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21 hidden Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus features

Things you didn't know the Galaxy S9 could do.

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Jessica Dolcourt
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1 of 33 Josh Miller/CNET

Ready to be a Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus power user? Here are some neat tricks that will help you customize them and employ them like an expert.

The phones tuck away some neat tricks that help you customize them and use them like a pro. 

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Drag the shortcuts menu

The Galaxy S9 is Samsung's first phone to let you drag and drop the Edge menu, a shortcuts bar for apps and people, anywhere you want on the left or right edges. In previous phones, you had to select its position in the settings.

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Swipe here for notifications

The fingerprint sensor gets gesture support. In the settings, you can turn on the option to swipe down to open notifications, or swipe up to open Samsung Pay. Naturally, gestures stop working when you're actively scanning your fingertip.

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Change the clock style

Open Clock Style in Settings > Lock Screen to change the Galaxy S9's default clock colors and style.

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Change the clock style

You can pick different colors and styles for the Always On display and Lock Screen.

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Swipe down to respond to notifications

When you're in an app -- say reading an article or navigating on maps -- you'll be able to reply to texts without leaving the screen. 

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Swipe down to respond to notifications

Just swipe down on an incoming message to expand the window. 

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Swipe down to respond to notifications

After you respond, you'll have to close the window.

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Swipe down to respond to notifications

The edge of the phone lights up to subtly alert you to an incoming message, which is really cool. 

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Home screen supports landscape orientation

You're watching a video or playing a game, and you need to exit out to the home screen. Now when you do, you have the option of seeing your home page and app icons in horizontal mode, too.

To turn it on: Settings > Display > Home screen > Portrait mode only > Toggle off.

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Home screen supports landscape orientation

The setting applies to your app drawer, too.

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Selfie focus

This feature is one that's flown under the radar, but it's going to be used way more often than gimmicks like AR Emoji. The Galaxy S9 uses software to blur the background on your self portraits, so your face really stands out. You can also adjust skin tone and color.

To use it: Open the selfie camera > select Selfie Focus.

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Regular selfie

Here's the regular selfie mode.

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Change screen resolution

The S9 and S9 Plus' max screen resolution is 2,960x1,440 pixels (also known as WQHD+), but did you know that the phone defaults to 2,220x1,080 pixels (FHD+)? The more conservative setting preserves battery life, but for maximum detail, you can adjust the setting up or even down to 1,480x720 pixels (HD+).

Go into Settings > Display > Screen resolution.

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Dual messenger

If you have two accounts for a social messenger app, you'll now have the choice to download a second instance of the app so you can easily pop from one to the other without swapping your profile within an app.

Go to Settings > Advanced features > Dual Messenger.

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Dual messenger

It works with Facebook, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Skype, Viber and Telegram.

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Touch sensitivity

If you find yourself mashing the screen harder through your screen protector, you can increase the screen sensitivity.

Go to Settings > Advanced features > Touch Sensitivity.

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Check your blood pressure

Galaxy phones have had a heart rate monitor since the Galaxy S5. The S9 adds a blood pressure reading. They call it "heart load factor." This is a wellness feature to provide an idea of your blood pressure, but Samsung isn't making any medical claims. You'll still need to consult your doctor for medical advice, or for monitoring a condition.

In addition, Samsung has partnered with UCSF to share your blood pressure information, and can monitor your stress levels to give you guidance for lowering your blood pressure.

Go to Samsung app folder > Samsung Health > tap HLF.

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Switch Dolby Atmos off and on

The Dolby Atmos codec supplies 360-degree sound. It's turned off by default, but you can toggle it on for richer audio. 

Pull down quick notification settings to toggle it. This is a new feature and a new option for the S9. 

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Switch Dolby Atmos off and on

You can also touch and hold to switch among settings, like automated settings based on what you're watching, movie, music or voice -- like a speakerphone call.

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Hidden features that carry over from the Galaxy S8 and Note 8

There are a load of tricks that aren't new for the S9 or S9 Plus, but if you're switching from a phone that predates the Galaxy S8 or a different brand, they could be new to you.

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Dual capture

The Galaxy S9's second camera lens (the telephoto) makes portrait mode possible -- Samsung calls this Live Focus. What makes this different from other phones is that the S9s (and Note 8 before it) will save both the depth-of-field portrait and the full shot with the background unblurred. You'll have the option to use them both.

Go to Camera app > select Live Focus > Click the icon of two boxes

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Dual capture

A closer look.

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Make more room for apps

This is old hat for longtime Android users, but a good tip for first-timers. Shrinking the weather widget -- press and hold to select, then drag a corner -- will give you up to eight more app icons for the home screen. You can also delete the widget entirely.

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25 of 33 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Floating shutter button

Ever wished you didn't have to stretch your hand so far to reach the camera shutter button?  You can actually drag it anywhere on the screen.

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26 of 33 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Portrait mode for foodies

You can softly blur the background of food shots from the inside out with a tool called radial blur. Food mode existed in previous Galaxy phones, but it's much easier to find on the S9. You can also adjust color tone to make shots look warmer or cooler.

Go to Camera > Food mode > Tap the icon that looks like the drop.

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Swipe to toggle between camera modes

A quick way to flip between your current camera mode and the one before is to swipe up or down on the screen from within the camera app. 

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Swipe to toggle between camera modes

You don't just switch between front and rear cameras -- you can switch this way between modes in just the front or rear cameras.

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Hide navigation

Double-tap the dot on the navigation bar to hide it. You can also go into Settings > Display > Navigation.

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Change navigation bar color

For a subtly tinted navigation bar in light green, pink, purple and so on, head to the Settings. There's not really much of a difference and I prefer the Galaxy S8's much brighter color options.

Go to Settings > Display > Navigation.

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31 of 33 Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Unlock secure folder with your fingerprint

If you tuck away notes and files into Secure Folder for safekeeping, you can now use any fingerprint, along with your iris, a PIN, pattern or password, to let you in. That means you can unlock your phone with your pointer finger and unlock Secure Folder with a different digit.

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32 of 33 Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Samsung Pass

Samsung Pass can offer to remember and autofill certain fields in apps. It's similar to the autofill feature built into the Android 8.0 Oreo OS, and you can even switch to use Oreo's autofill instead.

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See some of these tricks in action

See all the Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus highs and lows in our reviews.

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