The Samsung Galaxy S4 is a pretty spectacular smartphone… and we’re not just saying that because we have it in the Ting lineup.
It’s a device we’ll look back on when we’re talking about the Samsung Galaxy IIX (this assuming Samsung will go back to the Roman numeral versioning system) as a turning point; the time when the specs of a phone caught up to the prospects of what it can do and when the raw technology behind the scenes took a back seat to the user experience. Not to get too philosophical or hyperbolic, of course.
There’s little official talk of tech specs with the S4. Not because they’re not impressive but because the Samsung sell here is more about how the device fits into your life rather than how fast the processor is (quad core 1.9GHz, for the record) or how much RAM it’s rocking (2GB, just in case you were wondering).
After a month or so with the S4, here are a few of our favorite features; things that make the S4 the “life companion” Samsung promised it would be.
Easy Mode is much easier to see and to interact with given the large icons. It cuts the home screens down to three (from the usual five), puts the most often used apps front and center. Easy Mode makes the smartphone experience much more accessible… both literally and figuratively.
How to activate Easy Mode on the S4
- Drag down from the top of the screen to open the notifications bar.
- Tap on the Settings icon and then on the My device tab.
- Tap on Home screen mode and choose Easy mode then tap Apply.
- Hit OK on the confirmation screen.
- The S4 will process for a second and then you’ll be dropped in to your simpler, more user-friendly new home screen.
Multi Window mode
Mult-View is actual, proper multitasking. Multi Window mode apps are accessible via a handy sidebar on the left-hand side of the screen and the mode lets you run two apps, one at the top and one at the bottom of the spacious 5-inch S4 screen, at once. Keep your Twitter feed open while you read the day’s news. Keep a map open atop the screen while you send an email and so on.
How to access Multi Window mode
- Ensure Multi Window is turned on: Swipe down from the top of the screen to access the notifications panel. Swipe the top bar to find “Multi Window” and tap to turn it on (green) or off (grey).
- Any time you want to access Multi Window mode, tap and hold the back button.
- Tap to open any app from the sidebar.
- Tap and drag any other app to either to top or bottom of the screen to start Multi Window mode.
Your Samsung Galaxy S4 tracks your eyes and does some smart things without you even having to think about it. The most basic example: It keeps the screen on as long as you’re looking at it. Another: It pauses the video you’re watching when you avert your eyes (especially handy if you’re following along with a how-to video, for example).
The S4 also does what it calls Smart Scroll where the web page you’re viewing automatically scrolls down for you when you tilt your head. It takes a little getting used to but it might come in handy… you never know.
How to turn on Smart Screen settings
- Drag the notifications bar down and select Settings.
- Tap on the My device, scroll down to Smart Screen and tap to enter.
- Tap to turn on the various Smart Screen features:
- Smart stay: Keeps the screen on as long as you’re looking at it.
- Smart rotation: The screen rotation will match your sight, not just its physical rotation
- Smart pause: A video you’re watching will pause if you avert your eyes.
- Smart Scroll: The screen will scroll vertically in response to your head movements.
Air View is a handy feature that lets you interact with your phone without actually touching it. Hover a finger over the screen and you can get a preview of text messages or pictures in your gallery. Hover over a speed dial contact and see that person’s details. Hover over the scrubber bar on a video and see a snapshot of upcoming scenes. Hover over text or images on a web page and get a magnified view. Actually, don’t do that last one… it really doesn’t work that well if we’re being completely honest with each other.
How to turn on Air View
- Pull down the notifications bar and tap on the settings icon.
- Tap on My device, swipe down to Air View and slide the switch to the ON position.
- Tap on Air View to enter settings.
- Turn the various Air View features on or off by tapping or swiping the ON / OFF switch.
Your S4 can let you know if there’s anything requiring your attention anytime you pick up your phone. With Smart Alerts turned on, your phone will vibrate to let you know if there’s a missed call or text message requiring your attention.
How to turn on Smart Alerts
- Pull down the notifications bar and enter Settings.
- Go to the My device tab and swipe down to Motions and gestures.
- Ensure Motion is turned on then tap to enter Motion settings.
- Turn on Smart Alert
There are a number of other neat features buried in the Motions and gestures menu. Poke around and turn on the ones that sound useful to you.
Use your S4 as a universal remote
The Samsung Galaxy S4 can take control of all your home entertainment components whether said components comprise a beat up old TV or a cutting edge home theater in the basement. It’s all in the WatchON app.
How to turn your Samsung Galaxy S4 into a universal remote
- From a home screen or the app tray, tap to open the WatchON app. You’ll be guided through an initial setup process. You can change these settlings or add more components later.
- Tap to select your country or region then enter your ZIP code and hit Done.
- Select your TV service provider.
- Tap Personalize to set your genre preferences. Tap through the various configuration options then tap Done.
- Sign in to your Samsung account.
- Tap the remote icon in the top right then tap Set up now.
- Select your TV brand then tap the Power button on the screen. Tap No… to try another code or Yes… if your TV turned on.
- Tap through to set up your S4 to act as a remote for all your home theater components by following the subsequent steps.
Rather than dragging one finger down on the notifications bar then tapping around, try dragging down with two fingers. This drops you into a quick access menu that lets you turn different features and services on or off with a tap.