How to use Motion gestures on Galaxy S3

The Galaxy S3 breaks new ground in lots of areas; one of the ways this phone separates itself from the pack is with the use of Motion.

When you first turn on your Samsung Galaxy S III (S3) you may not immediately be aware of all the Motion capabilities as most of them are turned off by default. Once you begin to explore the Settings and menus you will find yourself opened up to quite an array of new ways to use this phone. 

Accelerometers and gyroscopes are not new anymore to mobile phones.  Anyone who as use their phone like a steering wheel in a racing game or taken advantage of a gyroscope in navigation software knows how cool this technology is.  Essentially, when a phone can sense movement and gravity it can do all sorts of things.

Samsung has really raised the bar in this technology with the Galaxy S3. In order to use all these cool new features, we need to know how to turn them on.

The Motion menu in Settings app

While individual apps may give you a pop up about a particular Motion enabled app, they can all be enabled and configured in the Settings app.

  1. Pull down the Notification drawer and tap the Settings icon
  2. Scroll down to Motion and tap
  3. The Motion menu will now be displayed

Motion in Settings  enable motion activation

For purposes of this article, we will tackle each Motion activation in the order they appear in the menu.

Enabling Motion activation

Before you can use any of the Motion settings, you need to enable Motion activation on the Galaxy S3. This is as simple as placing a check mark in the Motion activation box.

Direct call

Direct call is a very convenient feature – as long as you remember it is enabled. Imagine you are looking up a particular contact to find their number, email or whatever. 

  1. Pick up the phone and move it to your face as if you were going to call them
  2. The Galaxy S3 will automatically call the contact
  3. This can be done via the Messaging and Call logs as well

Direct call enabled  

I did find that it is possible to forget this feature is enabled and accidentally call someone when lifting the phone up in one of these apps – but, overall, this is a very cool feature.

Smart alert

Smart alert is a way to make sure you are notified about missed  calls and alerts. Essentially, the Galaxy S3 knows when you have placed it down and it turns the screen off.  When you pick up the device, you will be notified about your missed call and alerts. The phone will vibrate as soon as you pick it up if you have missed calls or alerts.

Enable Smart alerts  Android CentralSmart alert in action

Tap to top

Tap to top makes it very quick to jump to the top of your Contact list, Email list and your email messages.

  1. Open the Contacts or Email app
  2. Scroll for what you need
  3. Tap twice on the very top of the phone (not the screen – but the actual top of the phone)
  4. You will see the view jump to the top

The only problem with this feature is that it works on the native Contacts and Email app, but I could not get it to work on the Gmail app which is what I use for email on the Galaxy S3.

enable tap to top

Tilt to zoom

The Tilt to zoom feature allows you to simply tilt the phone – as opposed to pinching and zooming – to zoom in on a picture or web site.

  1. Tap and hold the phone at two separate points (usually with your thumbs)
  2. Tilt the Galaxy S3 towards you to zoom in
  3. Tilt it away from you to zoom out

enable tilt to zoom  tilt and zoom in

I actually found it much quicker to just pinch and zoom – but, again, it is a cool use of the technology.

Pan to move icon

Let’s say you want to move an icon to one of your Home screens.  Normally, you would touch and hold the icon and then try to drag it onto another Home screen.

Pan to move takes another approach. You still touch and hold the icon, but instead of dragging it while holding it down, just move the phone left or right and you will see the Home screens move as you pan. When you find the Home screen you want, just release and the icon will be moved to the new position.

Enable Pan to move  Pan to move settings


​Touch on the Pan to move tab and you can see another tab to adjust the Sensitivity.  Move the slider from slow to Fast and then test out the settings to see what works best for you.

Pan to browse images

When this feature is turned on, you can literally  “move around” the image in which you are zoomed in.

So, you need to zoom into a picture or web site, then:

  1. Touch and hold anywhere on the screen
  2. Move the phone up or down, left or right to pan around
  3. Release to stop panning

Pan to browse turned on  adjust pan to browse sensitivity

As you did with Pan to move, you can adjust the sensitivity of the panning by touching the Sensitivity slider and moving it towards Slow or Fast.

Shake to update

Various apps on the Galaxy S3 take advantage of this Motion. When in those apps, just shake the phone and it will update the information. This works in the Weather widget, Email and News apps at the moment.

This feature also works with Bluetooth. Simple shake the device in the Bluetooth menu to search for Bluetooth devices.

