Phandroid » Tips & Tricks Android Phone News, Rumors, Reviews, Apps, Forums & More! Sat, 20 Sep 2014 23:23:56 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Moto G (2nd Gen) Tips & Tricks Thu, 18 Sep 2014 16:39:37 +0000 moto-g-back-hero

The all-new Moto G went on sale last week, and the phone is already landing in the hands of the early adopters. We had our own chance to check out the phone, and we were pretty amazed at what this $180 smartphone can do. Here are some of the tips and tricks we discovered that every Moto G owner should know about.

Check out our full Moto G (2014) review

Transfer contacts, photos, and more to your Moto G


The Moto G includes Motorola Migrate, a service that makes it easy to move your precious data from your old phone to your new one, whether that old phone is an Android device, iPhone, or even a feature phone. Motorola Migrate can transfer contacts and calendar events as well as photos, text message history, and more.

  • When transferring from another Android device, you must first download Motorola Migrate from the Google Play Store and install it on the old phone. Then launch Migrate on the Moto G and select “Android” as the device type.
  • To transfer data from an iPhone, open Motorola Migrate on the Moto G and select “iPhone.” Use your iCloud and Google login info to easily move your contacts and more to your new phone (you’ll also want to separately make sure your new phone is playing nice with previous iMessage settings).
  • If your old device is a feature phone, open Motorola Migrate and select “Other phone type.” Follow the onscreen prompts to transfer data via the older device’s Bluetooth connection.

Use voice commands


You can control your Moto G with your voice thanks to Google Now. To access voice commands, simply tap the microphone icon in the Google search widget (or open Google Now and do the same).

Some voice commands to try include:

  • “Open [app name]“
  • “Call [contact name]“
  • “Text [contact name],” then speak the message you wish to send
  • “Directions/Navigate to [location name]“
  • “Set an alarm for [date/time]“

You can also try asking Google Now a question like, “How old is the president of the United States?” For more commands and a full tutorial, see our article on Google Now Voice Commands.

Motorola Alert


Motorola Alert allows you to quickly notify friends and family of your location, whether you are planning to meet up in an unfamiliar location or in case of an emergency. If the latter is the case, Motorola Alert can also sound an alarm or dial an emergency number.

Setup Alert by launching the the app (located in the Moto G’s applications drawer) and following the onscreen prompts. You will be asked to enter information about who to contact as well as how to contact them. You can also choose an emergency contact.

To notify specified contacts when you arrive or leave a location such as work, home, or school, tap “Give peace of mind by sharing your location with family and friends.” You will be prompted to choose a location and contact to be notified.

Motorola Assist


Your Moto G can help to filter out unwanted calls and cut back on distractions thanks to Motorola Assist. Motorola Assist smartly determines when you are in a meeting, sleeping, driving, and more and takes appropriate actions like silencing your phone or reading text messages aloud.

To enable Motorola Assist, launch the app from the app drawer. Then,

  • select “Meeting” to allow your Moto G to use your calendar events to determine when to silence your phone (you can create exceptions to this rule based on favorite contacts or urgent calls as well as enable a text message auto reply);
  • select “Sleeping” and silence your phone during the hours you normally sleep;
  • select “Driving” to enable your Moto G to read text messages aloud and tell who is calling (you can also set your phone to automatically begin playing music when driving);
  • select “Home” to set your phone in “Talk to me” mode when at home.

Unlock your Moto G with a Trusted Device


Have a Bluetooth headset or Bluetooth infotainment system in your car? You can list them as Trusted Devices that will automatically unlock your Moto G when in range. A Trusted Device can be any Bluetooth gadget or accessory, from your laptop to your Moto 360 smartwatch. Here’s how to set one up:

  1. Pair your Moto G with the Bluetooth device you wish to make a Trusted Device.
  2. Navigate to Settings > Security > Trusted Devices. Confirm your password or PIN when prompted.
  3. Choose the devices you wish to enable as Trusted Devices.

Now whenever your phone is paired with a Trusted Device it will not ask for a password to access your home screens.

FM Radio


The Moto G includes a built-in FM radio tuner. A pair of wired headphones is required to use this function. Why? The headphones double as the phone’s radio antenna.

While you must leave the headphones plugged in during operation, sound can be routed to the Moto G’s front-facing stereo speakers or even a Bluetooth speaker for your listening enjoyment.

Camera Tips & Tricks

The Moto G’s camera includes a number of helpful shortcuts to take your mobile photography game to the next level. With several shooting modes and the ability to capture 720p HD video, you’ll never miss the moment.

  • Zoom in and out by pressing anywhere on the display and dragging up or down.
  • Quickly access the gallery by swiping left.
  • Access camera settings and enable HDR, panorama, and slow motion modes by swiping right.

One-Tap Capture


Quickly and easily take a photo by simply tapping any portion of the screen to activate the shutter. Tap and hold to take multiple photos in quick succession (burst mode).

Pro Tip: By default, the camera will auto-focus before taking a photo with One-Tap Capture. To focus on the specific area of an image where you tap, enable the option in the camera settings.

Shutter Button


The Moto G also gives users the option to snap photos using the phone’s volume up or down buttons. Hold the volume rocker in to take photos in burst mode.

Protect your Moto G with Device Management

Motorola is offering peace of mind for owners of their most recent handset releases with Motorola Device Management. Enrolling allows users to remotely locate a lost or stolen phone, ring said phone, lock nefarious users out, and even wipe the internal storage of all personal data.

When first powering on the Moto G, you will be greeted with a notification inviting you to “Protect your phone.” Tap the item and follow the onscreen directions to enable the above mentioned features.

If you have already dismissed the notification but wish to enable device management, follow these simple steps:

  1. Navigate to Settings > Security
  2. Tap “Device Administrators”
  3. Activate “Motorola Device Policy”

If your phone is lost or stolen, simply navigate to from any web browser, sign into your account using your Motorola ID, and select your phone and click “Lost Device.”

Note: for Motorola’s device tracking and remote features to work, you will need to make sure Location Access (found under the main Settings menu) is turned on. You can also follow the above directions to enable Android Device Manager, which provides a similar set of features accessible from your Google web account.

Connect your devices with Motorola Connect


The Moto G comes with Motorola Connect, an app that allows you to easily manage the Motorola devices linked to your phone. These include accessories like the Motorola Power Pack Micro or Moto Hint as well as a smartwatch like the Moto 360.

To pair a device:

  1. Make sure it is powered on
  2. Launch the Motorola Connect app
  3. Tap the “+”
  4. Select the device you wish to pair

Find your keys with the Motorola Power Pack Micro

If you picked up a Motorola Power Pack Micro along with your Moto G, you get a little more than a bit of extra battery power on your keychain should you need a quick charge. The Power Pack Micro can also be used to locate your lost keys using your phone (or vice versa).

To find a lost phone, simply double click the power button of the Power Pack Micro. Your Moto G will begin beeping.

To locate your keys, open the Motorola Connect app, select the Power Pack Micro from the list of connected devices, and tap “ping.” The Power Pack Micro will beep. For the feature to work the Power Pack must be powered on. It also goes without saying that it should be attached to the keys you are attempting to locate!

Take a screenshot


Taking a screenshot with the Moto G is easy. Simply simultaneously press the handset’s power/standby and volume down buttons.

Pro Tip: This shortcut should work with just about any newer Android device with a similar hardware button configuration.

Enable lockscreen widgets


Access your favorite widgets even when your phone is locked. To enable lockscreen widgets:

  1. Open Settings
  2. Navigate to Security
  3. Tap the checkbox next to “Enable widgets”

Access and add lockscreen widgets by dragging your finger from the left edge of the lockscreen and taping “+.”

Extend battery life with Battery Saver


If battery life is running low and you are far from a charge, you extend your uptime by enabling Android’s Battery Saver mode. This mode will restrict background data access and cut back on excessive power drain. Turn it on by navigating to Settings > Battery and switching Battery Save to “On.”

More Tips & Tricks

Have your own Moto G tips and tricks not covered here? Don’t keep them a secret, share them in the comments below. If you can’t find the answers to your specific questions here, you might try your luck over at the Moto G section of our Android Forums. While you’re there, be sure to let us know what you think about Motorola’s latest budget handset.

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Protip: Charge your Moto 360 using a portable charger when away from an outlet Fri, 12 Sep 2014 20:18:11 +0000 Moto 360 portable charging DSC06849

After our post yesterday discussing the Motorola Moto 360′s battery life in great depth, by now you should know the smartwatch’s longevity shouldn’t be a huge concern (unless you plan on being away from a charger for 20+ hours).

But no matter how many hours you get on the smartwatch, there will be a time when you’ll have to charge the thing up. Thankfully, this isn’t a huge chore, as the Moto 360 and its tiny 320mAh battery can easily hit a full charge with little down time. While that’s all good and dandy, what if you forgot to charge the 360 in its dock overnight and have to rush out to make a plane trip?

Moto 306 wireless portable charger DSC06847

For those times when you are away from an outlet, we just wanted to remind you that the 360′s wireless charger can be paired with any old standard portable charger for charging on-the-go. We experimented with the official Motorola Power Pack Micro and sure enough, our Moto 360 charged up just fine. Of course, any old standard portable charger will work just fine, although tiny USB cables might not look at streamlined as the Moto charger picture above but it should still get the job done.

If the odd shape of the official Motorola Moto 360 wireless charger is still too much for you to carry in your pocket (or perhaps you just want to leave it at home), there are several portable wireless charging options available on Amazon, like the Qi-infinity (4,000mAh) for only $35. Simply strap your 360 to that and you should be good to go. We’re all about solutions here at Phandroid.

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From the Forums: The very first thing you MUST do when getting your Moto 360 Thu, 11 Sep 2014 16:24:44 +0000 Moto 360 IMG_1942

Whether you were a Google IO attendee entitled to one or lucky enough to have it shipped on time from the likes of Best Buy and Motorola, many of you are going to be getting Moto 360 units this week. You’ll likely want to rip the thing out of its packaging and immediately slap it onto your wrist for a full day of fun when you first get it, but you should probably hold off on that.

We’ve received reports of Moto 360 units rapidly discharging out of the box even while it’s sitting on the wireless charging dock. Our own Steve Albright watched his watch (pun… sort of not but sort of was intended) trickle down from 4% to 0% even though it should have been receiving a charge. Your Moto 360 is NOT defective — you just need to give it a bit of a kick start before going for the full drive.

We’ve found that charging the Moto 360 while it’s off will give it enough of a baseline current to charge while it’s on. The watch may automatically power itself on when there’s enough juice to last more than a few minutes.

In many of the reports we’ve seen and in the case of Steve’s watch, it’s apparent that the watch may not properly charge while powered on until you go through the full setup process and pair it to your phone. There’s a possibility that an OTA update is performed during this step to make the change needed to get proper charging behavior, but results definitely drastically improve either way.

For that reason, folks should try and charge their Moto 360 up a good amount before they first turn it on and begin pairing it to their smartphone. Most units should have enough of a charge for this to be a non-issue when they first take it out of the packaging, but there’s a chance many units out there are on the brink of battery death.

