I know this is going to elicit howls of anger from the Samsung faithful, but no matter which way you cut it, Bixby is a half-baked voice assistant. No matter how much potential it might have by the end of the year (and I’ll be happy to revisit my current condemnation at that time), right now it’s not terribly helpful, resembling first-generation Google Now.
So play around with Bixby for a little while if you like, but you’d be much better off wrapping your head around what Google Assistant can do instead. Not only is Assistant far more advanced, it can also follow you from one phone to another, unlike Bixby who will only ever live in Galaxy devices. If you decide to go this route, and have no interest in Bixby Vision etc, you can long press on the home screen, swipe to the Bixby screen and flip the switch to hide Bixby until its ready.
Switch button layout
If you’ve always felt that Samsung had its navigation buttons in the wrong order, you’re far from alone. So far from alone that Samsung even finally decided to let you put them in normal Android order on the Galaxy S8.
If you’ve been using Galaxy phones forever and think the way Samsung has always done it is the right way, then please move along, but if you’re itching to get things back in the right order, go to Settings > Display > Navigation bar > Button layout and choose Back – Home – Recents. Then sit back and feel the universe aligning somewhat. You made the right decision.
Samsung’s software has gotten much faster over recent years but all Android phones can do with a little speed boost. Or in the absence of an actual speed boost, a simple trick to make your phone feel a little snappier.
First you need to enable developer options. Go to Settings > About phone > Software information and tap on Build number seven times. Back up to the main Settings menu and you’ll see Developer options at the bottom.
Scroll down until you see the options called Window animation scale and Transition animation scale. Turn both of these options off to get a snappier feeling phone (if you want to see what they do, put them at 10x and navigate around a little).
Disabling animations is a simple trick to make your phone feel a little snappier.
Maximize your screen space
If you want to make the most of that luxurious Infinity Display, then you might want to take a leaf out of my book and shrink the on-screen contents a little to give it the feeling of being even larger. Fortunately, there’s a raft of options that allow you to achieve this quickly and easily, without any of the fiddly tweaks it used to require.
First up, go to Settings > Display > Screen zoom and font and slide the sliders around to get the icon and text size the way you like. Just remember to hit Apply each time before backing out to see how it looks. You can also change the layout of app icons on your home screen and in the app drawer, allowing you to further change the sense of space.
Full screen apps
The Galaxy S8 comes with a fancy 18.5:9 aspect ratio that means a lot of your apps won’t be designed to fit from the get go. App developers will be scrambling to adapt their apps to a phone as important as the S8 – and Google is encouraging them to do so too – but in the meantime you can simply tell your S8 to force all your apps into the new aspect ratio.
Just go to Settings > Display > Full screen apps and flip the switch for all the apps on your phone. There’s no need to do so for Samsung’s apps as they’re already optimized for the display and most of Google’s bundled apps are enabled by default, but you’ll need to flip the switch individually for any apps you install after taking the phone out of the box.
The bundled AKG earbuds in the Galaxy S8 box, worth $99 separately, are actually really good.
Actually use the AKG headphones
If you’re anything like me, you have headphones of varying sizes and quality all around the house and you probably just leave the ones in the box a new smartphone came in until you lose the pair you’re currently using. Don’t do that this time.
The bundled AKG earbuds in the Galaxy S8 box, worth $99 separately, are actually really good. Not really good when compared to a $250 pair of Sennheisers, but absolutely awesome for a free pair in the box. So ditch those old grubby iPod earphones you’ve been clinging onto for years and put these bad boys in your ears instead. They’ll thank you for it.
Set up the blue light filter
From making your ears happy to your eyes, blue light filters have become standard fare for a lot of newer smartphones. Cutting out blue light, especially after dark, can help you get to sleep easier. The only thing is you have to actually take a moment to set it up.
Doing so is quite easy though: you can either choose to have it automatically come on between sunset and sunrise, turn it on manually (also an option in the Quick Settings) or you can set a custom schedule if you’d prefer to blast your brain with blue light a little later in the night than dinner time. Go to Settings > Display > Blue light filter and play around.
Cutting out blue light, especially after dark, can help you get to sleep easier.
Samsung’s pre-installed app situation has improved dramatically over the years, but there’s still a few apps on your Galaxy S8 you will either never use or simply don’t want. Fortunately, you can remove most of these. For those you can’t uninstall completely, you can disable them so they don’t run in the background, even if you won’t be able to recoup that storage space.
Just open the app drawer and long press on an app icon (this also works on the home screen). You’ll see a shortcut menu like Android’s launcher shortcuts. One of the options near the bottom will either be Uninstall, Disable or a grayed-out Disable. Uninstall those you can, disable those you can’t and make your peace with the ones you have no control over. Unfortunately for those of you with a carrier-branded S8 you’ll have fewer options to delete bloatware than international unlocked owners. Sorry about that.
Enable scanner gestures
In case you didn’t know, some newer smartphones allow you to drag down the notifications shade by swiping down on the fingerprint scanner. This is a handy trick to have up your sleeve if you’re using your phone one handed or aren’t excited about the hand gymnastics required to shimmy up to the top of the phone, specially on one as tall and slippery as the S8.
Go to Settings > Advanced features > Finger sensor gestures and flip the switch to on. Now you can swipe down and up on the scanner (if you can reach it) to drag down or pull up the notifications shade.
- The pros and cons of finger scanner gestures
- Synaptics’ new scanner has force recognition and swipe gestures
Change quick settings tile size
As you may have guessed from a few entries above, I like to maximize the sense of space on my phone. The Galaxy S8 has another nice built-in option that lets you squeeze a little more info on screen. Just pull down the Quick Settings panel from the top of the screen, either with a two-finger swipe or two single finger swipes, and tap the overflow menu in the top right hand corner (the three vertical dots).
Tap Button grid and choose the one you prefer. You can make the toggles larger or smaller, but if you go smaller, in a 5×3 grid (as I recommend) you’ll be able to get almost all of your Quick Settings tiles on the one screen. Hit the overflow menu again and tap Button order to drag the toggles around. This lets you put the most important ones for you on the first screen, negating the need to swipe to the second panel.
As you no doubt have heard, the Galaxy S8 ships with its QHD+ screen set to FullHD+ resolution. This was presumably set as the default option to eke out additional battery life and to be fair, most people probably wouldn’t even notice it’s not 2K.
But, if you want the very best out of your Galaxy S8 – especially if you’re picking up a Gear VR to go with it – then you’ll want to bump that default resolution up to the full QHD+.
Go to Settings > Display > Screen resolution and drag that slider over to the far right. Note that this will consume more battery life, so if you don’t notice a significant benefit, perhaps consider dropping it back to FullHD+ or even HD+ when battery life is important.