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If you use a Samsung smartphone, you may not be getting the most out of it. As someone who uses a lot of smartphones on a regular basis, I definitely have a few choice modifications and settings changes I make to get Samsung’s phones feeling more intuitive, functional, and just plain better as an overall experience. While not all of these changes may be to everyone’s preference, and you may know a few of them, hopefully you’ll be reminded of a few choice One UI* and Android options that can make your phone just a little bit nicer to use on a day to day basis. (*This post applies to Samsung phones running Android 10 or later.)
1. Use volume keys for media
In 2020, I think it’s a little silly for your volume rocker to be doing anything but controlling media volume. We typically keep our phones in silent or vibrate mode, so controlling system or notification noises with the volume rocker is pretty pointless. Samsung is one of the few phone OEMs still not making media the default volume control out of the box, but changing this is simple enough: just hit the volume rocker, tap the drop-down arrow on the sound menu, and toggle “Use Volume keys for media” on. At that point, you’ll be set.
2. Order app drawer alphabetically
This one drives me batty: Samsung orders its app drawer grid in the launcher like a homescreen: new stuff goes to the end of the list, and it’s on you to organize it. This makes no sense! To order your apps alphabetically, simply open up the app drawer, hit the 3-dot menu in the upper right, and tap “Sort” to find the alphabetical sort option. Much better.
3. Expand home screen and app drawer icon grid
By default, Samsung allows surprisingly few icons on your homescreen grid, but with phones as large as they are now, there’s really no reason not to be maximizing your real estate. Long tap on an empty area of the homescreen, hit Home screen settings, and set your home and app screen layouts to the largest configuration (5×6). So much room for activities!
4. Switch default browser to Chrome
This is a personal choice, but as much cool stuff as Samsung’s Internet browser can do, I just can’t live without Chrome. If you’re the same, you’ll want to go into settings for default apps (in the apps area of the settings… app) and switch it to Chrome, otherwise all your links will open in Samsung Internet.
5. Switch keyboard to Gboard
I consider this mandatory. Samsung’s virtual keyboard is just really, really bad. Suggestions are slow, not very good, and the layout just doesn’t feel like it’s especially good at predicting what your fingers are actually searching for. Download Gboard and I can promise you, you’ll never go back.
As set up from the factory, holding the power key on your Galaxy S20 will not give you the expected options to… turn off (or restart) your phone. This is annoying and dumb. To fix it, drag down the notification shade, hit the power icon, and at the bottom of the screen you’ll see a “Side key settings” button. From here, you can toggle the “Press and hold” function to open the power menu instead of Bixby, which, let’s be honest, is really how this should be set up anyway. Who uses Bixby?
7. Show battery % in status bar
I’m a bit of a battery peeper, so knowing my exact battery percentage is kind of a must on my phone. It’s easy enough to permanently add this to the phone’s status bar, just pull down on the notification shade, pull down again for the expanded quick settings toggles, then hit the 3-dot menu button. You’ll find a “Status bar” option, which has a toggle to show the battery percentage readout. (I also recommend toggling notification icons to “All notifications” if you want to see all your notifications in the status bar.)
8. Always display brightness slider in quick settings, disable media and device controls
In the same 3-dot menu where the status bar options live is one for the quick panel layout. This allows you to toggle the brightness slider to appear whenever the notification shade is open, as opposed to only when the full quick settings toggles appear. I also at this point generally opt to disable the media and device controls interface, because it’s pretty much useless, in my opinion, and just takes up space in the notification shade.
9. Disable Samsung weather notifications
Do you use the Google app? Does it send you weather notifications? Then you don’t need a second app sending you another notification for the same weather you’re already getting. Just go into the apps area of Settings, search for “Weather,” and disable all notifications for the app. This won’t affect your homescreen weather widget, it just prevents needless notifications about information you don’t need a second time.
10. Increase display timeout
Samsung sets the display timeout for its phones to 30 seconds out of the box, which I find annoyingly conservative (I may just be weird). I generally go into the display settings and set it to 5 or 10 minutes.
11. Switch screen to 120Hz refresh
Your Galaxy S20 has a fancy, buttery smooth 120Hz screen. You should use it! Samsung has the Galaxy S20 series in 60Hz refresh mode by default, because the phone’s battery life is significantly better in this mode. But with a 4000mAh battery on even the smallest S20, I think it’s going to be fine for most people to use the phone in 120Hz, and I’ve not seen a truly ridiculous drop in estimated usage as a result. Some people say they can’t really see the difference with 120Hz enabled, and if so, you may as well leave it off, but for those of us who do, this is the point of no return. I must have high-refresh phones forever now.
