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Samsung Galaxy S8 starter guide: 8 tips for your new phone

Samsung Galaxy S8 starter guide: 8 tips for your new phone

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Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus rear view
Photo by James Bareham / The Verge

Samsung’s new Galaxy S8 hit stores this past weekend, which means that a lot of people likely received their preorders or were able to pick one up in a store. The S8 is one of the best phones you can buy, and easily the best of what’s been released in 2017 so far. If you did grab a new S8, here are some tips to get the most out of it.

Set up all the unlock methods

Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

The first thing you should do, after powering the phone on and transferring your data to it, of course, is to set up all of the various biometric methods the S8 offers to unlock the phone. The S8 has a traditional fingerprint scanner, but as you likely know, it’s in an exceedingly inconvenient spot and isn’t the easiest to you. But Samsung does offer iris and face unlock methods, and you should set up all of them to see what works best for you. A combination of fingerprint scanner and iris scanning has been the most effective for me.

Head to the Settings app, then Lock Screen and Security to set them all up.

Switch the placement of the on-screen buttons

The S8 is the first flagship phone from Samsung to use virtual on-screen buttons, but their default configuration is the company’s traditional order of Recents, Home, and Back. This can be confusing if you’ve used any other Android phone or if you speak a language that reads left to right, as the back button is always in the wrong spot.

Fortunately, because these are not hard-coded physical buttons, you can switch the order so that the back button is on the left, home is in the middle, and recent app switcher is on the right. You can find this option in the Settings app under Display and Navigation Bar. While you’re there, you can also theme the bottom bar into whatever color strikes your fancy.

Turn on Edge notifications

One of the nicer things in the S8’s software is the ability to make the edges of the screen light up when a notification comes in. In addition, the S8 trades the “windowshade” effect of standard Android for a slick pill-shaped bubble that pop-ups when a new alert is received. But for some reason these features are disabled out of the box, so you have to dig into the settings app to enable them.

Go to Settings, Display, and Edge Screen, then toggle the Edge lighting feature to turn them on. You can tap through to enable the feature for all apps or just limit to the ones that you feel are worthy of it.

Change the display scaling

If you opted for the smaller, 5.8-inch Galaxy S8, you may have noticed that many of the on-screen elements, such as text and buttons are comically large out of the box. Fortunately, you can adjust the scaling of the display so that those elements are smaller and you can see more information at one time. More content, less chrome, if you will.

The switch for this is under Settings, Display, Screen zoom and font. Slide the Screen Zoom slider to the left to get more of your screen real estate back.

Change the theme

The S8’s software interface is quite nice, and much more attractive than Samsung’s older efforts have been. But if you’re not a fan of the white background of the notification shade or system apps, you can easily download a different theme to completely change the look.

Go to Settings, Wallpapers and Themes to browse the various themes available. I’m a fan of Pixelize, which is a free option that gives the S8 a taste of the Google Pixel color palette of greys and blue.

Set up the Always On Display

While you’re busy theming the interface, you can also change the way the always-on display feature looks. By default, it can display the time, date, battery life, icons for new notifications, and the virtual home button. But if you head to the themes section, you can download a variety of other options.

Most Always On Display options are found under Settings, Lock Screen and Security, but you can install themes for it from the aforementioned Themes section, as well.

Set up Samsung Pay

The S8 has full support for Samsung’s mobile payments platform, which can be used at more points of purchase than Google’s own Android Pay. To get started with it, open the Samsung Pay app in the app drawer and proceed to set up your account and add a supported credit or debit card. You can also add loyalty cards from a variety of retail stores. Samsung will even give you a bunch of bonus points in its own rewards program for being one of the first to buy the Galaxy S8 when you set up Samsung Pay.

Take a screenshot

This isn’t so much a set up tip as one for everyday life, but it’s still useful. Since the Galaxy S8 lacks a physical home button, taking a screenshot is a little different than on older Samsung phones and there are multiple ways to do it.

The easiest method is to press the power button and volume down at the same time. Once the screenshot is captured, you can then share, edit it, or capture more of the screen immediately, which is useful if you’re trying to grab more than just what’s visible on your phone at once.

The second way is to enable a gesture that lets you swipe the side of your hand across the screen to grab the screenshot. It’s a bit wonky, in my experience, and doesn’t seem to be any easier than just using the button method. But if you want to try it, head to Settings, Advanced Features, and toggle on the Palm swipe to capture option.

The third way to take a screenshot is to use the Smart Select Edge App that’s available by swiping in on the tab that sits on the right side of the screen. From there, you can chose what area of the screen you want (in either rectangular or oval shapes) and even capture a GIF from a playing video that can be immediately shared. This should be enabled by default, but you can go to Settings, Display, Edge Screen, Edge Panels to see all of the available options and configurations.