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Home / Tips and Tricks / 7 Galaxy S21 features that will make your friends jealous

7 Galaxy S21 features that will make your friends jealous



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The Galaxy S21 series has many features, some of which are hidden.

Sarah Tew / CNET

Samsung’s Galaxy S21 line-up is impressive. From 5G support to a new camera setup with better performance, there’s a lot to rave about. Heck, the S21 Ultra even borrowed one of the Note’s branding features: S-Pen stylus supportThat’s right, you can now use a stylus to write or draw on any of Samsung’s S series phones.

All three phones work Android 11 with Samsung One UI 3.1 proprietary skin. That means you get the best that Android currently has to offer (until Android 12 comes out), but you can also access improvements and tweaks Samsung has made to the operating system. For example, the S21 has two different types of floating notifications and you can now add effects to your video calls.

Below, I’ll show you some of the best features I’ve discovered on the Galaxy S21 Ultra so far.


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How to turn off the S21

If you hold down the power button for a long time expecting to turn off the phone, you will be in for a surprise. A Bixby surprise, to be precise. That’s right, holding down the power button will launch Bixby instead of allowing you to turn off the phone. But don’t worry, you have a few different options for shutting down or restarting your S21:

  • Swipe down from the top of the screen to display the quick settings panel, then tap the power button in the top right corner.
  • Long press the side button and the volume down button at the same time until the power menu appears.
  • Change the Side button to function as the Power button by scrolling to Settings Advanced functions Side key and select Turn off the menuFrom now on, a long press of the power button will open the power menu.
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The S21 Ultra works with an S Pen. Cool right?

Sarah Tew / CNET

S-Pen support on the S21 Ultra

This isn’t a hidden feature, but it just isn’t that obvious unless you’ve been explicitly told about it. You see, the S21 Ultra doesn’t miss anything to store the S Pen like the Note series does. So if you bought the phone because you wanted the best from Samsung, you wouldn’t know any better.

The S21 Ultra works with any Galaxy Note series or Galaxy Tab S series S-Pen stylus. Or you can opt for the S21 Ultra case with an S Pen.

If you have an S Pen, just tap its tip on the screen to start using it with the Ultra. It should just work. If you hold the pen just above the screen surface, you will see a small icon on the screen indicating that it recognizes the stylus. As soon as you touch it on the screen, it will show the Air Command icon, so you can quickly take notes, screenshots and so on.

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Smart select has to be one of the best hidden features on any Galaxy phone.

Sarah Tew / CNET

Take better screenshots

Every Galaxy S21 has Samsung’s slightly hidden Edge panels that hide shortcuts to apps, functions and information. You may have noticed a slightly transparent line along the right side of the screen of your S21. That’s where you can access the hidden panels. Out of the box, one of the screenshots has been disabled.

It’s easily one of the most useful panels, as it gives you several options for doing more than just capturing your screen. The panel is actually called Smart Select, and it gives you the tools to capture just part of your screen using the rectangle or ellipse, include an animated image (or GIF), or pin a screenshot, maybe with a phone number or address, to your screen.

Go to to enable the Smart Capture panel Settings Screen Edge panels Panels and tap the circle above Smart selectionIn the future, you just need to open the Edge panel and swipe between the panels you added until you find smart select, then select the tool you want to use to take a screenshot.

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Video calls can take a different look with new video call effects.

Sarah Tew / CNET

Add effects to your video calls

Have you ever seen someone use those beautiful wallpapers on Zoom? The ones that make it look like you are somewhere else? Well, you can do that on the Galaxy S21 during your video calls. Go to to select your effect Settings Advanced functions Video call effectsTurn it on and then select whether you just want your background to be blurry, a color, or a specific image of your photos.

Enable Floating Notifications for easy access to alerts

Android 11 brought the launch of Google’s new Bubbles notification feature, which looks a lot like and works like Facebook Messenger’s Chatheads feature. That is, instead of swiping down the notification shade to view alerts, a floating circle gives you quick access to your conversations at all times. Bubbles does the same, but for more apps, such as Google’s Messages.

Bubbles joins Samsung’s version of the same feature called Smart pop-up view. But before you can use either one, you need to enable it.

Go to Settings notifications Advanced settings Floating notificationsChoose the option you want to use, both of which have a quick animation on the screen to show how they work. Experiment with both Bubbles and the smart pop-up feature to find out which one you prefer, even if it’s neither.

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Bubbles or not? That is the question.

Jason Cipriani / CNET

Widgets on the lock screen

Samsung’s Always On Display feature has long been a favorite of mine. It makes it easy to quickly see information or control audio playback, but the Galaxy S21 can do even more. If you are going to Settings Lock screen Widgets you can enable any widget you want to use along with Display on Always On DisplayWhen your phone is locked and the AOD is active, then double-tap the clock to view all of your widgets.

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Lock screen widgets are where it resides.

Jason Cipriani / CNET

Search for something on your phone

Having trouble finding an app, contact or file? Swipe down from the top of the screen to view the quick settings shortcut panel, and swipe down again to display the full quick settings panel. Tap the search icon at the top of the screen and enter your search query.

If you’re still on the fence about the S21, be sure to read our reviewThe S21 Ultra has some nice camera tricks – here’s how to use themIf you’re curious about the future of Android and what features it will bring, Android 12 is currently in beta and we’ve got an overview of our favorite features so farIf your phone starts to feel a little slow, give it a tune-up


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