Turn over to mute/pause

Imagine you are in that important meeting and you didn’t turn off your speaker. A phone call comes in or a message alert with an inappropriate ring tone. What do you do?

Well, if you have this feature enabled – just turn the switch to the ON position, all you have to do is turn your phone over on its face to mute the alert.

This feature also works with the built in Samsung Media apps. It will not work, however, if you are using Google Play Music or Movie apps. It would be nice to see these features extended beyond the built in Samsung apps.

Hand motions

The last of the Motions are Hand motions.  The Palm swipe to capture was covered in this tutorial and allows you to take a screen shot by simply swiping your hand across the screen of the Galaxy S3.

The next Hand motion is Palm touch to mute/pause.  This works just like turning your phone over in the Turn over to mute/pause motion discussed above. In this case, you just cover the phone with your palm (which is very intuitive) and you will mute the ring tone, message or media. Again, this only works on the stock Samsung apps – not Google Play music of movies or other media apps.

All of the Motion gestures are pretty unique and innovative. You may find that some are not as useful as others, but take some time to experiment and see if these built-in gestures can enhance your productivity and the overall experience you have with the Galaxy S3.


Reader comments

How to use Motion gestures on the Galaxy S3


If the gs3 is such a great phone why do we need all of these tutorials? Is it really that hard to use?

Greatness in any device doesnt come from it being idiot proof. It comes from being more powerful and having more features than the competition.

Ferraris are gerat cars but you need proper training to utilize their full potential. The same is true with this device.

Did you come out of the womb knowing how to do everything? If spending 5 minutes reading a tutorial helps me greatly improve my ability, I'm all for it. A little education goes a long way to maximizing potential.

I hope these are all patented so Crapple cant get their grubby lil hands on this stuff then try to sue and say they "magically invented and innovated" this tech

Our Galaxy Note Roms do 90% of these functions as well.. They are kinda kool if you are into bragging about your phone.. But most are just parlor tricks hardly ever used..

I beg to differ. I have both the Galaxy Note and the Galaxy S III and some of the features on the S III are useful and practical.

Take the ability to lift your phone to your ear to make a call if you decided that calling is better than sending a long text. this is something I do all the time., type long winded text messages then half way through I decide to call instead.

Smart Screen is really neat. Phone stays on when looking at it which makes perfect sense.

Smart Notifications, I mean seriously does this need an explanation? haven't you ever got a call or text while in the shower, came out got dressed picked up your phone and left. hours later your girlfriend or wife is complaining that you didn't call her back or reply to her text?

Swipe palm to take a screen shot is indeed a parlor trick but not "most".

I have never used motion gestures on a cell phone before.
Using tutorial is to learn how to use the feature. It does not mean the device is hard to use.

Android is not like iOS where is upgrade is still pretty much the same thing as the last version.

I have never used motion gestures on a cell phone before.
Using tutorial is to learn how to use the feature. It does not mean the device is hard to use.

Android is not like iOS where is upgrade is still pretty much the same thing as the last version.

I have never used motion gestures on a cell phone before.
Using tutorial is to learn how to use the feature. It does not mean the device is hard to use.

Android is not like iOS where is upgrade is still pretty much the same thing as the last version.

Smart Alert - I loved reading about this feature, and have been looking forward to having it. As I understand the manual, and several Samsung videos on Youtube, this feature is supposed to make your phone vibrate in your hand when you pick it up if you have any new notifications (missed calls, new texts, new e-mail or voicemail, etc) if there have been any in the time the phone has been sitting. The problem is, I can't seem to get it to do anything?!?!?!?

I've gone into settings and checked the box for "Smart Alert", and double checked that it stays marked. But when I pick up my S3 there has never been any vibration (or sound, or anything) when I've picked it up. It doesn't matter how many notifications I've received, how long the S3 has been sitting or been dark screened, etc. I've used my S3 in both "vibrate only" and "ring tone and vibrate" modes, and it works great (for everything except the Smart Alert functions): so I know that my S3's vibration system is just fine. I have my S3 set for "sound and vibrate", and Smart Alert is definitely checked.


Hello author,
I have an query regarding my galaxy s3 if you know about it, in notification bar missed call, call back & sms option not showing by default. But when I move the phone to near to my ear both option came below missed call. Where is the settings so that these option come by default in notification bar.

I tried to search too much on google but nothing is written this problem. It is very useful jellybean feature to call back directly from notification bar.