Android Central

New Android 4.1 and TouchWiz features arrive in Jelly Bean update for Samsung's Galaxy S3

Samsung has a track record of including new features of its own along with major OS updates for its phones. Earlier this year Galaxy Note owners got their Android 4.0 update, which included “Premium Suite,” a selection of new Samsung software enhancements. And it looks like the manufacturer’s set to continue this trend when its 2012 flagship, the Galaxy S III (Galaxy S3), gets updated to Android 4.1 Jelly Bean.

Yesterday we took a quick look at an early, leaked build of Jelly Bean for the Galaxy S3. But since then an newer version has come to light, revealing not only stock Jelly Bean features like Google Now and the redesigned notification shade, but a host of extra TouchWiz goodies too. Of course, remember that we're dealing with an unofficial pre-release build here, so certain functionality may be added or removed between now and whenever the OTA hits.

We’ll take a look at each major feature, one by one, after the break. We’ve also got pictures, if you’d prefer to skip to the end.

Android Central.

Redesigned notification shade

A standard Jelly Bean feature, Samsung has unsurprisingly incorporated the redesigned notification shade into its Android 4.1 update for the Galaxy S3. The redesigned date and time section is present up top, while the TouchWiz settings controls remain beneath. Jelly Bean’s new expandable notifications are supported too -- you can drag down on some messages to expand and view more information, for example the message body of an email, or a screenshot you’ve just taken. Certain apps even enable button controls from the notification shade too -- for example, screenshots get a “Share” button, while calendar notifications can be snoozed or dismissed.

File transfers over Android Beam

Alongside S Beam, the Galaxy S3 on Jelly Bean will support file transfers through Jelly Bean’s built-in Android Beam feature. Both use NFC to initiate the connection. However, unlike S Beam, which uses Wifi Direct, Android Beam handles the file transfers themselves over Bluetooth, making for somewhat slower transfer speeds. Regardless, both flavors of Beam seem happy to coexist in the Galaxy S3’s Jelly Bean firmware.

Task switcher and Google Now

Jelly Bean brings with it the new Google Search application, including the Google Now feature, which draws upon location and Google account info to display relevant messages like weather, calendar appointments, navigation data and sports scores.

Because the Galaxy S3 doesn’t use on-screen keys, you can’t swipe up at any time to reach Google Now like you can on the Galaxy Nexus. Instead, there’s a new button at the bottom of the task switcher when you long-press the home key, and this is what you tap to load up Google Now. The existing shortcut buttons in the task switcher -- task manager and close all apps -- remain, though with icons instead of text.

Android Central.

‘Easy mode’ and home screen launcher enhancements

On the surface, the TouchWiz launcher doesn’t appear to have changed all that much in Jelly Bean, but Samsung’s made a few subtle changes here and there. The most significant of these is the ability to switch between two home screen “modes.”

The first, basic mode, is what we all know and love from earlier ICS-based software -- your standard collection of icons and widgets. But in Jelly Bean on the S3, there’s also the option to switch to “easy mode,” a simpler home screen setup designed for first-time smartphone users. Easy mode automatically populates your home screens with large widgets showing your favorite settings, apps and contacts, in addition to a handful of larger Samsung widgets.

Users can switch between easy mode and basic mode through the mode control area of the “settings” menu.

Finally, we should note that some of the home screen enhancements of stock Jelly Bean have been ported over too, so icons can now be bumped out the way to make way for larger widgets. Adding folders is now a little more intuitive -- to create a folder with an app inside it, simply drag it up to the "create folder" control at the top of the screen. Folders are also displayed a little more clearly, with the application icons themselves being shown on a black and grey disc.

Dormant mode

Similar to iOS’s Do Not Disturb mode, Dormant mode allows you to turn off certain kinds of notifications or events permanently, or during specific hours. This could be ideal if you don’t want to be interrupted by email notifications and the associated noises and light.

Other “dormant mode” options include the ability to block incoming calls and alarms or disable the LED indicator completely. And if you want to still be contactible by family members in case of emergency, you can also set up a list of allowed contacts who are exempt from the limits of dormant mode.

Android Central.

S Note Lite

S Memo has is no more, replaced with a cut-down version of the full-blown S Note app found on Galaxy Note devices. S Note Lite lets you create multimedia notes on the Galaxy S3, incorporating texts, drawings, sound, video and voice recordings. Think of it as S Memo with a few extra features thrown in. The version in the current leaked firmware remains a little buggy.

New ‘Help’ application

Easy mode isn’t the only way in which Samsung’s aiming to make the Galaxy S3 less intimidating to first-time users. The Jelly Bean update also includes a dedicated new “Help” application, which walks you through how to perform basic tasks o the phone. In the current leaked build the Help app covers learning basic functions like keys, the lock screen and notification area, as well as how to change important settings like Wifi, Bluetooth and ringtones. It’s possible more may be added here before the Jelly Bean OTA is ready to go.

