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Home / Tips and Tricks / Samsung Galaxy S21: 6 hidden features to get the most out of your new phone

Samsung Galaxy S21: 6 hidden features to get the most out of your new phone



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

Sarah Tew / CNET

Samsung Galaxy 21 is out now. All three models look really impressive, between full 5G support across the range, a new camera array, and improved camera features. The S21 Ultra even has a new feature for the S series, with S-Pen stylus support.

All three phones work Android 11 with Samsung’s One UI 3.1 patented skin. That means you get the best out of Android 11, but also have access to improvements and tweaks that 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 my favorite hidden features that I’ve discovered on the Galaxy S21 Ultra so far.

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Yes, that power button doesn’t do what you think it does.

Sarah Tew / CNET

How to turn off the S21

If you long press the power button 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 actually launch Bixby, instead of giving you the option 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 menu. As you move forward, long press the power button to access 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 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, you only need to use it with the tip of the S Pen to use 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, the Air Command icon will appear on the screen, allowing you to quickly take notes, screenshots, etc.

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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 effects. Turn it on and then select whether you just want your background to be blurred, a color, or a specific image from your photos.

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Bubbles or not? That is the question.

Jason Cipriani / CNET

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 notifications. Choose 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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Lock screen widgets are where it resides.

Jason Cipriani / CNET

Widgets on the lock screen

Samsung’s Always On Display (AOD) feature has long been a favorite of mine. It makes it easy to quickly view 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 Display. When your phone is locked and the AOD feature is active, then double-tap the clock to view all of your widgets.


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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 panel, and swipe down again to view the full quick settings panel. Press search icon at the top of the screen and enter your question.

As we keep digging through the Galaxy S21 and its features, we’ll keep adding more hidden features that we find. If you have a favorite, please leave a comment. If you’re still unsure about the S21, be sure to read our review. And if you are convinced, you can order one right now.


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