Samsung Galaxy S5: our best tips and tricks

09 July 2014

With each new Galaxy phone or tablet, Samsung adds a selection of new features and settings to the existing set found in previous devices. The result is a growing list of (mostly) hidden tweaks and advanced options which are often left out of the user manual.

Below are some of our favourite settings and modes tucked away in the Settings menu. If you have others that you find useful, please let us know about them in the comments.

Quick Dial or Message

Do you get the feeling there are a few too many keystrokes between the Home Screen and the apps you use for Contacts, Phone Calls and Messages? Samsung has included a handy shortcut in its Galaxy phones for several years which seriously speeds things up.

Wherever you see a list of contacts or a log of calls and messages, you can swipe Right on the name (or number) to Call the contact, or swipe Left to send the contact an SMS message.

  • Swipe Right for a call
  • Swipe Left for an SMS message

Tap and Hold your Toggles

When you draw down the Notifications Panel on the Galaxy S5 you’ll see a row of Settings Toggles at the top of the screen. This row is scrollable and there is a button above it to reveal a full page of different settings and modes you can toggle on and off (pictured above).

What you might not know is that if you Tap and Hold a setting toggle you are taken to the settings menu for that option. Press and Hold on Wi-Fi to go to Wi-Fi settings, or Bluetooth for the Bluetooth Settings, and so on.

Long-press the handset buttons

A long-press command is used across the Android system as a general ‘more options’ shortcut. For example, you long-press on an empty space on your Home Screen to change the wallpaper. What you might not know is that Samsung uses the same command with the physical and capacitive keys below the screen.

  • Home Button single press > Home
  • Home Button press and hold > launch Google Now
  • Home Button tap twice (quickly) > launch Samsung’s S Voice
  • Multitasking Button single press > Open multitasking menu
  • Multitasking Button press and hold > Acts as a settings button.
  • Back Button single press > Go back a screen
  • Back Button Hold > Turn on Multi-Window Mode (if this mode is activated in Settings)

One-handed keyboard

One major complaint about newer phones tends to be around their size, with many arguing that bigger phones are harder to use with a single-hand. Samsung counters this with a One-Handed Mode (activated in the Settings) and by having a one-handed keyboard style.

  • Open the keyboard by going into an app that requires it (Messages or Browser, for example)
  • Press and hold on the Settings button (the little cog beside the Space-bar) and then select the one-handed keyboard option (it looks like a keyboard laying on top of rectangle).
  • Once activated, you can re-position the keyboard anywhere on the screen. Press on the keyboard button again to go back to full-screen width.

Motion and Gestures

Some of Samsung’s gesture controls make loftier usability promises than they can deliver on. Smart Stay, which watches your eyes and pauses content when you look away, is a great example. But you shouldn’t write-off all of the option under the Motion and Gestures setting menu. Here are the ones we leave switched on:

  • Smart Alert > makes your phone vibrate when you pick it up if you have missed calls or messages to view.
  • Direct Call > answers incoming calls when the phone is picked up
  • Mute/Pause > silence the ringer when you cover the screen with your hand or when you turn the phone over on a flat surface (separate options)
  • Palm swipe to capture > perhaps this is just a great gesture for phone reviewers, but we love being able to take a screenshot by swipe our palms across the screen

Flashing the Flash for notifications

Accessibility options are usually reserved for people living with disabilities, but there are a few very handy options under this heading for every user of the Galaxy S5.

  • Go to Settings > Accessibility > Hearing and turn on ‘Flash notification’. The camera flash will light up when you receive a call, get a message or when the alarm goes off.


Do you find that there are a number of apps that you use all the time that would be best if they could follow you around? Samsung’s Toolbox option solves this problem perfectly. Basically, Toolbox is a box of up to 5 app shortcuts, which are hidden behind a small circle icon which hovers on top of all apps. Whenever you need one of the apps, you tap on the circle and then select a shortcut.

To activate Toolbox (which is turned off by default):

  • Go to Quick Settings ( the page of toggles in the Notification Panel) and press and hold on Toolbox
  • Turn it on first to activate the Edit button
  • Select your five apps

Once back at the Home Screen you’ll see the Toolbox icon. If it is in the way, press and hold on the icon and then move it around the screen.



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