And that, folks, is why most manufacturers urge you to fully charge your device before first turning it on. Now dealing with that horrendous battery life? That’s another issue altogether. Let’s hope Motorola can get a move on that before the Moto 360′s honeymoon period is over.

[Reddit via]

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How to factory reset your Android phone [Android 101] Wed, 20 Aug 2014 16:53:27 +0000 Looking to sell your phone but want to protect your personal data first? Don’t want your app info, private messages, selfies, videos, and browsing history falling into the wrong hands? The factory reset is your friend, deleting everything on your smartphone or tablet until it’s a clean slate — just like when it came off the factory floor. Here are two easy methods that make formatting an Android device a breeze.

BEFORE YOU PROCEED: Be sure to back up any saved files or data you do not want to lose. Once a factory reset has been preformed, any deleted data will be gone for good.

How to erase all data from an Android smartphone from the settings menu


Erasing your Android device — whatever your reason for doing so — is an extremely simple procedure. You’re only a few taps away from a device wiped free of all photos, video, apps, personal data, and whatever else is lurking on its internal storage media. Here’s the skinny:

  1. Open the settings menu by tapping the gear icon within the notifications pulldown
  2. Navigate to Backup & Reset
  3. Choose whether or not to also erase the contents of any installed SD card (if your device is capable of utilizing expanded storage via memory cards)
  4. Tap “Reset Phone” to confirm and restore the device to factory condition

For older devices or those using custom Android interfaces, the factory reset option might be located within a different subheading of the settings menu. Look under menus with titles like “Privacy” or “Device Storage” if you can’t locate “Backup & Reset”

How to erase all data from an Android smartphone if unable to access the settings menu


If you have lost your Android device or if a broken display is keeping you from accessing the settings menu of an otherwise functional handset, there is still hope for you to perform a factory reset of your smartphone. The catch is that you will hopefully have previously installed Android Device Manager (available at Google Play) and enabled the remote lock and erase option. If so, follow these simple steps:

  1. Log into your Google Play account (the one registered to your lost or broken phone)
  2. Tap the gear icon in the upper right corner
  3. Click “Android Device Manager”
  4. Select the desired device from the drop down menu in the dialog box hovering above the location map
  5. Click “Erase”
  6. When asked to confirm, click “Erase” again.

Google will now do its best to connect to the device and initiate a factory reset via the magical powers of the internet. The result will be the same as if performing a factory reset directly from the phone via the settings menu.

Looking for even more tips and tricks to get the most out of your Android smartphone? Check out our complete archive of Android 101 tutorials.

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Use this trick to check Facebook messages without downloading the Messenger app Thu, 14 Aug 2014 16:30:13 +0000

Recently Facebook decided to require uses to download the separate Facebook Messenger app in order to read and send messages. Facebook Messenger is actually a really nice app, but for anyone that doesn’t send or receive a lot of messages on Facebook this is annoying. You don’t want to download yet another app just for the few random messages you get. Luckily, for now, there is a loophole.

In order to keep your messages in the regular Facebook app there are a few things you need to do. Here’s how:

  1. Navigate to the messages tab from within the main Facebook app
  2. You should see an alert that says messages have moved
  3. Tap the “Get App” button which will take you to the Play Store
  4. Start installing Facebook Messenger, but cancel the download before it finishes

Now when you go back to the messages tab you should be able to see them all. Conversations will open inside of the main Facebook app like normal. This trick worked for us, but it’s not working for everyone. We’re not sure how long this loophole will stay open, but for now it’s a nice little trick. Did it work for you? Do you use the Facebook Messenger app? Do you use Facebook at all?

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So if I die or disappear, what happens to my Gmail and Google account? Fri, 25 Jul 2014 16:11:40 +0000 I hate to sour the mood, but one day you’re going to die. It might be easier to ignore that fact, but all too often that’s exactly what we do, and in our wake we leave a mountain of complications that cause interfamily conflict, legal battles, and obnoxious amounts of wasted time.


We take day-to-day things, like E-Mail, for granted- but what if something were to happen to you? Would your entire account including your pictures, movies, and documents, collect dust and eventually disappear without someone who knows or who can recover your password?

Or perhaps just the opposite. Maybe you’ve got a lot of private facets of your life that you wish to remain private: could family or friends legally gain access to your account, uncovering some secrets that are so embarrassing that you blush in the afterlife?

Not if you use Google’s Inactive Account Manager, a feature I accidentally stumbled upon yesterday.


Here’s how it works:

  • Set a time period after which, if you haven’t logged in for that duration, you’re considered inactive
  • When that time approaches, Google will warn you via TXT and E-mail alerts
  • Once officially deemed “inactive”, Google will notify up to 10 pre-selected contacts that you’re inactive
  • These contacts will gain limited access to your account, based on settings you select
  • You can set an auto-response for incoming e-mail, warning them of your inactivity

It’s a pretty brilliant solution if you’ve got the gusto to set it up- and you should. This tool could be especially valuable if you’ve disappeared without a trace, perhaps giving law enforcement additional information that leads to a resolution. I know, I know… this is a depressingly sinister topic, but a little preparation can go a long way.

You can even customize what Google services each separate contact can access (see above) and have a custom message prepared for each one (see below):


Almost got a little teary eyed typing that… and hopefully it never gets sent, but if it does, could be fun to leave a little custom goodbye to your loved ones. And honestly, having to write them in the first place provides a nice little sense of reflection on your life and what’s important.

The service isn’t perfect and there are two things I’d specifically like to see changed:

  1. The minimum length before you’re considered “inactive” is 3 months. If I haven’t used Google services for 24 hours someone should probably start a search party. I can appreciate the reasons why the longer durations should be the default, but even a 1 month or 2 month option would make a lot of sense.
  2. Certain services should have more fine grained access options. Perhaps I have some private e-mails in my account but they’re relegated to a certain tag or folder, why not allow users to selectively provide or deny access to these specific areas? Access to everything or nothing makes for some tough decision making.

Alternatively, if instead of being worried about giving people access you want to make sure nobody gets access, you can delete your entire account on the spot the moment you’re considered inactive.


Privacy paranoia people, weird fetish folks, cheating-on-your-spouse crapheads, and others take note: you’ll probably want to set this up right now. Or maybe you just don’t want family and friends dragging out the grieving process by hanging on every little word you’ve written, picture you’ve taken, etc…

Now that I’ve thoroughly depressed you, take a few minutes to reflect on the people most important to you, what you’d want to say to them in your absence, and if giving them access to your online identify would help them in any way.

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7 cool tricks every Android phone user should know [VIDEO] Fri, 18 Jul 2014 16:59:14 +0000

Android is pretty cool. There are things you can do with an Android phone that iOS and Windows Phone users can only dream about. With a little imagination the possibilities are nearly infinite. Since there are so many different things you can do with an Android phone it’s inevitable to be unaware of some basic tricks. We’ve compiled a list of seven cool tricks that every Android user should know.

1. Do a Google search from anywhere

google any

One of the best things about having an Android device is the tight integration of Google services. In the latest versions of the Google Search app for Android they have enabled users to do searches from anywhere. All you have to do is turn on your phone and say “Ok, Google.” It’s fast and super handy when you want to quickly find something. Here’s how to do it.

  1. Open the Google Search app
  2. Go to Settings > Voice
  3. Go to “Ok Google Detection”
  4. Enable “From any screen”
  5. Train the app to recognize your voice

2. Make your phone snappy with faster animations

One of the most common complaints about Android is “lagginess.” For whatever reason Google has never been able to get Android on the same buttery smooth level as iOS or even Windows Phone. In the last few versions they have made some serious improvements, but if you still feel like your phone is a little laggy there is a trick for speeding things up. Google has hidden some secret developer options inside the Settings. Inside the secret developer options is settings for animation and transition speed. Here’s how to speed things up.

  1. Open Settings > About phone
  2. Scroll down and tap on “Build number” 7 times
  3. Now go back to Settings and you should see new “Developer options”
  4. Adjust the window and transition animation scales to .5x or turn them off completely

3. Locate and wipe your lost phone

Losing your phone is one of the worst things that can happen. These devices contain sensitive information and private data. If your phone falls into the wrong hands it could put you in a world of trouble. There are apps you can download to help in the event of a lost phone, but in order for them to work you need to have them installed before something bad happens. Luckily there is a built-in way to find your lost phone and even wipe all of your personal data.

  1. Double-check to make sure Android Device Manager is installed
  2. Go to
  3. Select your phone from the menu
  4. Now you can see the location, ring it, lock it, or erase it

Check out our in-depth guide on how to find lost or stolen phones.

4. Scrub through songs on lockscreen

scrub lock

When you’re playing music on your phone the lockscreen gets taken over with beautiful album art and media controls. These controls allow you to go back, play/pause, or skip to the next song without having to fully unlock the device. However, that’s not all you can do with those buttons. A little known feature is the ability to scrub through a song from the lockscreen. It’s stupidly easy to do, but not an obvious feature.

  1. With music playing, long-press on the media control buttons
  2. Scrub through the song with the newly present bar

5. Put widgets on the lockscreen

Widgets have long been a selling point of Android, and remain to be a unique feature of the OS. Most people love to deck out their homescreen with widgets, but you don’t have to stop there. Ever since Android 4.—— the lockscreen can also be a place for widgets. This gives users quick access to pertinent information without even unlocking the device. Lockscreen widgets are not turned on by default. Here’s how to do it.

  1. Go to Settings > Security
  2. Tap “Enable widgets”
  3. Go to the lockscreen and swipe to the left screen
  4. Tap the [+] button and choose a widget

6. Save battery in the GPS settings

If you don’t rely on location data a lot you could be saving some precious battery life. Android has a built-in setting that allows you to determine how you want your phone to find your location. There are three different modes: high accuracy, battery saving, and device only. This trick isn’t for everyone, but if you don’t care about location it’s a nice way to save some juice.

  1. Go to Settings > Location
  2. Tap on “Mode”
  3. Select your desired location mode

7. Change what app launches with the home button shortcut


On devices with software buttons you can launch Google Search by swiping up on the home button. Some devices with hardware buttons allow you to do this with a long-press on the home button. An app called Home Button Launcher allows you to use this gesture to launch any app you would like. This gives you quick access to your favorite apps from anywhere on the phone. Here’s how to do it.

  1. Download Home Button Launcher from Google Play
  2. Swipe up or long press the home button
  3. Tap Home Button Launcher and make it default
  4. Tap the menu icon and select “Add”
  5. Choose all the app you wish to appear in the shortcut

What are your tricks?

We’re sure some of you veteran Android users are aware of all these tricks. Be sure to show them to all your Android-toting friends. Which tricks do you use that are not well-known? Have you discovered any tricks of your own? Share your favorites with us in the comments below!

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Say “Go Go Gadget” to launch Android Wear Apps [VIDEO] Thu, 10 Jul 2014 14:47:04 +0000

Nowadays when someone says “gadget” we think of phones, tablets, or computers, but back in the day it was the namesake of a dim-witted cyborg detective. Inspector Gadget had all the coolest gadgets at his disposal, and all he had to do to use one was simply say “Go Go Gadget _____.” Everyone wishes they could do this themselves, and now with Android Wear you can!

