Samsung Galaxy S II: hidden shortcuts

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CNET Editor

Joe capitalises on a life-long love of blinking lights and upbeat MIDI soundtracks covering the latest developments in smartphones and tablet computers. When not ruining his eyesight staring at small screens, Joe ruins his eyesight playing video games and watching movies. Twitter: @Joseph_Hanlon

Samsung's TouchWiz user experience is in its fourth major iteration and, as with most computer software, it now has a few nifty tricks and tweaks buried beneath the surface.

We came across a post on the XDA Developer's Forum, where users were sharing these hidden gems with one another, so a big thanks to the forum members there for the tips below. It's also worth noting that many of these tricks were introduced when Samsung updated the original Galaxy S to Froyo, so many of these will work on that older model.

Pinch to zoom in the app drawer: you probably know that you can use a pinching gesture to show all of your home screen windows on a single screen, but did you know that you can do the same thing in the app drawer? Pinch your fingers together on any page of apps, and then scroll up and down to see all of your app pages and to quickly jump from one to another.

Swipe across contact names to call or message: rather than selecting one of your contacts in the address book and then choosing whether to call them or message them, you can swipe across their name to perform either task. Swipe right to call and swipe left to begin composing a text message.

Screenshot: as technology reviewers, the ability to easily take a screenshot with an Android phone is amongst our favourite of these tips. Like the iPhone, you press the Power and Home buttons at the same time, and your GS2 will save the screenshot into a dedicated folder in the gallery. It is a bit tricky to do, and you do need to hold both buttons in for a second for it to work.

Scroll across the notifications panel to adjust screen brightness: this shortcut is a really great idea. Press and hold anywhere on the notifications panel (where the clock and your network settings are visible), then slide your finger to the left or right to adjust your screen's brightness. This is great for when you need to quickly pump up the brightness when you're outdoors, or dim the screen if you're in bed in the evening.

Change your web browser's user agent: every web browser, whether it's on a phone or on a desktop computer, identifies itself to a website before it loads the page's contents. This user agent (UA) determines how the page will look when loaded. Recently, a lot of websites have made custom-designed sites for iPhones, but these don't always display correctly on Android phones.

In the address bar of the browser, type: about:useragent and press Enter. A menu will appear with several preset UA options and a dialog box to enter the UA of a different browser, if you know it.

Android zombie: this is the only Android Easter egg we're aware of, and it can be accessed on any phone running Gingerbread. Press Menu, then go to Settings > About Phone and scroll down to Android Version. Now repeatedly tap on the version number quickly until you see a funky zombie painting by Jack Larson.

These are the tips and tricks we know about so far; if you know of more, for either Galaxy S model, let us know in the comments.

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proster141 posted a comment   

Hey, whats the app that you use to change the icons in the slide down thing... it looks really good. I'm using Go Launcher EX, its quite cool. maybe you could try it.


SagiS posted a comment   

if u touch & hold one of the desktop screens it opens u an Option window


Brett493 posted a comment   

Hey Jo,

I have recently purchased a Galaxy S II myself and i've found that if you're the Active Application and you hold the middle button, you will be shown a list of your most recently used applications.



glenc75 posted a comment   

hi jo.

Are you running a custom rom on that handset?
doesnt look like a stock screen thats all.



Joseph Hanlon posted a reply   

Hi Glen,

Well spotted! The ROM I used in that video is a slight variation of the Stock ROM with TouchWiz. Really the only thing that you can see that is different is the icons on the notifications panel.


jbray posted a comment   

Joe, nice video couple of nice tips there. Slightly off-topic question for you, seeing as you're looking at a Samsung phone (and have looked at just about every model and other brands!). I tried a friends Galaxy tab 7 inch tablet the other day, and I noticed, compared to the iPad, the scrolling, pretty much everywhere no matter the app or home screen, is ever so slightly, er.. not as smooth. Not annoyingly so, but noticable. Is this consistent with most Android devices, just Samsung or just the first Galaxy tabs? I'm looking at Android devices so this is interesting to me. I couldn't see any lack of smooth scrolling in your video, it looked pretty good but may be hard to tell in a video.


Joseph Hanlon posted a reply   

This was something we saw as well, especially in the web browser last year's Galaxy Tab. This year's Samsung Android products are much better. There's no issues scrolling on the GS2, and I'd surprised to see this change with the upcoming Samsung tablets.


ozoneocean posted a reply   

Joseph is right. The 7 inch Samsung Galaxy Tab is definitely NOT typical of Android as a whole. Scrolling on the 2.2 Android version was horrible, that was entirely due to Samsung's bad implementation on the device, not the hardware or Android itself. This is born out by the fact that all the nigling issues like this disappear with the upgrade to Gingerbread (Android 2.3) that Samsung released for it.


JackL posted a comment   

"...Android zombie: this is the only Android Easter egg we're aware of, and it can be accessed on any phone running Gingerbread. Press Menu, then go to Settings > About Phone and scroll down to Android Version. Now repeatedly tap on the version number quickly until you see a funky zombie painting by Jack Larson." :

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