that can help both old-school Android fans and new users alike get the most out Samsung's latest hit.
May 12, 2013
galaxy s4 tips

Whether you’re the proud owner of a new Samsung Galaxy S4, (im)patiently waiting for yours to arrive, there’s a good chance that you want to know how to get the most out of your phone.

To that end, we have collected 10 tips that can help both old-school Android fans and new users alike. You might not need or want every tip you see here, but you’ll probably find at least one of them useful.

In a hurry? Prefer moving pictures? Check out the video!

1.) Speed Up TouchWiz

There are two kinds of people: those who don’t want to sacrifice features for speed, and those who will do anything for a slight speed increase. Luckily, we have tips for both kinds of people.

If you don’t use S Voice too often, this first tip is definitely for you. Have you ever noticed the slight lag between hitting the home button and the home screen actually appearing? That’s because by default, tapping the home button twice is a shortcut to launch S Voice. If you want, you can open up S Voice and turn off the “Open via the home key” option. Now the home screen will appear immediately after you hit the button.


This next tip is for those who don’t mind digging a little deeper. If you don’t mind sacrificing a few visual enhancements for speed, you can change a few options in the Developer Options menu. First, if you haven’t already, you need to unlock the Developer Options menu by going to Settings -> More -> About Device. Scroll down until you see the build number and tap it 7 times.

Now go back one screen and enter the Developer Options menu. Scroll down to the section labeled “Drawing” and set “Window animation scale,” “Transition animation scale” and “Animator duration scale” all to off. You’ll have a little less animation, but TouchWiz should feel a bit faster and more immediately responsive now.

2.) Get Better Battery Life

With a 2,600 mAh battery, the Samsung Galaxy S4 isn’t exactly a slouch in the battery department, but it’s always nice to know what you can do to extend battery life in case of a long day or a forgotten charger.


One of the easiest things you can do is to turn on Power Saving Mode. You can find this option in Settings -> My Device, and once you have set it up, it’s also available in the quick settings in the notification pane. This allows you to turn on CPU power saving, Screen power saving or to turn off haptic feedback. For best results, you’ll probably want to use all three options.

If that isn’t enough, it’s very easy to start turning things off. One of the biggest culprits when it comes to battery drain is mobile data. Of course, this might not be an option depending on how you need to use your device. BlueTooth, S Beam, NFC and features like Air Gesture or Smart Scroll are all good candidates that are easy enough to turn on and off through quick settings.

Speaking of which…

3.) Customize the Notification Panel

Quick settings, available by pulling down the notification pane, provides an easy way to enable and disable various features. The only problem is that not everybody is going to use the same settings all the time. Luckily, it’s easy to change which settings are shown first.


First, start by pulling down the notification pane. In the very top right, tap the icon that looks like a few squares and two arrows (I don’t really know what to call it). Now tap the pencil icon that appears to the left.

Now all you need to do is drag and drop the icons around to move your most-accessed settings to be the top five. You can still scroll in the notification pane to access other settings, but it’s much handier having the settings you use the most pop up right away.

4.) Take Better Photos

Everybody (including us) has spent a lot of time talking about the more hyped features of the Galaxy S4’s camera: Drama Shot, Eraser, etc. These are interesting, but not really features you’ll find yourself using all the time. Instead, let’s dig down into some features to help you take the best photos you can with your S4.


First, open up the camera and hit the settings button. One of the first things you’ll probably want to do is change the photo size. By default, the Galaxy S4 ships with the photo size set to 9.6 megapixels with a 16:9 aspect ratio. This is a nice aspect ratio for video, but not quite so much for photos. For better quality, you can set the size to 13 megapixels, which uses the more common 4:3 aspect ratio.

You can also change Burst shot, Face detection, Metering, ISO, Anti-Shake and Auto night detection settings here. Off all of them, ISO can be one to pay attention to. With lower ISO settings, your pictures may be darker, but they’ll be far more crisp and sharp. As you turn up the ISO, you can take photos in lower light settings, but at the cost of introducing visual noise to your photos.

5.) Use a Larger Screen

Sometimes you just want a bigger screen. Yeah, the screen on the Galaxy S4 is nice, but not if, say, more than one person wants to watch a video, for example. Fear not, for there are a few ways to hook your S4 up to a bigger screen.

If you have a Samsung TV or you happen to own an AllShare Cast dongle, the easiest way is to simply use the built-in screen mirroring feature. Just head to Settings -> Connections and scroll down to the bottom to find Screen Mirroring. Now all you need to do is wait for it to scan and find your devices.