You may be familiar with an Easter Egg in Google Now that lets users launch apps by saying “Go Go Gadget [app name]. Since Android Wear relies heavily on Google Now for voice commands you can also do this on your smartwatch, which is a million times cooler than doing it on a phone. Simple tap or say “Ok Google” and then say, for example, “Go Go Gadget Compass.” Try it yourself!


Bum Ba Dum Ba Dum Inspector Gadget

“Go Go Gadget” is just one Google Now Easter egg that works on Android Wear. Here are a couple other ones you can impress your friends with:

  • What is the loneliest number?
  • What is the answer to life, the universe, and everything?
  • What is the Bacon number of [random actor]?

We love the little Easter Eggs that Google hides in their products. Go up to any little kid and launch on an app on your watch with the “Go Go Gadget” command and watch their amazement. What other Easter Eggs have you found in Android Wear?

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The best Android feature you’re not using: voice commands Thu, 29 May 2014 17:27:06 +0000 ok-google

Google Now has become a central part of the Android operating system, introducing new functions and capabilities with every candy-flavored iteration. While voice commands have been core to the service since its launch, Google has done their part to continuously add new options regularly. Did we mention it’s now easier than ever to control your phone just by speaking to it? As of the latest Android KitKat update, users can jump right into Google Now simply by saying “OK, Google” at any time.

If you haven’t checked out voice commands in a while or are not acquainted with some of the newer (and very useful functions), here is a sampling of what you can do. Simply replace the text in brackets with whatever you are searching for or inquiring about and wait for Google to spit out the pertinent information.

Essential commands

  • “Go to [].”
  • “Search for [ Samsung Galaxy S5].”
  • “Open [Gmail].”
  • “Take a picture.”
  • “Record a video.”


  • “Remind me to [call John at 6PM].”
  • “Remind me to [buy toilet paper at Target].”
  • “Set an alarm for [6PM].”
  • “Create a calendar event: [Happy Hour at Union on Friday at 5:00PM].”
  • “Where’s my package?”
  • “Note to self: [remember to buy milk].”
  • “What’s the tip for [$42]?”


  • “Call [George Smith].”
  • “Call [Mom mobile].”
  • “Text [Lee that I'm running 5 minutes late].”
  • “Send email to [Rob Jackson, subject, Google Now, message, Check out these Voice Commands].”
  • “Listen to voicemail.”
  • “Find [Bruce’s] number.”
  • “When is [Mary’s] birthday?”
  • “Post to [Google+]: [Google Now is awesome].”


  • “Listen to: [TheDirty Projectors].”
  • “Play: [The Beatles].”
  • “What’s this song?”
  • “Play some music.”
  • “Watch [Toy Story 3].”
  • “What movies are playing tonight?”
  • “Where is [X-Men] playing?”
  • “Show me pictures of the [Chesapeake Bay Bridge].”

Navigation and Travel

  • “Navigate to [Ocean City, MD].”
  • “[Biking] directions to [The Brewer’s Art].”
  • “Find [the Eiffel Tower].”
  • “Where is [the Empire State Building]?”
  • “Where’s the nearest [ice cream shop]?”
  • “Show me the menu for [Holy Frijoles].”
  • “Call [Ledo's Pizza].”
  • “Show me my flights.”
  • “Where is my hotel?”
  • “What are some attractions in [Baltimore]?”


  • “What time is it in [London]?”
  • “Do I need an umbrella today?”
  • “What’s the weather in [Cape Cod] for [the weekend]?”
  • “Where was [Albert Einstein] born?”
  • “How old is [Brad Pitt]?”
  • “How do you say [‘hello'] in [Spanish]?”
  • “What does [onomatopoeia] mean?”
  • “What’s [Google’s] stock price?”
  • “What is [Twitter] trading at?”
  • “What’s [16 ounces] in [pounds]?”
  • “What is the square root of 2209?”
  • “When is sunset?”
  • “Did the [Orioles] win today?”
  • “How did [the San Francisco Giants] do?”

Then, of course, Google has also included some Easter Eggs. Try telling Google Now to “Do a barrel roll,” or asking “What does the fox say?” for a giggle or two. And don’t forget, many if not all of these commands should work just as well with Google Glass and Google’s web voice search, as well.

What else can you do with Google Now? Let us know your favorite voice commands, Easter Eggs, tips, and tricks in the comments below!

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How to take better photos with your Android phone Thu, 22 May 2014 19:11:08 +0000 google camera wm

The smartphone camera is such a fickle beast. In one situation your photos turn out darn near professional. In another you feel shame at the thought of even sharing the blurry, dull results on Facebook or Instagram. When you do, your handwork is typically masked by a thick layer of filters applied haphazardly via your favorite app. Stop that. Stop that right now.

Taking the best smartphone photo possible doesn’t start with a 40MP camera. It doesn’t start when you begin flicking through those filters. It starts before with a bit of thoughtful planning based on some basic concepts even movie photographers can keep in their tool belt. We’re hear to show you how to get the most out of your Android phone’s camera, regardless of its megapixel rating, with a few helpful tips, tricks, and apps.

Step 1: Take better photos

Getting better shots with your Android phone starts before you even tap the shutter button. To get the perfect photo, it helps to have a basic understanding of some photographic principles that can make your images look great no matter what the megapixel rating of your smartphone’s camera is. Let’s take a minute to talk about lighting and photo composition.

Use lighting to your advantage

In most situations you won’t have a pro lighting rig to illuminate your subject and boost the color and clarity of your final shot. That doesn’t mean you can’t use environmental lighting to your advantage, however. When setting up a shot, first consider the light sources in the surrounding area — these include natural light from the sun as well as any artificial light from lamps and other fixtures. In almost all cases, rely on natural light as much as possible. It plays much nicer with nearly every camera and provides light at a color temperature that looks, well, more natural.

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An example of an image with poor lighting showing both underexposed and overexposed areas.

Artificial environmental lighting can often have a negative impact on your photo. Incandescent bulbs can give off a dull, yellowish hue while fluorescent lighting can at times be a bit too harsh and bright. Natural light sources typically provide a warm light that won’t tint your final photo or wash out your subject. Pro tip: Whenever possible, avoid using your camera’s flash!

Once you have established the best light source for your photo, position your subject (or your camera) in a manner that best utilizes the light. In nearly every case you want the source of light to be shining at your subject but not directly into your camera’s lens. Framing a shot with a light source facing the camera will flood the sensor with too much light and overexpose the entire image. Lighting from the side could result in awkward shadows or underexposed areas in your shot.

Once you have gotten the hang of how to use light to your advantage, you can begin experimenting with how you frame photos in regards to a light source. For instance, getting the right lighting from behind a subject can result in an interesting silhouette effect.

Understand exposure

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An (artificially exaggerated) example of underexposure.

Exposure, by its most basic definition, relates to the amount of light that enters the camera sensor and its effect on overall image brightness. In a standard digital camera exposure is adjusted with a combination of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. The three combine to dictate how much light enters the camera and how sensitive the camera is to that light. In a well-lit situation, a low light sensitivity is suitable for capturing the scene in plenty of detail. In low-light situations a higher sensitivity is required, though it can result in a “noisier” (i.e. grainier) image.

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An (artificially exaggerated) example of overexposure.

For the typical Android smartphone’s stock camera software, users are not provided with much in the way of manual exposure adjustments. Aperture and shutter speed are usually locked in and overall exposure is determined automatically based on the camera’s focus. If anything, a manual adjustment simply labeled “Exposure” might be available. This control in most cases operates similarly to a manual ISO adjustment. The Exposure control takes the form of a simple slider that can be moved to adjust the overall brightness of an image before a photo is taken.

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A more optimal (but not quite perfect) exposure.

Third party camera apps (typically the more expensive ones) offer a greater range of manual control, and many even allow the user to pinpoint an area of the image from which to base auto-exposure parameters independently of the camera’s focus.

Set the white balance

Most Android camera apps offer some form of white balance adjustment, though the level of manual adjustability varies. White balance is an important parameter for capturing colors accurately, determining the baseline temperature for white given the light source. Users are typically able to pick from a variety of preset white balance options based on various lighting conditions in addition to an auto mode that will adjust white balance dynamically.

If you’re lucky (or if you have purchased an advanced camera app) you will be able to manually set white balance to better suit your scene. White balance is typically manually adjusted by focusing on a white object subjected to the same lighting conditions you will be shooting in.

Keep it focused

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Keep the camera steady and make sure your subject is in focus.

Perfect lighting and exposure settings don’t count for much if your image is out of focus. Take that extra second before firing off the shutter to make sure the subject of your photo is in focus. Nearly every Android smartphone offers autofocus, but most will take a second to settle after tapping the shutter and before capturing a photo. It is important to keep your hand steady and hold the image in focus until the camera’s shutter fires.

Most Android cameras also offer the ability to manually and dynamically focus on different areas of an image by tapping on your smartphone’s display. This reorients the focus and can often be deployed to create interesting effects. The popular “bokeh” effect is created when the subject of a photo is in focus while the background is artistically blurred. True bokeh images are hard to capture with smartphone camera hardware, but apps like Google Camera have special capabilities built-in to simulate the trendy look.

A note on image composition


All things considered, an image is ultimately only as good as its overall composition. One of the most basic principles of photography is the “Rule of Thirds,” which breaks down the plane of an image into nine quadrants based on equal horizontal and vertical divisions. There’s a good chance that your smartphone camera app includes the option to show a grid overlay that acts as a visual representation of this division by thirds.

The basic concept of the Rule of Thirds is to place your subject or subjects at the points where these quadrants intersect or along the grid lines. Doing so creates a visually balanced composition. The Rule of Thirds can further be employed, bent, and manipulated to create intriguing photographs that capture the viewers attention and draw the eyes toward the image’s most interesting aspects.

With all of the above said, the reality is that not every situation presents the perfect opportunity to capture a photo. Often lighting conditions will be poor, the subject will be moving fast, or the entire moment could be too fleeting to worry about the finer aspects of composition. In these cases sometimes you might have to settle for capturing the memory rather than the perfectly executed shot. Luckily, plenty of options exist for improving all photos after the fact.

Step 2: Shoot and edit your photos with these apps

Now that we understand the basics of taking a better photo, how do we capture and edit it? No, we don’t mean cropping it, slapping on an Instagram filter, and calling it a day. We want to dive a little bit deeper than that in order to get the most out of your final photograph. Here are some great apps to consider when shooting and editing with your Android device along with tips on how to use them.

Google Camera

google camera

Google Camera features a great, simple user interface to get the most out of your phone’s camera. Use it as an alternative to the stock camera app on your phone and gain instant access to several unique photo modes and effects.

Google Camera offers pre-shot enhancements like a grid overlay, exposure adjustments, and an HDR mode for less than ideal lighting conditions. It also offers the nifty Lens Blur mode for creating that shallow depth-of-field (bokeh) effect that is all the rage these days. You can also create 360 degree Photo Sphere images as well as gorgeous panoramic shots.

