The Galaxy S21 series has many features, some of which are hidden.

Sarah Tew / CNET

Samsung Galaxy S21 Lineup is impressive. From 5G support to a new camera setup with better performance, there’s a lot to explore. Damn that S21 Ultra has even borrowed one of the trademarks of the note: Support for S-Pen pens. That’s right, you can now write or draw with a pen on any of the Samsung S series phones.

All three phones are on Android 11 with Samsung’s One UI 3.1 proprietary skin. That means you get the best Android has to offer right now (until Android 12 comes out), but you will also have access to improvements and optimizations Samsung has made to the operating system. For example, the S21 has two different types of floating notifications and you can now add effects to your video calls.

Below, I’ll show you some of the best features I’ve discovered on the Galaxy S21 Ultra so far.

Look at that:

We’re reviewing the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G and its Bonkers cameras


How to turn off the S21

If you long press the power button to turn off the phone, you will be surprised. A Bixby surprise to be precise. Right, holding down the power button will launch Bixby instead of giving you the option to turn off the phone. But don’t fret, you have several options for switching off or restarting your S21:

  • Swipe down from the top of the screen to reveal the quick settings panel, then tap the power button in the top-right corner.
  • Press the side button and the volume down button at the same time until the power menu appears.
  • Change the side button to act as a power switch by going to the settings > Advanced features > Side key and select Switch off the menu. From now on, a long press on the power switch will bring up the on / off menu.

The S21 Ultra works with an S Pen. Cool, isn’t it?

Sarah Tew / CNET

S-Pen support on the S21 Ultra

This is not a hidden feature, even if it’s only obvious if you’ve been specifically told about it. You see, the S21 Ultra has no room to store the S Pen like the Note series does. So, if you bought the phone because you wanted the best that Samsung has to offer, you wouldn’t know any better.

The S21 Ultra works with all S-Pen pens from the Galaxy Note series or Galaxy Tab S series. Or you can opt for the S21 Ultra sleeve with an S pen.

If you have an S-Pen, all you have to do is touch the screen with the tip of the screen for it to work. It should just work. When you move the pen directly over the screen surface, a small icon appears on the display indicating that the pen is recognized. Once you touch the screen, the Air Command icon will appear, which you can use to take quick notes, screenshots, etc.


Smart Select has to be one of the best hidden features on any Galaxy phone.

Sarah Tew / CNET

Take better screenshots

Every Galaxy S21 has somewhat hidden Edge panels from Samsung, which are used to hide shortcuts to apps, functions and information. You may have noticed a slightly transparent line on the right side of your S21’s screen. There you access the hidden control panels. After unpacking one of the screenshots is deactivated.

It’s quite simply one of the most useful control panels as it gives you multiple options that allow you to capture more than just your screen. The control panel is actually called Smart Select, and it gives you the tools to capture just a portion of your screen with the rectangle or oval, take an animated image (or GIF), or pin a screenshot, possibly with a phone number or address, to your screen .

To turn on the Smart Capture control panel, go to the settings > display > Edge plates > Panels and tap the circle above Smart selection. Going forward, all you have to do is open the Edge panel and swipe between the panels you added until you find Smart Select. Then select the tool that you want to use to take a screenshot.


Video calls can be given a different look with new video call effects.

Sarah Tew / CNET

Add effects to your video calls

Have you ever seen someone use these fancy backgrounds for zoom? The ones that make it seem like you are elsewhere? Well, you can do that in your video calls on the Galaxy S21. To choose your effect, go to the settings > Advanced features > Video call effects. Turn it on and then choose whether you want your background to be just blurry, a color, or a specific image from your photos.

Enable floating notifications for easy access to alerts

With Android 11, the new Bubbles notification function was introduced by Google, which looks and works very similar to the Chatheads function of Facebook Messenger. That said, instead of having to swipe the notification panel to view warnings, you can quickly access your conversations at any time with a floating circle. Bubbles does the same, but for more apps, such as B. Google’s News.

Bubbles combines the Samsung version of the same feature called Smart Pop-up View. Before you can use any of these, however, you need to activate it.

Go to the settings > Notifications > Advanced settings > Floating notifications. Select the option you want to use. Both have a quick animation on the screen to show how they work. Experiment with both bubbles and the smart pop-up feature to see which one you prefer, even if it isn’t.


Bubbles or not? That is the question.

Jason Cipriani / CNET

Lock screen widgets

Samsung’s Always On Display feature has long been a favorite of mine. It makes it easy to quickly see information or control audio playback, but the Galaxy S21 lets you do even more with it. If you go to … the settings > Lock screen > Widgets You can activate any widget you want to use along with Show always shown. With your phone locked and the AOD active, double-tap the watch to see all of your widgets.


Lock screen widgets are where they are.

Jason Cipriani / CNET

Look for something on your phone

Having trouble finding an app, contact, or file? Swipe down from the top of the screen to check out the quick settings shortcut window, then swipe down again to reveal the full quick settings panel. Tap the search icon at the top of the screen and enter your query.

If you’re still on the fence about the S21, Be sure to read our review. The S21 Ultra has some unusual camera tricks – Here’s how to use it. If you’re curious about the future of Android and its features, Android 12 is currently in beta and we have a roundup of ours Favorite functions so far. If your phone feels a little sluggish, Give it a vote.

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