Samsung Galaxy S5 reveals its hidden features

We knew all about the Galaxy S5's heart-rate monitor and fingerprint scanner, but dig a little deeper and there's a lot more going on.

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Jessica Dolcourt is a passionate content strategist and veteran leader of CNET coverage. As Senior Director of Commerce & Content Operations, she leads a number of teams, including Commerce, How-To and Performance Optimization. Her CNET career began in 2006, testing desktop and mobile software for Download.com and CNET, including the first iPhone and Android apps and operating systems. She continued to review, report on and write a wide range of commentary and analysis on all things phones, with an emphasis on iPhone and Samsung. Jessica was one of the first people in the world to test, review and report on foldable phones and 5G wireless speeds. Jessica began leading CNET's How-To section for tips and FAQs in 2019, guiding coverage of topics ranging from personal finance to phones and home. She holds an MA with Distinction from the University of Warwick (UK).
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Samsung's marquee smartphone has even more software tricks than ever. Josh Miller/CNET

Spend a little time with the Samsung Galaxy S5 and you'll quickly see that there's more to this flagship smartphone than the heart-rate monitor on the back and the optional fingerprint scanner on the front.

Of course, these remain some of the phone's most defining characteristics, along with its 16-megapixel camera with 4K video capture, and rapid quad-core processor. Beyond there attention-grabbing headlining acts are several new interesting and useful little gems.

Customize folder color

The Galaxy S5 lets you differentiate folders by color. Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

There's more than one way to organize content on your home screens, but I like the tiny tidbit of using color to differentiate among folders.

After adding a folder (which you can do by long-pressing an app and pressing Create Folder), tapping the on-screen menu button pulls up five color options: blue, grey, maroon, brown, and green. If you don't select one, the folder defaults to blue.

Private Mode

For whatever reason, you want to keep multimedia files in a place where you --and only you -- can see them. The Galaxy S5's new Private Mode gives you an easy way to do this. Once you turn it on in the Settings menu (or quick settings pull-down), you can select any photos, videos, document, or voice file and select the menu choice Move to Private.

Private Mode hides sensitive photos, videos, and more. Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

While in Private Mode, you'll be able to see any content in separate folders, and can see an overview in the Private folder stored in My Files. Toggling Private Mode off makes all visible signs of these secreted-away files vanish. Note that Private Mode is separate from Samsung Knox, which requires your company's IT department to institute.


If you explore the Settings menu or the quick access settings in the notifications pulldown, you'll notice a quiet little option called Toolbox. Toggle it on and a white dot appears, inscribed with an ellipsis. Tap this and it will expand to reveal shortcuts to popular tools like the camera, voice recorder, browser, calculator, and the notes app -- but you can swap these for other apps.

A floating menu called Toolbox gives you quick access to favorite apps from any screen. Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

If Toolbox gets in your way, drag it anywhere else on the screen. It'll fade when you leave it alone long enough. I found I had to move it around more often than not, but it saved the day when I needed to launch the camera app one-handed. Again, it's also pretty easy to toggle on and off from the notifications pull-down, which is something you can also do one-handed.

Heaps more photo-editing features

I'm a big believer in built-in editing tools, and with the Galaxy S5, Samsung has improved what you can do without opening photos in another app. When viewing a photo in the gallery, select Edit from the menu button to see a range of tools to crop and resize; airbrush and fight red-eye; apply filters and effects; and, a personal favorite, draw all over photos.

Photo-editing tools get a little more love, drawing on photos and prettying-up portraits. Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

There are a ton of new camera options in the Galaxy S5 besides, including a mode to let you change focus points afterward, and special treatment for action shots. You can (and should!) read all about the Galaxy S5's spiffed-up camera app here.

Easily connect to other devices

S Beam is really great for sharing content between two NFC-enabled phones, but what about pushing content from the phone to somewhere else? Samsung has finally gotten this task organized into a neater package with Quick Connect, an easy press from the notifications shade. Tap it and you'll see a list of ways you can push your multimedia to your computer and your other connected devices.

Quick Connect replaces a handful of confusing individual apps. If you've never been motivated to push content from your phone to a different device, you may want to now.

The Quick Connect tools isn't for everyone, but it's a fast shortcut indeed. Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Like I said before, this little list is just a sampling of some lesser-known features in Samsung's superphone. Read all about the rest (and see some in action) in my full Galaxy S5 review .

Extreme closeup: Samsung's Galaxy S5 (pictures)

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