Google Camera, unlike some of the other software mentioned here, does not come with it’s own array of post-production adjustments and filters. Combine it with an app like VSCO Cam or Photoshop Express and you are in business.

Camera FV-5


If you want the power of a DSLR in your Android device, Camera FV-5 might just be the solution. It offers tons of pre-shot camera adjustments that you just won’t find in any other app for Android, bringing a manual photo experience unlike any other.

With Camera FV-5 you can manually tweak exposure, ISO, focus mode, white balance and more all in a user interface that graphically mimics what you would find on the back of an expensive pro camera rig.

Camera FV-5 also brings shooting modes not available in most stock Android cameras. These include long exposure for night shots and the ability to capture HDR time-lapse photos. A self timer is available in case you want to jump into one of your perfectly framed shots (tripod recommended).

All that power is going to cost you, though not as much as the DSLR this app practically replaces. $4 couldn’t be better spent.


VSCO Cam Android screenies

Hands down our favorite photo app for Android. Before snapping the shot, VSCO Cam’s camera mode provides several grid options for framing and composition, a white balance lock, and the ability to set exposure and focus independently. That will make fairly easy work of the steps we described above, but VSCO Cam’s real power comes in editing photos after the fact.

The first elements you will want to mess around with are exposure, color temperature, and tint. These three parameters, all easily adjustable via sliders in VSCO Cam, should help you dial in the brightness and color of your image to better reflect the scene you aimed to capture. A variety of cropping options can help get your image ready for social sharing or otherwise tidy up an image for tighter composition.

After that the sky is the limit with a handful of other helpful tools. We particularly like VSCO Cam’s ability to independently adjust the shadows and highlights of your images. This allows finer control over brightness by targeting only specific areas of the image. Adding highlight and shadow tints can flavor a photo in unexpected ways, but we suggest doing so subtly. Pro tip: long-press the image in edit mode to get a before and after preview.

VSCO Cam also includes filters and advertises them as a main aspect of the app. We don’t blame them, the filters are indeed great (and you can purchase dozens beyond what come included with the app), but wait to apply a filter until after you have made some finer image adjustments as described above. One great aspect of VSCO Cam’s filters is the ability to adjust how they flavor a photo via the filter level slider. Again, subtlety is key here. Sometimes just the lightest touch of a filter can do wonders for your photo, producing a look that is less auto-generated and more artistic.



Snapseed is another fine photo editing app to consider. It offers many of the same features as VSCO Cam in addition to a few helpful tools for photography newbs and experts alike.

If you have no idea where to start with editing a photo, simply use Snapseed’s Auto Correct function. This will crunch some data about your photo and apply tweaks to reign in brightness and color while offering other enhancements. In many cases, this might be enough to produce a pretty stellar final product. If you’re not happy with the final outcome or want to take your photo in a different direction, Tune Image provides an array of manual adjustments to experiment with further.

The prerequisite array of photo filters are here as well, providing even more options if you have yet to track down the perfect vintage effect in another photo app. Another nifty feature is Snapseed’s Selective Adjust, which allows you to tweak only a specific area of an image, letting you leave the good parts of a shot untouched while sprucing up the regions that need some work. This tool can also be deployed creatively for some pretty sweet results.

As an Android user you already have access to some of these functions, though you might not know it. Google acquired Snapseed developer Nik Software back in 2012 and has since integrated many features of the photo editing app into Google+. On the flip side, Snapseed offers excellent integration with Google-powered social network, making sharing and backing up your images easier than ever.

Photoshop Express


When it comes to photo editing, perhaps no name is more recognizable than Photoshop. Photoshop Express gives you a taste of that editing power without the price tag, offering a free app to tweak and refine images on your mobile device.

Basic tools allow you to rotate, crop, and straighten your photos as well as remove red eye, while Auto-Fix will correct for contrast, exposure and white balance with one touch. Deeper editing abilities can further adjust color, clarity, highlights, shadows, and more.

Of course you get filters, as if we should even have to mention that at this point. But again: do not rely on filters alone to make your photos great. A great #nofilter shot can oftentimes be more appealing than a faded, sepia-toned version of the same.

Alright, no excuses. You now have everything you need to take your Android photography to the next level. From planning the shot to polishing it up, it’s that little extra that will take your photos from ordinary to extraordinary.


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So you got the Galaxy S5? Fri, 09 May 2014 19:59:17 +0000 Samsung Galaxy S5 hand DSC05788

Have you heard about the Galaxy S5? Perhaps you count yourself among the millions that have picked up the device since it launched last month? Now that the new device smell has worn off and the excitement has died down, we thought it would be appropriate to take a minute to point you toward some of the more useful and informative Galaxy S5 content you might have missed on Phandroid while you were distracted by your shiny new toy. Ooo, shiny things. We like shiny things.

Review our review

First and foremost, if you haven’t taken the plunge yet, it’s worth checking out our full review of the Galaxy S5 — especially helpful if you are on the fence. For a look at the other side, check out the 8 things we hated about the phone. Even if you already own the device, you might pick up on a few tips and tricks scattered throughout.

Tips & Tricks



Speaking of tips and tricks, we’ve got plenty of them. If you just purchased the phone, you need to drop everything and check out our list of the 14 things every new Galaxy S5 owner needs to do when they first power on Samsung’s latest marvel. Once you have taken care of that, head over to our extensive look at 50+ tips and tricks for the GS5. There you will find info on shortcuts that allow you to do things like take a screenshot with simple gestures. We also explore special software features like S Voice. Pro tip: you can (and probably should) easily disable it. You will also find a great guide to caring for and getting the most out of your Galaxy S5’s battery.

Those extra features, though…

Some of the Galaxy S5’s more talked about features include its fingerprint scanner and heart rate monitor. We’ve got guides for both. Check out our tips page on how to set up the finger scanner and use it for a variety of security-minded functions. For those looking to get the most out of the GS5 as a fitness companion, we’ll show you how to use the built-in heart rate monitor and tell you why it’s more useful than you might think for keeping your body in top shape.

Samsung Galaxy S5 water logo wm DSC05776

Another highly touted feature is the Galaxy S5’s IP67 resistance to dust and water. We really put it to the test during an extended off-grid bicycle tour across the state of Maryland, and it lived up to its name. Our review unit didn’t fare so well in the toilet bowl, however, leading to a deeper exploration of what IP67 certification really means. All are must-reads for anyone planning to use the Galaxy S5 in less than ideal conditions.

If all else fails, check the forums

If that doesn’t cut it for you, might we suggest taking a visit to the Galaxy S5 section of AndroidForums. Here an enthusiastic group of fellow fans have been discussing, debating, and dissecting the phone since it was merely a rumor whispered between Androids. You will find even more tips and tricks and perhaps answers to some lingering questions. If you can’t find the info you are looking for, consider signing up for an account and asking yourself. Chances are high you will get the help you need.

So that’s about it. How you liking that Galaxy S5?

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Extend your Galaxy S5 battery life with these tips and accessories Fri, 09 May 2014 18:31:33 +0000 Samsung Galaxy S5 back removed DSC05770

The Samsung Galaxy S5 is a powerful device. It makes sense, then, that it is also a power-hungry device — that 5.1-inch 1080p Super AMOLED display and quad-core processor aren’t going to run themselves, after all. To account for this and then some, Samsung has included a juicy 2800mAh battery in their latest flagship, even going the extra mile and introducing a new Ultra Power Saving mode to provide some extra life when a charging outlet is nowhere to be found.

Even with a fat battery and optimized software, there are still some steps you can take to insure you get the most out of your battery life, from simple tips to accessories like extended batteries. Here’s your guide to keeping your Galaxy S5 running no matter what you throw at it.

Properly condition and care for your battery

Strip away the software, the hardware, the smartphone itself and you are left with a lonesome 2800mAh lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery. It makes sense, then, that extending battery life starts with the simple care and maintenance of the actual component itself. Luckily, we have all the tools we need right out of the box.

There is a popular debate as to whether or not Li-ion batteries need to be “conditioned” or “primed.” The process goes like this:

  1. Power on your new device out of the box.
  2. Use normally until the battery completes one cycle, reaching 0 percent capacity.
  3. Recharge the battery to 100 percent.

The idea is that the battery is initially calibrated by allowing it to complete one full power cycle without charging after your smartphone is powered on for the first time. Some even suggest to repeat this cycling process up to three times for a new device. This process is said to reset the battery’s memory.

The process itself is not a myth. It is proven as a recommended way to condition nickel-based batteries. Remember, though, with the Galaxy S5 — or any smartphone — we are dealing with a Li-ion battery. The usefulness of Li-ion battery memory priming is contested, and some even assert that the process can do more harm than good; Li-ion batteries have a shelf life often measured in cycles, so each complete cycle theoretically brings the power cell closer to its end-of-life.

Some scientists and manufacturers, however, do recommend cycling a Li-ion battery up to once a month to calibrate the power cell and help eliminate the buildup of film layers between its anode and cathode. You can see the mixed messages consumers are receiving about the process of conditioning.

Our recommendation: allowing your Galaxy S5’s battery to cycle when new won’t cause any damage to the device — many people let their phone drop to 0 percent without even trying — and repeating the process a few times a year won’t greatly reduce the life of your battery any more than normal use. While its positive benefits are debated, it’s a simple step you can take to potentially improve the performance of your battery.

A better way — the “top off” method


While you may or may not choose to complete a full power cycle to prime your battery when new (or if capacity begins to fade), a much better method of care is the “top off” approach. No, this has nothing to do with taking your shirt off, rather it refers to keeping your battery north of 50 percent as much as possible.

As we touched on in the debate over battery calibration, a Li-ion battery’s life is measured in cycles. Each complete charging cycle wears on the battery and brings it closer to total death. Keeping your Galaxy S5 between 50 and 100 percent helps to reduce this cycling strain.

Of course, there is always a caveat. Another popular debate on battery care centers on whether or not leaving a device plugged into its charger after reaching 100 percent will damage the battery. One side points to the fact that most modern devices are smart enough to disengage charging when 100 percent capacity is reached, only reengaging when stored power again drops below maximum. The other side sees even this process as potentially harmful to the longevity of a battery.

In reality, occasionally leaving your phone on the charger for extended periods of time is unlikely to cause any serious damage, but we recommend avoiding this when possible. It shouldn’t be surprising that beyond this there is a school of thought that, like allowing the charge to drop below 50 percent, believes that frequently reaching 100 percent capacity can also have potentially adverse effects on battery life.

Batteries don’t like getting hot

Remember when we were talking about leaving your Galaxy S5 on the charger? Here is one compelling reason not to. Ever notice how your device feels a bit warmer after a robust charging session? We want to avoid this. Li-ion batteries do not enjoy getting overly hot.

Cooler is always better, as excessive heat will cause battery longevity to decrease over time. The hotter the battery, the faster this capacity decreases. Avoid leaving your phone out sitting in the sun, don’t keep it baking in the car or on the beach, and keep it stored somewhere else if you are a glassblower or firefighter or anyone else whose occupations take place in overly hot environments.

Also be weary of wireless charging. While it is a great convenience and pretty awesome use of technology, as it stands, some wireless chargers can get even hotter than simply leaving your phone plugged into a wall outlet.