12. Decrease screen “zoom” or font size to show more content
If your vision isn’t so great, this probably isn’t a good one, but for me, it’s a necessity. Samsung’s default font scaling is just comically large to my eyes, so I always go into the display settings and turn it down a notch. The screen just looks less crowded and, uh, less like it was designed for someone in their mid-70s.
13. Disable edge panels
Samsung’s edge screen feature was always kind of weird. I know some people who absolutely love it, but I find it’s just something for me to accidentally open when I go to swipe near the edge of the display, especially when you enable Android 10’s gesture navigation (which is my next tip). Just go into Settings and search for “edge panels” and you’ll quickly find the toggle to disable them.
For me, there’s just no going back to traditional navigation keys. I have to use gesture nav now, forever. Enabling it is simple enough: go into Settings and search for “navigation type,” and select full screen gestures. I disabled the “hints” as I didn’t find them necessary. Android 10’s gesture navigation is so intuitive once you’ve used it for a few days, I highly suggest trying it out. Change is hard, but I haven’t found a single person who hasn’t been fully converted once they actually gave them an honest try.
15. Enable swipe from homescreen for notification panel
Samsung’s launcher on the Galaxy S20 opens the app draw whether you swipe up or down on the homescreen, but this is easily changed: open up the homescreen settings and look for the “Swipe down for notification panel” toggle. I also disable app icon badges (pretty useless!) while I’m in here, and Samsung has some other options like landscape mode that you might want to enable.
16. Disable smart alert vibrations
Smart alert is a well-intended but highly annoying feature of Samsung smartphones. Basically, Smart alert will vibrate when you pick up your phone if any calls or messages came in while your phone was sitting idle. I find it unsettling, for one, and just sort of pointless, for another. If I’m picking up my phone, I’m going to look at my notifications, I don’t need a reminder! Also, any phone buzzing that is not necessary is bad buzzing.
17. Disable putting unused apps to sleep
Samsung’s power saving protocols for One UI employ a behavior called app “sleeping” that I’m not particularly fond of. In short, this sleeping will cause apps you use infrequently to have severely limited (or effectively no) ability to run in the background. The idea here is that people install a bunch of apps they never use, and those apps together create incremental battery drain with their various check-ins and background processes that reduce your phone’s longevity. For those with limited smartphone knowledge, that may be a good idea, but for me, the idea I might miss a notification from an app because my phone decided I didn’t need that app to be able to wake up in the background causes significant paranoia. Which leads to my next adjustment.
18. Disable power optimization for Google Photos
Google Photos is one of my favorite apps, and its near-instant cloud backup function is one of my favorite features of that app. Except, ever since Android started queuing background tasks more aggressively with the “battery optimization” feature, those uploads may not commence for hours after snapping a picture. This kind of defeats the purpose of the whole thing. Fortunately, you can disable this behavior on a per-app basis. This is kind of a tricky setting to find, and it’s not where you’d probably think. Go into Settings, and search for “Optimize battery usage,” which should take you to the Special access menu. Hit optimize battery usage, then tap “App not optimized” and select “All.” Then, search for Photos, and toggle it to the off position. Now your photos and videos will upload as soon as they’re taken, as Google Photos intended.
19. Lower notification vibration intensity
One of my least favorite things about Samsung phone is their raucous default vibration strength for notifications—it’s actually loud. Compared to the gentle haptics of the Pixel line, this always take some getting used to for me, but one way you can make it a little less… aggressive is go into Settings for sounds and vibration and set the vibration intensity for notifications to the minimum level. Even at its lowest setting, it’s still pretty strong, but it’s noticeably less grating to my ears. It’s a small thing in the grand scheme, but one which I think makes using my phone less stressful. I can’t bear to put it on full silent, so this is the best compromise I can manage.
20. Disable Samsung Daily
Samsung Daily, or the artist formerly known as the Bixby pane, is Samsung’s take on a Google Discover-y feed sort of thing. Some people may like it, but I don’t need an app I never intend to interact with using up data and RAM living on my home screen. Just long-press on the homescreen, swipe over to the Samsung Daily panel, and you’ll see a toggle at the top to disable it. It’s kind of hard to find if you don’t know where to look, and I just kind of assumed it was there until someone pointed this out to me.