Five must-have tips for getting started with the Samsung Galaxy S3

Find out which settings and features to enable right away on your new Samsung Galaxy S3.

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Stocked with Ice Cream Sandwich and a truckload of Samsung-specific features, the Samsung Galaxy S III (S3) does not fall short in offering ways for you to customize and tweak the interface.

With all those options, where do you start? Break the ice with the following five features that make your S3 an even smarter companion.

Screenshot by Sharon Vaknin/CNET

1. Hide unwanted bloatware.
Like a new computer, the S3 comes prestocked with an unsavory amount of branded apps and services. Because they've been installed by the manufacturer, you can't uninstall these apps; however, you can keep them out of sight.

To disable a bloatware app, find it in the app drawer. Tap and hold it, then drag it to "App Info." From there, tap "Disable," and the app will vanish from the app drawer. Repeat the process for any other apps you want to hide.

If you ever want to unhide an app, go to Settings > Application manager. Tap the app to want to unhide and tap "Enable."

2. Customize the lock screen.
Want superfast access to your favorite apps and widgets? On the S3, you can completely customize your lock screen with shortcuts to apps, widgets, and the camera.

But first, a heads up: you must disable your screen lock (PIN, pattern, face unlock, etc.) to get these features. Trading security for convenience will be up to you. If you decide to live without the security, keep reading.

To customize your options, go to Settings > Security > Lock Screen Options. From there, pick and choose the items you want to appear on the lock screen. You can also change the app shortcuts by tapping "Shortcuts" in the Lock Screen Options settings.

Screenshot by Sharon Vaknin/CNET

3. Learn the S Voice basics
The S3 has S Voice built in; it's an intelligent voice recognition service that wants to be your personal assistant. Using voice commands, you can do things like get directions, check the weather, compose an e-mail, and more.

After some testing, we found that it doesn't quite stack up to Apple's Siri , but can certainly be useful in a pinch.

The key to making the most of S Voice is to know the commands. To find out what they are, double-tap the home button to launch S Voice, and say "What can I say?" A list of available commands will appear on screen.

As you get started, tweak S Voice's settings to your liking. Just tap the menu button while in S Voice to access the settings. Among other things, you have the option to enter your home address so that you can say, "How do I get home?" and S Voice will route you there.

Another important setting is "Wake up command." By enabling this, you can prompt S Voice at any time using a command. Just know that using this feature will have a negative effect on battery life.

Screenshot by Sharon Vaknin/CNET

4. Set data usage limits
If you have a limited data plan, keep a close eye on usage (and prevent overage charges) with your S3's built-in data-monitoring tool. To get started, go to Settings > Data usage.

First, check the box next to "Set mobile data limit." Next, define your billing cycle. If you're not sure, you can check your bill or call your service provider to find out. Finally, tap and drag the red line to set your data limit, and use the orange line to decide when your phone will warn you about your data usage.

You can also come back here and manually check your usage at any time. Alternatively, read our overview of apps dedicated to helping you track data usage .

5. Create custom vibration alerts
Remember back in the day when you could create your own MIDI ringtones? (Shout out to Nokia!) Well, now you can relive that memory by creating your own vibration alerts on the S3.

Head to Settings > Sounds and tap "Device vibration." At the bottom, tap "Create." Here's where you'll make your own vibration. First, think about what kind of vibration pattern you want, then tap the middle of the circle to begin "recording." You can tap and hold for long vibration "notes" or tap briefly for quick pulses.

When you're done, hit "Save" and set your new vibration as the default alert.

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