In a pinch, use the Galaxy S5’s power saving modes


You’ve primed your battery, kept it topped off, and have otherwise treated it with kid gloves. That doesn’t mean you can avoid that inevitable situation when battery life drops into the red with no available charging outlet in sight. Here is where the Samsung Galaxy S5’s software optimizations come into play.

The Galaxy S5 offers two special modes to help get the most out of your battery: Power Saving Mode and the new Ultra Power Saving Mode. Both are designed to cut back on services that cause excessive battery drain, one more extreme than the other.

Power Saving Mode will turn off unnecessary connections that tend to drain battery life like WiFi, Bluetooth, and GPS; halt wireless syncing activities; and dim your Galaxy S5’s display. You lose some functionality but the result is a battery that lasts longer, giving you more time to find a place to charge without missing any important calls or texts. Enable Power Saving Mode by:

  1. navigating to Power saving from the main Settings menu,
  2. tapping Power saving mode,
  3. toggling Power saving mode to On.

You will be presented with several options to choose what features Power Saving Mode disables, including the option to restrict background data, restrict device performance, and switch the display from color to grayscale.

ultra power saving

If battery life is dwindling close to zero, a more extreme form of power conservation is available. Samsung’s claim is a device with only 10 percent battery can last an additional 24 hours in standby when operated under Ultra Power Saving Mode. It is enabled in a similar manner to Power Saving Mode by:

  1. navigating to Power saving from the main Settings menu,
  2. tapping Ultra power saving mode,
  3. toggling Ultra power saving mode to On.

Ultra Power Saving Mode presents the user with a dramatically simplified interface with minimal access to apps and services. It shuts down unnecessary wireless connections in the same manner as Power Saving Mode and switches the display mode to black and white.

Purchase an extra extended battery pack


Removable batteries have been slowly going the way of the dinosaur, but Samsung remains one of the few manufacturers that continues to see the feature as a must-have. While the argument can be made that non-removable batteries allow for slightly higher capacities crammed into smaller spaces, it hardly trumps the advantage of being able to swap out a dead battery for a freshly charged one or even replace the battery altogether with an extended version packing more milliamp hours.

If you simply are looking for an extra battery to pack along in case of an emergency, Samsung currently offers the Galaxy S5 Standard Battery for $29.99. For the price, you more or less double the uptime of your GS5 with a second battery rated at 2800mAh. Samsung also offers the Galaxy S5 Spare Battery Charging System, which includes the 2800mAh standard battery as well as a charging dock to keep it fully juiced up for $49.99.

Several third party vendors also currently offer or have announced extended batteries for the Galaxy S5. Mugen offers a 2950mAh Slim Extended Battery that won’t add to the thickness of the Galaxy S5 while providing 5 percent longer battery life. At about $45, you will have to be the judge as to whether the extra time is worth a little extra cash out of the pocket.


If you are looking for a Galaxy S5 battery on steroids, consider ZeroLemon’s TriCell Armor 7500mAh Extended Battery. The power cell is much larger than the standard GS5 battery, and therefore requires you to swap out the standard back plate for an included replacement case. The battery and case make the phone thicker and heavier, but offer over twice the power capacity and a little added protection to boot.

Consider charging accessories

If multiple batteries do not cut it or if you prefer to keep the stock look of your Galaxy S5 by not cramming in a larger battery and swapping the phone’s back plate, you might consider a portable charging accessory instead. These include external power packs that can charge your phone’s battery or any number of cases that include a built-in battery pack to provide backup power.


For the price, you can’t go wrong with Incipio’s 6000mAh offGRID battery pack. For $69.99 you get the ability to charge two devices at once with a total of 3.1 amps. We used the offGRID battery pack during an extensive four days of off-the-grid cycle touring to great success. Incipio offers several other options, but you might consider similar offerings from other manufacturers such as Mophie. Samsung also offers their own portable batteries at ratings of 3100mAh for $59.99 and 9000mAh for $99.99.

Companies like UNU currently offer Galaxy S5 cases with built-in extended batteries, and more are likely to surface on the market over the next few months. These cases connect directly to your GS5’s charging port and provide a steady stream of extra charging power to keep your battery going as long as possible.

Get more out of your Galaxy S5

These tips, tricks, and accessories will help you get the most out of your Galaxy S5’s battery life. That extra battery life will give you ample time to get the most out of the many features offered by Samsung’s latest Android phone. Consider checking out our list of 50+ Galaxy S5 tips and tricks for even more ways to take your new smartphone to the next level.


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How to use the Galaxy S5 heart rate monitor (and why fitness fans should) Wed, 07 May 2014 19:32:59 +0000 Galaxy S5 Heart Rate Monitor

The Samsung Galaxy S5 is unique as a mobile device for several reasons, but perhaps none is more obvious that the inclusion of an easy-to-use heart rate monitor. The monitor, which takes the form of a sensor located on the rear of the device under the Galaxy S5’s camera, works together with Samsung’s S Health app to provide quick feedback on this vital aspect of cardiovascular health. Heart rate can be quickly calculated during a workout or whenever you would like to get a clear picture of just how much work your heart is undertaking.

What does the Galaxy S5 heart rate monitor do? Why should I use it?

Before we dive into using the Galaxy S5 heart rate monitor, let’s clear up exactly what it can and cannot do. As its name suggests, the sensor measures heart rate, which is a simple biometric parameter detailing how many times per minute your heart beats. Your resting heart rate might typically measure between 60 to 100 beats per minute (bpm).

During periods of strenuous activity this rate could increase to as high as 200 bpm, considered the maximum heart rate for most young adults. This maximum heart rate is the peak exertion an individual can experience during exercise without risking injury to the heart or other bodily systems. Maximum heart rate decreases depending on several factors, the biggest of which is age.

Understanding maximum heart rate and, further, the idea of heart rate zones for targeted training (these, again, will vary from person to person) gives us an idea of why access to a heart rate monitor can be useful for personal fitness. It can help prevent injury, allow for training regiments built around heart rate zones, and in turn aid in achieving certain fitness goals. Several online resources are available to learn more about target heart rates and even calculate zones based on age and other factors such as resting heart rate.

What the Galaxy S5’s heart rate monitor does not do is measure slightly more complicated metrics such as blood pressure and cardiac output, and therefore should not be considered a tool for providing armchair health diagnostics. While the GS5 will provide a general idea of how hard your heart is working at any given moment, you should consult a physician rather than your smartphone if you believe you may be suffering from a more serious condition.

How to use the Galaxy S5 heart rate monitor


So now that we understand the basics, let’s see how we go about using the Galaxy S5 to determine heart rate. The entire process couldn’t be easier and takes only a few seconds to provide a reading.

  1. Open the S Health app
  2. On the app’s home screen, tap Heart Rate.
  3. Place the tip of your index finger over the Galaxy S5’s heart rate sensor. The sensor will glow red.
  4. Wait for the reading to complete (this should only take a few seconds).

In some cases the Galaxy S5 may be unable to read your heart rate on the first try. The monitor is particularly susceptible to movement, moisture, and other human factors. To get better results, a few tips are recommended:

  • Make sure your fingertip is relatively dry. Wipe off that sweat!
  • Keep as still as possible when attempting to take a reading.
  • Stay quiet. Excess noise can apparently interfere with the monitor’s function.
  • If getting a reading is difficult, you might try holding your breath (or at least try to keep your breathing slow and steady).

The obvious drawback here is the fact that you will need to take a break from any physical activity to obtain a reading. This is no different, really, than the old school way of determining heart rate — that is, placing two fingers on the inside of your wrist and counting pulses over the duration of a set period of time. There is no debate that the GS5 makes for a more convenient reading by comparison. For those looking to actively track heart rate during exercise, you might consider investing in a dedicated heart rate band to be worn around the chest or wrist. In most cases, these ANT+ accessories will be able to be paired with the Galaxy S5 to provide realtime heart rate data.


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50+ Samsung Galaxy S5 Tips & Tricks Wed, 30 Apr 2014 10:13:34 +0000 If you just got the Samsung Galaxy S5 you might feel overwhelmed with all the features and options. Or maybe you want to uncover all the phone’s capabilities without digging for hours. We’ve put together a list of 50+ Tips & Tricks for the Galaxy S5 that will fulfill your every need along with a video that touches on some of our favorites.

Galaxy S5 Shortcuts & Buttons

  • Home Button (tap) – return home from any screen
  • Home Button (hold) – Google Now
  • Home button (double tap)  – S Voice
  • Home button (triple tap)  – Accessibility options*
  • Home screen (pinch) – wallpapers, widgets, home settings
  • Back Button (tap) – previous screen
  • Back Button (hold) – turn on Multi-Window Mode
  • Multitasking Button (tap) – open recent activities
  • Multitasking Button (hold) – access settings and menus in all apps
  • Power button (tap) – put screen to sleep and wake it up
  • Power button (hold) – change modes (off, airplane, restart, emergency) and sound
  • Power button & Home (hold)- take a screenshot with the Galaxy S5
  • Volume (then tap gear) – customize sounds
  • Triple Tap Screen – zoom in and out on any screen

*Turn the triple tap home for accessibility feature on in Settings > Accessibility > Direct Access

Set up your Galaxy S5

There are at least 14 things you should do when you get your Galaxy S5 and we’ve explained them in detail in a separate article for Galaxy S5 beginners. If you haven’t read that article yet, it’s a great place to start!

And if you’ve got specific questions about the Galaxy S5 or are having an issue you don’t see addressed elsewhere, head over to the Galaxy S5 Forum and ask there… lots of people ready, willing, and able to help.

The Galaxy S5 is Water Resistant

The Galaxy S5 has an IP67 Certification which means it’s dust proof and water resistant. Don’t be shy about getting it a little wet: if you spill water on it, drop it in the toilet, or use it in the rain, it’ll likely be just fine!

Seal the S5 Every Time!

Whenever you take off the S5′s back cover or open the latch to the charging port you make your phone vulnerable to water damage. When you snap that case back on and close the latch you need to be 100% sure it is completely sealed – it’s especially easy to overlook a part of the back cover not completely snapped in place. Samsung gives you pop up warnings to remind you to double check and we’d suggest leaving these on. They’re annoying now, but as soon as it saves your phone’s life from water death you’ll be happy you trudged through the trouble.

The Galaxy S5 is not Waterproof

Water proof and water resistant are two very different things. While the IP67 Certification means your phone will be protected from the elements, we don’t suggest you go swimming with the device or purposefully subject it to liquid trauma. The Galaxy S5 does a great job when splished, splashed, submerged, and pummeled with water but sometimes too much is too much and regardless of what insurance you have, water damage is never covered, regardless of the S5′s IP67 rating.

Unlock the S5 with your Finger

The Galaxy S5 has a fingerprint scanner located on the Home Button. You can’t see it, but trust us, it’s there.

