It’ll come as no surprise that Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8 is shaping up to be a veritable powerhouse and with no signs of unstable batteries or malfunctioning hardware in sight, it should be in the market long enough to leave a positive mark and further unmuddy the Galaxy Note name.
The Note 8 is so absolutely crammed with functions in-fact, that we’ve picked our favourite tips, tricks and hidden features so that you can get more from this formidable phablet should you decide to pick one up yourself.
One of Samsung’s big selling points for its Galaxy S8, S8+ and the Note 8 is the new Bixby assistant. Like its smaller siblings, the Note features a dedicated Bixby button on its left side - tapping this brings up the Bixby screen, which is loaded with information pertinent to you. Pressing and holding the key creates a push-to-talk state so that you can issue voice commands to Bixby, whilst the ‘Hi, Bixby’ command can be used in a similar manner.
What’s nice is that you can access Bixby using any of these methods, even when your phone is locked and if it doesn't appear to be working, make sure that speech recognition is enabled by heading into the Bixby-specific settings menu and switching on Bixby Voice.
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Improving Bixby’s voice recognition
It also pays to train the assistant to understand your voice as best as you can by heading into the ‘Enhanced voice recognition’ section of the Bixby settings menu and recording the specially chosen phrases.
Changing Bixby’s voice
Right now, if you’re using Bixby in US English (it’s either that or Korean), then you have the option of three different voice profiles for the assistant - Stephanie, John or Julia. To change how Bixby’s voice sounds, tap the three dots in the top right of the Bixby screen and head to the dedicated settings menu. You’ll find ‘Language and speaking style’ under the ‘voice’ section of the menu and it’s there that you’ll be able to pick a new voice.
Of course, some people don’t appreciate Samsung’s decision to lock down one of the phone’s few hardware keys into summoning its (sort of useful) digital assistant. You might instead want a camera shortcut or easier access to Google Now, and for that, there are a number of third-party apps designed to circumvent Bixby so you can tailor that hardware key’s function to your needs.
At the time of writing, Bixby Remapper - the app we downloaded from the Play Store - works well enough, although it isn’t perfect. You can choose what actions are performed when pressing the Bixby button, including nothing at all. Quick-launching apps works fairly well but toggle actions like the flashlight are a little less reliable.
Fingerprint gesture support
A small but useful feature is the ability to reveal the notifications pane by swiping down on the rear-mounted fingerprint sensor.
By default, this feature isn’t enabled, so to switch it on head to the ‘Advanced Features’ section of the settings menu and look for the ‘fingerprint sensor gestures’ toggle. Flip it on and you can then more readily get at your notifications pane. If you have Samsung Pay setup on your Note, you also have the option to access it by swiping up on the sensor too.
Whilst that expansive 6.3-inch display is one of the best in the business for media and multitasking, it’s also impossible to use exclusively with a single mitt. Thankfully the ‘Advanced Features’ settings also include a one-handed mode, which can be enabled by either swiping in from a bottom corner or triple-tapping the home button.
Customising Air Command
One of the main reasons to buy a Note 8 is for that coveted S Pen functionality. Samsung’s stylus and its feature-set have grown and evolved dramatically since the original Note.
On the 8, a floating Air Command icon appears automatically when you pull the S Pen out, letting you create or view notes, select or write over on-screen content, translate text or use brand new features like Bixby Vision and Live Message.
You can alter the options available to you in the S Pen menu by tapping on the cog icon in the bottom left corner of the screen whilst Air Command is open. Here you're able to tweak any and every S Pen-related aspect of the Note 8’s software and swap new Air Command shortcuts in or out.
Hiding the Navigation Bar
The Note 8’s navigation bar is already pretty unobtrusive, making itself scarce during video playback and other full-screen activities but you can have it hidden 99 percent of the time by double-tapping the small dot on the left-hand side of the multitasking button when in an app.
From then on, outside of your home screen, it can be temporarily summoned again with a swipe up from the bottom of the screen or fully reinstated by double-tapping that little dot once more.
Silencing app notifications
If you don’t want to flip on full ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode and instead just want to silence notifications from specific apps, simply long-press on the relevant notification and choose to silence them or block them altogether.
Alternatively, you can control app-specific notification behaviour by going to the ‘Notifications’ section of the settings menu, tapping ‘Advanced’ and then tweaking the toggles on the app of your choosing.
Better battery life
There are lots of ways you can improve battery life on your smartphone but thankfully the Note 8 also has a dedicated, and more importantly, customisable power saving mode that’s easy to tweak and change.
Best accessed from the quick settings in the notifications pane, hitting ‘customise’ on the power saving screen lets you go in and fine tune all of the battery savvy changes your Note will execute when you hit apply.
It also pays to turn off Bixby’s voice wake-up feature by heading into Bixby’s dedicated settings menu and flipping the voice wake-up toggle off.