The less laggy option is to use MHL. Now, for this to work, you’ll need an 11-pin MHL adapter, as the standard 5-pin adapters won’t work for the S4. Samsung sells an official adapter for the S4. Simply plug it in and run the HDMI out to your television and you’re all set for everything from videos to games.

If neither of the above options works for you, you can use DLNA to share media from the S4 to other DLNA-enabled devices like Blu-Ray players, televisions, game consoles or other electronics. No, you can’t mirror your screen this way, but it works in a pinch for photos, videos and music.

6.) Control Your Communication

The Samsung Galaxy S4 includes two different options for controlling who can contact you and when.

The first, Blocking Mode, is an excellent option for getting a good night’s sleep. To find it head to Settings -> My Device and scroll down a little. With Blocking Mode on, you can disable incoming calls, notifications, the alarm, and the LED indicator. Either turn the option on manually or set it to disable communications between certain hours.


If you want to deal with one specific number, call rejection might be a better option. To find it, head to Settings -> My Device and you’ll find it under the “Call” menu. The most common way to set it up is to use the Auto reject list. Simply enter a number, check the box next to it, and you’re all set. If you want, you can have the S4 automatically send a message to the person explaining why their call was rejected.

7.) Customize the Lock Screen

By default, the Galaxy S4’s lock screen isn’t the most interesting or useful lock screen we’ve ever seen. It’s functional sure, but for those of you who like a bit more action in your lock screen, there are a few things we can do to improve it.


To get started, head to Settings -> My Device and select Lock Screen. First, you’ll want to check the “Multiple widgets” option. If you’d like, you can select the “Shortcuts” option to enable shortcuts to various apps on your lock screen. In the “Lock screen widgets” sub-menu, you can choose between a few options for defaults on the lock screen.

Now for the real fun, lock your device and head to the lock screen to check it out. By swiping near the top of the screen you can now get to the camera widget located to the right, or add your own widgets on the left. Everything from communication notifications to Gmail to Google Now is available.

8.) Make Videos More Fun

If all you want to do is capture something happening, the Galaxy S4’s camera is great right out of the box. If you want to get a little more creative, though, we’ve got a few options to spice up your videos.

First, open up the camera app and select the settings icon at the top of the screen. Now select the icon that looks like a small video camera to bring up the video options. You’ll notice that aside from “Normal” and “Limit for MMS,” there are two other options: “Slow Motion” and “Fast Motion.” Both do exactly what you’d think.


Once you have either of these options selected, you’ll notice another icon pops up to the right of the camera icon. This allows you to select how slow or fast the video is. Slow motion allows for 1/2, 1/4 and 1/8 of normal time. Fast motion can go 2x, 4x or 8x normal speed.

It’s worth noting that these will negatively impact the overall quality of the video, but come on. Fun is fun, right?

9.) Use Adapt Sound

A lot of people are talking about Samsung’s Adaptive Display feature in the Galaxy S4, but there’s another feature that doesn’t get discussed nearly as much: Adapt Sound. Before I used it, I assumed it was a feature like those you see on televisions: Movie mode, Music mode, etc. I was wrong.

Adapt Sound is a feature that tests your hearing and headphones to tune its audio to focus on frequencies you can actually hear. To find it, head to Settings -> My Device -> Sound. Now scroll all the way to the bottom to find Adapt Sound.


Plug in your headphones and start the test. Basically all it does is play a series of tones to test what frequencies you can hear, and whether you hear better out of one ear than the other. Going through the whole test takes about a minute. Once you’re finished you can preview the feature to ensure that you like the results.

Personally I found that audio sounded a bit clearer and more detailed with Adapt Sound turned on. Your mileage may vary.

10.) Use Auto-Brightness for a Brighter Screen

Now, if you use Auto-Brightness all the time anyway, this tip probably isn’t a big deal. If you’re like me, however, you generally turn off Auto-Brightness as soon as you get a new phone. While, most of the time I prefer to have control of the screen brightness, there actually is a reason for using this feature on the Galaxy S4.


While the Galaxy S4’s screen is likely the brightest Samsung has produced to date, you aren’t able to turn it up to maximum brightness manually (probably to prevent burn-in or other screen damage). With Auto-Brightness, however, this isn’t a problem. So the next time you’re squinting and trying to make out what’s on screen on a bright day, remember to tick the checkbox for Auto-Brightness in the notification pane.


Do you have a favorite tip we mentioned? How about a tip that we didn’t cover that you might want to share with other readers? Let us know down in the comments!