  • Set it up by going to Settings > Fingerprint
  • When registering your finger print use different fingers and swipe at different angles to simulate how you would unlock your phone in real life
  • Add additional fingerprints for yourself or other people who may share/use the device
  • Choose “Screen Lock” and select “Fingerprint” from the settings menu to use your finger to unlock your phone
  • Alternatively go to Settings > Lock screen > Screen lock and choose Fingerprint directly

Protect private files with your fingerprint

You can also lock certain files on your phone, requiring your fingerprint to be scanned before accessing them. This is great to protect sensitive information, pictuers, and other information you want to remain hidden from prying eyes.

  • Turn this on in: Settings > Private Mode
  • Select Unlock Method > Fingerprint
  • Long press a file/image, choose settings, select “Move to Private” (Private Mode must be on to do this)
  • Turn Private Mode off and all files moved to private will be invisible
  • Turn Private Mode on and – only after confirming your fingerprint – all files, including those that are private, will be visible

Private Mode being on/off can be a little confusing since you could assume when you’re in private mode that things would be kept private. Instead it means you’re accessing your private content. It’s easy to remember after once habit kicks in.

Pay for stuff with your fingerprint

Smartphones make it really easy to pay for stuff without ever pulling out a wallet, especially when you’ve got your login information stored by default. Nice and convenient but you don’t want it to be TOO convenient; after all, what if your 8 year old starts buying games with your phone? Or worse, what if a thief – or *gasp* your wife – gets ahold of it?

Companies like PayPal can now build the Galaxy S5 fingerprint functionality into their own apps, requiring a successful fingerprint swipe before confirming a purchase. Enabling this will be different for each app, but in the case of PayPal, simply visit Settings > Fingerprint > Pay with Paypal under the Features section.

Check and Track your Heart Rate

Yet another great addition the Galaxy S5 is a heart rate monitor, coupled with the camera’s flash on the back of the phone. To access the heart rate monitor simply:

  • Open S Health from the app drawer
  • Press the “Heart Rate” icon on the bottom right or select “Heart Rate” from the menu
  • Place your finger over the entire heart rate monitor on the rear
  • Hold still, stay quiet, and keep the sensor completely covered for the most accurate results

You can also jump directly into the Heart Rate Monitor by pressing the heart icon on the right of the S Health widget. Pressing the chart button in the bottom right will allow you to view historical charts of your heart rate as recorded by your S5.

Control the Galaxy S5 with your voice

There are two very easy ways to use your voice to do almost anything on your Galaxy S5: S-Voice and Google Now. While some people may prefer to turn off S-Voice, others may find it an enjoyable solution.

Unlock your phone with S-Voice

The implementation can be a bit shoddy and the results aren’t always perfect, but S-Voice lets you perform a wide variety of tasks with your voice. Simply:

  • Double tap the home button
  • Press settings in the upper right
  • Select Voice Wakeup
  • Turn it on and set your wakeup command

You can now use any special phrase to wake your phone and perform voice searches and actions… although we much prefer Google Now between the two primary voice services.

Say “Ok Google” for Google Now Voice Commands

Once your phone is unlocked you can say “Okay Google” on any screen that has the Google Search widget to instantly access Google Now. A search box pops up instantly and you can speak your command. We’ve got a full list of Google Now Voice Commands but here are some of our favorites:

  • Call ____
  • Get directions to ______
  • Send text message to _______
  • Remember to _______
  • Schedule a meeting for ______ with ________
  • Wake me up in _________
  • Watch _________

What’s your favorite Google Now voice command?

Pay for stuff at the store with your Galaxy S5

Leave your wallet in your pocket: you can use your Galaxy S5 to pay for things simply by tapping it on the payment processor thanks to the Galaxy S5 having NFC. This only works at select locations such as Starbucks and 7-Eleven, but man does it work like a charm.

I always see people that use their phone to pay for Starbucks and other people in line seem shocked. You can tell they want to do it themselves but seem intimidated… it really isn’t difficult:

  • Turn NFC On in Settings > More Networks > NFC
  • Select ISIS (or an alternative) in the “Tap and Pay” section of NFC
  • Open ISIS from the app drawer and follow the steps to set up your account
  • Begin tapping and paying!

Technology can be intimidating but take a deep breath and remember that we’re all human. If you simply tell the cashier it’s your first time paying with your phone, they’re usually more than happy to help you, and if you get a tech enthusiast they’ll probably be excited!

Use the Galaxy S5 as your TV Remote

Technology has changed the world, but TV remotes are stuck in the past. Don’t be a caveman: use your Galaxy S5 as a TV remote for a more rich and smart viewing experience.

  • Open the App Drawer
  • Select “Smart Remote”
  • Press the remote control in the top right
  • Follow the on screen instructions
  • Enjoy your enhanced entertainment experience!

If you’re the type to continually misplace your television remote it or lose it in the depths of your couch cushions, you’ll be relieved that your phone – and therefore you TV remote – is always easily accessible in your pocket!

Galaxy S5 Lock Screen Tips

Unlocking your phone- you do it about a billion times each day. Usually you do so with a purpose, so rather than taking extra steps to get here or there, Samsung has made it easy to access some specific features directly from the Unlock Screen.

Customize your lock screen

Go to Settings > Lock Screen to customize your lock screen with the following options:

  • Select unlock method (swipe, pattern, fingerprint, PIN, password, none)
  • Dual clock on/off lets travelers easily see the time it is at home
  • Clock size small, medium, or large
  • Show date
  • Lots more…

Launch Camera directly from lock screen

Time is often of the essence when trying to capture the perfect picture. The Galaxy S5 lets you bypass the lock screen to snap a picture. Simply swipe the camera icon up (in the lower right hand corner) and you’ll launch directly into the camera app! If this feature isn’t turned on you can do so by:

  • Go to Settings > Lock Screen
  • Check “Camera Shortcut”
  • You’re done!

Even if you have a pattern or password lock set up this will let you take pictures without unlocking your phone.

Put your contact information on the lock screen

So you’ve gone through the painstaking steps of securing your phone in case it’s lost or stolen. But what if your phone is found by a good samaritan? Rather than locking them out, you may want to give them a chance to contact you so they can return it.

  • Go to Settings > Lock Screen
  • Tap “Owner Information”
  • Enter your name, phone number, e-mail address, or any other information that would help someone return a lost phone to you

That information will now be visible on your lock screen, giving any good samaritan a better chance at returning your prized tech possession.

Lock your screen with the power button

Some people want their phones super secure at all times and others just want it generally protected. You can customize the level of protection by going to:

  • Settings > Lock Screen
  • Scroll down to “Lock Automatically”
  • Select duration of time after which your phone should automatically lock
  • Select “lock instantly with power key” to force the screen to lock, regardless of the selected duration, when you press the power button

Galaxy S5 Home Screen Tips

Your phone is unlocked and now you want to straighten up and organize your in-phone experience. Here are some recommendations on customizing your Galaxy S5 home screen.

Customize your Galaxy S5 Home Screen

Press the home button and pinch the screen to access a quick view of all your Home Screen Customization options. From here you can:

  • Set and customize wallpapers for home screen and lock screen
  • Add widgets to home screens
  • Long press home screen pages to rearrange them or delete them
  • Access Home Screen Settings

Make your Home Screen Faster

In addition to pinching and zooming from the home screen you can also hold down the multi-tasking button. Selecting “Home Screen Settings” on the bottom right will give you two options:

  • Transition Effect
  • My Magazine

We would suggest you turn both of these off. Transition effects eat up some processing power on your phone and My Magazine is a bit sluggish and probably not worth the hassle. Give it a try… you may feel otherwise, but we think you’ll thank us later.

Organize your Apps

There’s no dancing around the subject: the Galaxy S5 homescreens and app drawers are a cluttered mess. Take a few minutes to drag and drop everything you won’t use into the trash.

  • Remove apps by long pressing from the home screen and dragging them to “trash”
  • Uninstall apps by opening the app drawer, long pressing apps, and dragging them to “uninstall”
  • Hide apps by opening the app drawer, long pressing apps, and dragging them to “disable”

There are lots of apps (aka bloatware) that Samsung and the Carriers install that you can’t uninstall, but having the ability to disable/hide them sure does help.

Quick Settings and Notification Tips

Aside from unlocking your phone, accessing notifications and settings is one of the things you’ll do most often, so you’ll want the area set up perfectly to your liking. Here are some things you should know:

  1. Use 1 finger: pull down from top of the screen for notifications and quick settings
  2. See those toggle on/off icons at the top? They scroll horizontally: swipe to see more.
  3. Use 2 fingers: to pull down from top of the screen for full settings list
  4. Customize notification tray quick settings by tapping the pencil after pulling down with 2 fingers
  5. Customize settings area quick settings by pulling down with one finger, tapping the gear, tapping the 3 dots, then tapping the “Edit Quick Settings” option
  6. Change Settings View to List View – in the same location as above, select List View (if Grid View is active) and you’ll get a much neater and organized list of all the settings
  7. Turn Recommended Apps On. This lets Samsung display apps you likely want to access based on your current activity and can be very helpful. From the settings simply “Search” for “Recommended” and it should pop right up

Improve Galaxy S5 battery life

Your phone isn’t very helpful at 0% battery life aside from being a very expensive paperweight. Thankfully, we’ve got some tips that will have your phone lasting longer than ever before.

Show Battery Percentage

It’s tough to conserve battery power if you don’t know when you should be conserving. By default, there is a battery icon in your notification area but no indicator of exactly how much battery percentage you have left. You can easily turn this on by going to Settings > Battery > Show Battery Percentage – it should now appear in the upper right of your screen at all times.

Turn off unused battery-hogging features

Not everyone uses the same set of features, bells, and whistles, which is why options and settings exist in the first place. However, you may find that a lot of features are turned on by default that you’re not using and will never use, yet continue to run in the background, sucking away your precious battery life.

Here are some settings we recommend you turn off and where you can find them:

  • Motion Gestures: turn ALL of these off in Settings > Motions and gestures. There are 5: (1) Air Browse, (2) Direct call, (3) Smart alert, (4) Mute/pause, (5) Palm to swipe capture. Some people may like Direct Call and Mute/pause, but we prefer turning all of them off.
  • Air View: found just below Motion Gestures in Settings > Air view. It offers a tool-tip style hover features that you’ll rarely (if ever) use.
  • Smart Stay: this keeps your screen on while you’re looking at it which obviously needs to continually check to see if you’re looking at the screen. Neat feature but most won’t find it required. Settings > Display > Smart Stay.
  • Turn off back button light. You know how the back button and the multi-tasking button to the left and right of the home button illuminate when you press them? You can hide those lights completely while keeping full functionality of the buttons. Kind of neat and an option I’ve grown to love. Settings > Display > Touch key light duration > Always off.

Turn on battery-saving features

There are a handful of Galaxy S5 settings that are designed specifically for saving battery life in certain scenarios. Here are some that we recommend turning on and where you can find them:

  • Auto adjust screen tone to save power. This display setting will adjust your screen done depending on the current picture to save battery life. Settings > Display > Auto adjust screen tone.
  • Keep location on, but turn GPS Off. Some people like having access to location settings 24/7 but GPS can be one of the biggest battery hogs. Samsung allows you to rely on Wi-Fi and mobile networks to locate you with “Power saving” mode. It’s less accurate but it definitely extends your battery life. Settings > Location > Mode > Power saving.
  • Always allow Wi-Fi Scanning. For the above to work correctly your phone needs to always be scanning for new networks. You need to turn this on by going to Settings > Wi-Fi > Wi-Fi Settings via 3 Dots > Advanced > Always allow scanning. Keep in mind that these two features will use MORE battery life than simply turning off location and wi-fi scanning altogether, but if you need location, it’s more efficient than GPS.

