The Galaxy S21 series embodies Samsung’s approach to smartphone design, which includes more features than the competition. That means your new phone does a lot of cool stuff, but good luck finding everything. However, we can get you started. Here are 10 things you can do with your new Galaxy S21.
Confirm the side key
Most phones have a button on the right that allows you to turn it on and off, and you would probably call this the power button. Samsung prefers “side button”
Fortunately, you can ban Bixby from your button. Just go to Settings > Advanced functions > Side key. From here you can change that press and hold setting to produce the power menu like on any other phone.
Google Discover on the home screen
After years of resistance, Samsung has brought Google’s Discover panel to life on the One UI home screen. It may not be enabled by default on your phone, but it is quick to install. First, open the home screen editing interface by long pressing on an empty spot or pinching with two fingers. Swipe all the way to the left and you will see a switch. When enabled, the chosen info panel will appear on the far left of your home screen. You have two options: Google Discover and Samsung Free. Believe me, you want Discover.
Lift to wake up
Samsung has a new in-display fingerprint sensor in the S21, and it’s much, much faster. All you have to do is find it. The area with the sensor is only highlighted when the screen is awake or always on. The fastest and most efficient way to unlock your phone is to enable ‘Lift to wake’, which Samsung has buried deep in the settings.
You can find this switch below Settings > Advanced settings > Movements and gestures > Lift to wake up. Once that’s enabled, the screen will wake up when you pick up the phone, making it much easier to find the sensor and unlock the phone in one smooth motion.
Video call effects
The use of video conferencing software like Zoom has skyrocketed in the last year and the S21 has a feature to make these apps a little more powerful. Even if your app doesn’t have live wallpaper effects, the S21 may be able to add them. Just go in Settings > Advanced settings > Video call effects.
In this menu you can choose between blur, solid colors and custom images. It can be connected to a variety of apps, including Duo and Zoom. It consumes a little more power during video calls, but you don’t have to worry about what’s behind you before answering a call.
Adjust the background limits
Samsung has long been aggressive about throttling background processes on its phones, and it’s actually more strict with the S21. There is an option in the setup to skip Samsung’s heavy-handed app sleep mode, but it’s also available in the settings under Settings > Battery and device maintenance > Battery > Usage limits in the background.
This feature is different from app optimization, which all Android phones have. Sleep apps on Samsung phones don’t work in the background at all, which is annoying when you want an app to pass notifications even if you don’t open it regularly. Disable this feature and you will avoid these problems. The battery life may decrease slightly, but the phone will perform better.
Some of the most popular social media and messaging apps don’t support multiple accounts, which is a bummer. However, Samsung has a handy built-in feature called Dual Messenger that makes copies of these apps so you can log into a second profile. This feature is again in Advanced Settings, at the bottom bottom.
Dual Messenger works with Facebook, Telegram, WhatsApp, Snapchat and more. You will get a second copy of the app icon marked with an icon to remind you which one is the Dual Messenger copy. You can normally use this app in addition to the “regular” app. If you decide you don’t want a separate app anymore, disable it in the Dual Messenger settings.
Customize smart home devices
Samsung has adopted the new smart home dashboard from Google, but it doesn’t put it on the power menu screen. On the S21 you will find a new ‘Devices’ item at the top of the notification shade. Tap that and you will see an overview of smart home devices under Google Home or Samsung SmartThings. You can control lamps, thermostats, cameras and more.
You want to customize the devices visible here, which are hidden in the settings in the overflow menu. Simply select and hold the smart home devices you want to include and drag to move them where you want.
The Bixby voice assistant isn’t very useful, but Samsung’s Bixby routines are. Despite having the same branding, there is no relationship between the functions. Bixby Routines allows you to create automation schedules to change your phone settings and control connected devices.
To get started, just go to Settings > Advanced settings, and find Bixby Routines. Turn on the switch and start linking actions and services to see what you can create. Routines are also easy to set up: they are configured as “If-Then” statements. There are some recommended routines to start your morning or mute your phone at work, but the possibilities are almost endless.
Install Good Lock
You might think the S21 has a lot of features built in, and you’re right. However, that is not the scope of your change options. Samsung’s Good Lock hub offers even more customization for your home screen, lock, screen, clock, buttons and more.
Download Good Lock from the Galaxy Store to get started. It’s free and connects you to all the separate modules to control different parts of the phone: LockStar, QuickStar, Clockface, MultiStar, NavStar, Home Up and NotiStar. Now that everything is in place, there are a ton of settings to explore. With Good Lock, you can do things like force apps to work with multiple windows, change the color of your navigation button, keep notification logs, and more.
S Pen support (S21 Ultra only)
If you have the latest and greatest S21 Ultra from Samsung, there is one more feature to discover that the other S21s don’t have: S Pen support. This phone has a digitizer in the screen, allowing you to take advantage of Samsung’s inductive stylus technology. You can get a stylus just for the S21 Ultra, plus a case to hold it for $ 70. However, you can just buy a cheap replacement Note20 stylus for less than $ 20 that works just as well.
With the S Pen you can easily sketch, write and color on your phone. It also gives you the Ai Command popup where you can access apps with stylus more easily. The S21 Ultra does not support the Bluetooth features of the Note S pens, but most of the functionality is there.