Prepare for the worst

If you know your battery life is going to enter critical condition territory and you want to protect it in advance, Samsung has added two new features on the Galaxy S5 called Power Saving Mode and Ultra Power Saving Mode.

Power Saving Mode lets you adjust a number of settings to create a phone profile that conserves battery. Whenever battery life becomes a point of contention, turn it on and it will restrict your phone’s performance with battery in mind. It will block background data, block certain apps, and turn your phone gray scale. It is essentially a “start saving battery” switch that effects a lot of settings in your battery’s favor.

Ultra Power Saving Mode offers the same type of functionality but is much more severe. When you turn it on it will block your access to all apps except for up to 6, allowing you to receive calls and texts but pretty much preventing everything else. You’re given information about how long your phone can last in this mode and the numbers are pretty impressive. If you’re in a jam, Ultra Power Saving Mode could really save your you-know-what.

You can find both of these features in Settings > Power Saving Mode in the bottom of the Device category.

Phone & Contact Tips

Over the years we’ve seen phones go from a calling device to internet and app machines. News flash: phones still call people. Update: we’ve got some tips to improve that experience.

Block Specific Numbers

Do you have a stalker? Pissed at a friend who won’t stop calling you relentlessly? Can’t shake a certain telemarketer? The S5 lets you selectively block specific phone numbers with a feature called Auto Reject. Jump into Settings > Applications > Call > Call Rejection > and add specific numbers to the list.

Quick Answer/End Calls

There are a bunch of features that let you field calls more easily.

  • Answer calls automatically when you pick up the phone in Settings > Motion and Gestures > Direct Call
  • Answer calls automatically when you have a headset attached in Settings > Applications > Call > Call Accessories > Automatically answer a call with headset attached
  • Answer/End calls with physical buttons by going to Settings > Applications > Call > Answer and ending calls > call with home key, end call with power key

Remove duplicate contacts from phonebook

There aren’t many things more irritating than having 3 or 4 contact names for every single contact in your phone book. Unfortunately it seems to happen quite a bit and people cannot figure out how to fix the problem.

One reason these duplicates show is because your different social networks are all listing the contacts from the separate sources. One way to fix it is to select a specific source as your primary contact book and the others will become hidden.

Settings > Applications > Contacts > Contacts to display > select your preferred address book.

Galaxy S5 Texting Tips

We’re willing to bet that texting is one of the most used features on your phone, so why not tweak it to your liking?

Customize Text Message Layout

Aside from switching the default messaging app in Settings > Applications > Default Applications > Messaging, you can also customize the look and feel of the messaging app if you choose to stick with Samsung’s default messenger. Just jump into Settings > Applications > Messages > Display and you can change the layout along with backgrounds, fonts, and more.

Don’t delete old text messages automatically

If you text a lot your phone is going to fill up with messages rather quickly. To help you out, Samsung automatically deletes old messages after a certain storage and time threshold are met. But what if you want to keep old messages for your records? No problem.

Settings > Applications > Messages > Delete Old Messages > Off.

Display text messages as popups

Some people really love their popups and if you’ve got nothing to hide, there’s less reason to keep them confined to your notification drawer. To have new text messages appear as pop up notifications go to Settings > Applications > Messages > Notifications > On and make sure Pop-up display is selected.

Send “canned response” text messages

If you use and love the “canned response” feature in GMail you’ll probably love the “Quick Responses” feature in Android. You can respond to a phone call or text message instantly with a pre-defined message, either using default messages that come loaded on the S5 or you can create your own for future use. I can’t tell you how helpful these are when you need to decline calls but want to give people an explanation and heads up as to why.

Settings > Applications > Messages > Quick Responses.

Cancel Text Messages before they send

There’s nothing as awful as the heart-sinking feeling of pressing the “Send” button on a text message only to be filled with instant regret. In another feature seemingly borrowed from GMail, Samsung lets you hit cancel on text messages before they send with a feature called “delay message sending”. Brilliant. Turn it on in:

Settings > Applications > Messages > Delay message sending.

Always get the fastest connection

What’s faster: your mobile network or Wi-Fi? What if you’re on blazing fast 4G LTE? What if your Wi-Fi is puttering along hopelessly? Take the guesswork out of connecting to the fastest network by turning Smart Network Switching on. It will automatically switch between your mobile and Wi-Fi connection to maintain the best connection possible.

Turn it on in the Advanced Wi-Fi settings in Settings > Wi-Fi > Menu > Advanced > Smart network switch.

Rename your device

If you’re connecting to your phone via Bluetooth you’ll likely find it with the name SAMSUNG-SM-G900V (this will vary by carrier). Wouldn’t it be so much easier to find if it were called “My Awesome S5″ or something more descriptive?

You can do just that by going to Settings > Bluetooth > Menu > Rename device … or Settings > About Phone > Device Name.

Open Certain Apps with Different Apps

This may have made more sense to title “change default apps” but so many people have posed the question to me in this exact manner. How do I open this app with a different app? As an example, you may not like the default messaging app that your carrier gives you for receiving text messages but you aren’t stuck with a single option for messages or anything else for that matter.

Go to Settings > Applications > Default Applications where you can select the default for a variety of tasks including your Home Screen, Messages, watching videos, and the list goes on.

Improve Screen Colors & Contrast

I happen to think the Galaxy S5 has the most beautiful, vibrant screen of any phone on the market. For some people it’s a tad too bright. Samsung offers a few different screen modes that take this type of preference into consideration. Head over to Settings > Display > Screen Mode and choose from Adapt Display, Dynamic, Standard, Professional photo, and Cinema. The latter will likely offer the most realistic and least exaggerated experience but I prefer and recommend “Adapt Display”.

User your S5 with Gloves

Trying to use your phone in cold weather can be a real pain in the butt. Responsive touchscreens work by reacting to the electric current in your fingertips when you touch the screen. This creates an obvious problem when you’re wearing gloves, but Samsung has an extra-sensitive screen mode that can be enabled and it works great while you’re wearing gloves.

Turn it on in Settings > Display > Increase touch sensitivity and you’ll be good to go… even while you’re making a snowman in Alaska.

Galaxy S5 Split Screen View

The Galaxy S5 has a nice big screen that has more than enough room to do two things at once. Simply hold down the back button to enable multi-tasking mode and drag and drop your preferred activities into the main window, adjusting the size of the panes with the middle slider.

This can be particularly helpful when you’re texting someone and doing research on the web or on Google Maps. It’s also helpful if you’re using one screen as a reference while you type on another screen, preventing you form going back and forth and/or remembering long strings of information.

Multi-window is a feature that, to me, seemed like overkill on a phone… until I started using it regularly. It’s great and we definitely recommend you give it a whirl.

Use the Galaxy S5 with one hand

The big S5 screen and multi-tasking are great, but if you’ve got small hands, using the phone with one hand can be a hassle. Unless you know about one-handed mode.

Turn it on in Settings > One-Handed Operation and you’re good to go. A simple flick in and back from the right edge of your screen will pop out one-handed mode that makes things much easier to use with one hand. The same flick in and back motion will close one-handed mode.

Stuff 128GB into the S5

Multimedia lovers will appreciate that they can now store an additional 128GB in the Galaxy S5 thanks to SanDisk’s new functionality. The S5 comes with 16GB and 32GB versions but all versions have a MicroSD slot. Newly announced MicroSD cards hold up to 128GB and are relatively affordable. If your phone is your primary media device, I definitely recommend picking one up.

Make the S5 Easy for Seniors and Beginners

I don’t mean to enter age discrimination territory but let’s not shy away from the truth: smartphones are complicated pieces of machinery and sometimes older folks have a hard time grasping how to use them. You can put the Galaxy S5 into an “Easy Mode” that dumbs down the smartphone interface it a more limited number of icons and options while also making these icons larger and easier to see.

To access easy mode simply find “Easy Mode” in the main settings panel and flip it on. There’s no shame in using this mode! It’s a good place to start and you can always graduate from Easy Mode to become a full fledged smartphone expert.

Turn on “Do Not Disturb” (Blocking Mode)

Business meetings, church, family dinners, etc… there are times you simply don’t want to be bothered. Samsung makes it easy to avoid distractions with “Blocking Mode” which is essentially the same as a “Do Not Disturb” offered by other manufacturers. Customize the options and you can:

  • Block incoming calls
  • Turn off notifications
  • Turn off alarms and timers
  • Schedule Blocking Mode for recurring days/times
  • Allow specific contacts to bypass Blocking Mode

Turn Blocking Mode on just below Easy Mode in the main Settings > Blocking Mode.

Camera Tips & Tricks

The new and improved Galaxy S5 camera has a plethora of features and you’ll be best suited by just diving in and trying stuff out. Camera tips and tricks could fill up an entire article itself, but here are a few suggestions to get you started:

HDR Mode is amazing

If the lighting isn’t great and there are lots of shadows and shade in your frame, press the HDR Button (just above the gear icon on the left). This will pour a ton of color into your picture that would otherwise go missing. Make sure you hold the camera especially steady in this mode. You’ll get a lot more mileage out of the Galaxy S5 camera if you get familiar with HDR.

Use Selective Focus sparingly

Samsung’s new Selective Focus mode lets you achieve blurred backgrounds that are typically reserved for expensive cameras and DSLRs. The problem is that the settings need to be PERFECT for this mode to work. You’ll need a subject that’s within about 1.5 feet from you and proper lighting. Don’t waste the chance for a good picture by rolling the dice with Selective Focus but if you’ve got time to spare it can be fun to experiment with.

Take pictures with Voice Commands

You can easily take pictures or video without ever pressing the capture button by saying the following commands:

  • Smile
  • Cheese
  • Capture
  • Shoot
  • Record Video

You may need to enable this in the camera’s settings under Voice Control > On.

Rapid fire pictures

If you’re like me, you suck at getting the perfect picture at the perfect time. Fortunately there is a feature on the S5 called “Burst Shots” which lets you take a rapid fire succession of pictures by holding down the shutter button. This feature cannot save to SD card due to memory constraints so make sure you’ve got plenty of space on your phone before proceeding.

If you might want to do some post production editing after taking those rapid fire pictures you may want to change camera modes to Shot & More which allows a bunch of extra options to get the best picture from among the many taken in rapid fire mode. And speaking of modes…

Animated GIFs and Beyond!

The age-old animated GIFs have enjoyed resurgent popularity thanks to social networking sites enabling them for mass sharing and consumption. Dive into Animated Photo mode to capture a goofy moment or something worth sharing and post it directly to your social network of choice.

The Galaxy S5 automatic mode is pretty darn good but change camera modes to capture the best picture depending on your settings. Just tap the “Mode” button and select from Beauty Face, Shot & More, Panorama, Virtual Tour, Dual Camera, Animated Photo, or Download to try additional camera settings and features.

Helping Hands: Friends & Family

Our loyal readers and tech savvy followers probably knew most of these tips and tricks already, but don’t take your experience for granted- there are a lot of people who have got no clue where to start when they buy an Android Phone. If you’re the type of person that friends and family ask for technology advice and help, consider bookmarking this article and passing it along to new Galaxy S5 owners.

And as always, if you’re looking for help with a specific problem there’s no better resource than the Galaxy S5 Forums on the one-and-only Android Forums!

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14 things every Galaxy S5 owner should do Fri, 25 Apr 2014 21:23:22 +0000 Samsung Galaxy S5 DSC05763

Buying a new phone can be rough. With a fancy new user interface usually comes hundreds of software features and you may not have the slightest clue where to start. Don’t worry. Your friends at Phandroid got your back. In this post, we’ll be exploring the first things you should be doing with your phone as a brand new Samsung Galaxy S5 owner.


1. Setup fingerprint scanner (and make it work with 1-hand)

Galaxy S5 Fingerprint scanner

Because your smartphone holds a heap ton of personal information, your first act of business should be securing your phone. Whether you want to do that with a password (high security), pin (medium security), or pattern, the Samsung Galaxy S5 makes this process a little less painful with the inclusion of a fingerprint scanner in the home button.

Executed with a simple swipe, that’s all you’ll need to unlock your phone and keep unwanted eyes out. Simply open up the Settings app, then scroll down and select “Fingerprint.” Choose the top option “Use fingerprint recognition…” and from there, you’ll be walked through setting up the fingerprint scanner.

Protip: Samsung’s way isn’t the only way to register a print. Instead, try hold the phone naturally with 1 hand, and swipe at an angle with your thumb. This will ensure you can easily unlock your phone using 1 hand, instead of 2 like in Samsung’s demo. A hundred times more convenient. Don’t forget that you register up to 3 fingerprints, so feel free to register more prints using the 2-handed method as well.

2. Setup your lock screen with owner information

Galaxy S5 lockscreen info

Now that your phone is secure and you’ve effectively guaranteed nobody will make it past your lockscreen, now would be a good time to set up your lockscreen with some helpful contact information. This will ensure that, in the event you ever lose your phone, a good Samaritan will have all the info they need to contact and return it to you safely.

Make things easier to find

3. Change settings to list view

Galaxy S5 Settings list view

Samsung kinda threw everyone for a loop when they introduced their new Settings layout for the Galaxy S5. Instead of the normal list we’ve been since Android 1.0, they’ve gone ahead and chosen a grid layout. Cluttered and difficult to find what you’re looking for — don’t worry, there’s an easy way to get the traditional list view back. Simply press the 3-dot menu button in the upper right corner, and select “List view.” Now you can enjoy Settings options that are now 100% easier to find than before.

4. Customize notification area

Galaxy S5 notification panel

Probably the most important part of your phone’s user interface is the notification area. Pull it down and you’ll notice handy shortcuts at the top of the phone to quickly toggle commonly used functions like WiFi, Bluetooth, etc.. Samsung’s layout may not be the most ideal (it really isn’t), but you can customize all the little toggles that show up, not only when your first pull down the notification panel, but in the secondary area as well (see picture 1).

We recommend getting rid of things you never use often (like screen rotation or location), and replacing it with Power saver, multi-view, and toolbox — handy features you’ll need quick access to. Everything else, just organize and place below the first row of the “active buttons” section. With so many options, it’s worth taking a minute to set up this portion of your Galaxy S5.

5. Customize Toolbox

Galaxy S5 Toolbox tips

The Toolbox is a floating button of sorts that when enabled, can give you shortcuts to apps you use often. Useful for quickly jumping to apps without even having to visit your homescreen, this too can be custom tailored to suit your tastes.

Simply open up the Toolbox option from the Settings app, turn it on, and click the “edit” key to add which ever apps you like. When turned on, you can quickly summon the Toolbox by simply long pressing the back key on your phone.

6. Customize Multi-window

Galaxy S5 Multi-window

It’s probably the coolest software feature found on the Galaxy S5, and can be hugely beneficial to power users: multi-window. A TouchWiz feature that allows you to use 2 applications simultaneously, this too will take some setting up for maximum effectiveness.

Aside from customizing the drawer with apps you’d like to use along with other apps, you can even setup group shortcuts by clicking on the “create” option towards the bottom of the window. Our favorite group? YouTube/Hangouts for watching videos and chatting with friends at the same time. Fun.

7. Turn on NFC

Galaxy S5 NFC

NFC — or Near Field Communication — is one of the best things about owning a modern smartphone. Located on the back of your smartphone, there’s a tiny chip that is only activated when in very close proximity to a reader.

With NFC, you can tap 2 phones together (providing it too is NFC-enabled), send photos via Bluetooth, or pair your phone to something like a Bluetooth speaker, even make purchases at 7-Eleven using your phone (providing you’ve set up Tap and Pay with Google Wallet or alternative payment methods). Just make sure that once you turn NFC on, don’t forget to also turn on Android Beam and S Beam for full functionality.

Best part about NFC is doesn’t have any impact on battery life, so you don’t have to worry about leaving it on.

Make your phone feel faster

8. Turn off animations inside hidden Developer options

Galaxy S5 Developer Options animations

I talked about this briefly in my Galaxy S5 rant, but one thing some users might notice when using the phone is a slight amount of lag when opening apps. Whether this has something to do with TouchWiz or hardware, you can help “speed” things up by turning off all animations in the phone.

The only way to do this is to enable super top secret “Developer options” hidden in your Galaxy S5. This is done by opening up the Settings app, scrolling down to “About device,” then pressing on Build Number a total of 7 times. You’ll see a toast notification letting you know how many presses you are away from “becoming a developer.”

Once you’re done, return to the main Settings area and scroll to the bottom. There you’ll find a new option for Developer options. Once inside, scroll down to “Transition animation scale,” and set everything to 0 for a really quick feel (or simply 5.x to speed things up a little bit). Enjoy!

9. Turn off S Voice

Galaxy S5 S Voice

Out of the box, your Samsung Galaxy S5 features a short cut to quickly open up S Voice, Samsung’s own virtual voice assistant app. Because the app is sorta redundant, you may want to stick with Google Search which we’ve found to work better all around (executed by long pressing the home button).

Not only do we never feel the need to quickly access S Voice (you can always find it in your app drawer), but it can actually slow your roll. How? When the shortcut is enabled (executed by pressing the home button twice), your phone will always wait for a second key press, every time you simply want to return to your home screen. Some might not even notice the delay, but for those looking to increase the speed and responsiveness of their $600 investment, just turn the dang shortcut off.

You can do this simply by opening up the S Voice application, going into its settings by clicking the 3-dot menu in the upper right. Then scroll down to “Open via home key” and turn it off (uncheck the box). Boom. Another laggy shortcut disabled.

Power management

10. Adjust Power saving mode

Galaxy S5 Power Saving Mode

The Galaxy S5 features a hand-dandy “Power saving” mode, but like most things, it will take some tweaking to suit your needs. For instance, by default, power saving mode goes all out, blocking background data, slowing down performance (making the phone slower when scrolling through menus), and finally, can make your phone display only grayscale (black and white).

Altogether, these are pretty extreme measure to simply squeeze a little bit of extra battery life from your phone. Because of the amount of messaging applications that rely on background data to function — apps like Hangout, Facebook Messenger, Kik, etc. — we don’t think turning off background data is worth the trade off.

Instead, options like restricting performance and grayscale mode will allow you to use your phone as normal, while ensuring your Galaxy S5 is using only a minimal amount of battery while being used. I mean, you don’t need color or a silky smooth UI to chat with friends or send a tweet, right?

11. Turn off touch key lights

Galaxy S5 Touch key light duration

Because even LED lights can drain your smartphone’s battery, turning off the LEDs that light up the multitasking and back buttons could help conserve precious juice. One of the coolest parts about the Galaxy S5 is they actually give you the ability to turn them off.

Simply head to your Settings app, scroll to the Display option, then select Touch hey light duration and switch it to “Always off.” Hopefully you don’t forget where those keys are located in the dark (but we think you’ll be just fine).

12. Black out your lock screen

Galaxy S5 black lockscreen

When you first get your phone, we’re sure the first thing you noticed was that intense lockscreen. Earlier in this post we told you how you could/should add your contact information in the event you lose your phone, and now we’re going to talk about how to tweak it for battery life.

The Galaxy S5 features a unique Super AMOLED display and without getting too technical, that means unlike traditional LCD, the Galaxy S5 doesn’t require much juice to light up the black pixels on the phone (I mean, they’re already black, right?). What that also means is if you use a black background on your lock screen, your phone only has to light up the time, date, and other small text. Problem is, Samsung doesn’t supply an all black wallpaper, so you’re going to have to find your own. Don’t worry, you can click here for one.

Once downloaded, head into your Settings, and jump into Wallpaper, click Lock screen, and select “more images” from the wallpaper chooser, and look for that black wallpaper you just downloaded from your Gallery.

While this means your lockscreen might not look as cool or flashy as the next guy’s, you’ll enjoy a slightly longer battery life if you’re one of those types who are constantly checking their phone for the time or new notifications. You’re welcome.

13. Turn off Motions and Gestures, Air view

Galaxy S5 Motions and gestures Air view

The Samsung Galaxy S5 has a boatload of software features. While some are kinda neat, we found that we didn’t actually need any of these to further the enjoyment of our phone. Instead, we found that turning them off, while unproven, should help battery life, even if only slightly. I mean, your Galaxy S5 watching to see if your eyes are looking at the display has got to eat up some battery, no matter how minimal.

Simply jump into your Settings app, scroll down to Motions and gestures and turn off everything you don’t think will be very beneficial to you. After that, do the same with Air view and enjoy a possible slight increase in battery.

14. Backup photos and videos using Google+

Google Plus auto backup photos video

Your phone already comes with Google+ pre-installed. Only thin you have to do is open it. During the small set up process, you’ll be asked if you want to back up your photos to Google+. Of course you do (probably only on WiFi though). And don’t worry about online drama, you don’t even have to use Google+ as a social network. Just set it and forget it. This way if you lose your phone (or move onto a new one) all of your photos and videos will be securely tucked away in the cloud.

Google+ will store an unlimited amount of photos at 2048 pixels wide (roughly 3MP in size). If you don’t want your quality to suffer at all, you can always store them at full size, but that will eat into your Google Drive storage (about 15GB when you include Gmail). To help save battery life, there’s also an option to only sync when connected to a charger — we recommend using that option.

That’s it!

And that should pretty cover everything you should do as a brand new Samsung Galaxy S5 owner. Of course, this is by no means an exhaustive list, but we think we covered most of the basics. Don’t forget to come back tomorrow for our Galaxy S5 Tips and Tricks post, detailing all the cool things you can do with your shiny new Galaxy S5. Should you have any more questions, feel free to drop a comment and/or check out our Galaxy S5 Forum on Android There you’ll find people who are always willing to help with your questions or issues, no matter how small. Cheers!

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