Other odds and ends

  • S Planner has undergone a slight visual overhaul -- the lines are cleaner and clearer, and it’s easier to tell what’s going on when multiple events are overlapping.
  • The option to limit background data usage, which was confusingly absent from ICS-based Galaxy S3 firmware, is now available in the Jelly Bean update.
  • As we mentioned in our earlier walkthrough, the Galaxy S3’s performance isn’t noticeably faster wth any of the official Jelly Bean builds we’ve tried. That’s not too surprising, as the phone is blisteringly fast on ICS.
  • TouchWiz is obviously still the dominant user experience here, and we suspect most mainstream users -- or “civilians” as we call them around here -- probably won’t even notice what’s changed when the Jelly Bean OTA drops.
  • Speaking of which, the latest leaked Jelly Bean build, dated Aug. 14, is mostly fast and stable, and we wouldn’t be surprised if the rumors of a late August or early September release for the (international) update pans out.

 

Reader comments

New features in Samsung Galaxy S3 Jelly Bean update

72 Comments

NFC is only the connection initiation method. NFC transfer rates are abysmally slow, suitable only for a few KBs.

Agreed, that is one of the more interesting features to me. Coming from a blackberry where you could schedule on and off times this is a great long overdue feature.

I recently converted from a blackberry as well and really miss the ability to select which callers and alarms I wish to mute. I am so looking forward to this update.

assumed you've used one?

Nothing about their toggles in notification, one button to clear multi tasking and a whole slew of gestures, percentage battery.

Those that they market might be gimmicky but the ones they didn't market are actually the good ones.

As nice as this seems, I have the US version on Verizon wireless so it will probably already be old and out dated before I even see it knowing Verizon's track record.

Does the new TouchWiz Home Launcher rotate or have multiple docks? Those are two features I miss from 3rd party launchers.

I miss that and the auto rotation of the home screens themselves. Give me that and I might not dump Touchwiz for Nova in the first 5 minutes of seeing it.

Honestly? I've had my S3 for 1.5 months now. And I'd rather have a clean fast version of Android then any new slick features. I don't even use Touchwiz's launcher. So meh.

Probably depends on where they come from. I know with the current stock ICS version I had to get a separate "Facebook contact Sync" app to get decent 256 x 256 images instead of 50x50. But I blame the FB app for that. The "Facebook contact Sync" app supports higher res image sizes for JB.

One more thing Alex, just wondering is this 2nd jb leak more stable than 1st and would you say it's usable as a daily rom

Samsung would do well to send this update out before Apple's September 21st announcement! This way I can gloat about all the cool new features to all of the Apple fanboi's at my job!

I find it kind of annoying that google now will be "hidden" in the task manager. How about an on-screen icon at least, so I can stick it in my launcher?

you can put the google search icon in your launcher, and tapping that will open Google Now ... but that's not new. You can do the same thing on the GNex.

THANK GOD they are finally making the folders look decent. It is unacceptable that my folders look like something out of windows 98 when I'm on efing ICS! This is 2012 Samsung, try and have your design department keep up

This is a very good move by Samsung and Google (The easy mode and help tutorial that is): The phone already sold over 10 million units worldwide and lets face it ... not everyone who bought this phone are Android junkies ... as a matter of a fact, the majority may be completely new to smart phones and just bought it because of the hype.

Other than that, I find the majority of these changes to be nice and sweet. The date and time reconstruction on the notifications bar has been something I always wanted to see. Google Now can be a very good replacement to S-Voice, and Dormant mode can come in handy.

This is still missing in both JB leaks, i really hope this is added in the release version. After installing all apps and games i only have 3.2 gb left and i stil have 24 gb left on my sd.

interesting. On the hackjob JB on the USA variant Galaxy S2's a simple long press of the search button automatically brings up Google Now for Voice Command. Too bad they can't make a long press command of one of the buttons trigger it to come up easily.

Where did you find that version. The only version I can find is the leak posted on Samfirmware and I am not aware whether it is this version you are referencing, or the version you are testing are newer then that....

Dormant Mode = 1,000,000 +. That is the best news I have heard all day. I guess that makes my life pretty lame.

Really? "Similar to iOS’s Do Not Disturb mode"? This was a feature that was in Cynogenmod 2 years ago, which is way before iOS even announced it. iOS6 isn't even out yet, so I really would like to see that changed. Don't give them credit for something they didn't come up with.

Give me Jelly Bean and then I'll continue to use Go Launcher EX. Keep all that Touch Wiz bloat off my phone please and thank you!

Don't know if this applies but I noticed on the leaked T-mobile versions that folders on the homescreens have a better "more stock" look.

MAN, just think of how many of these things they could have sold if they hadn't butchered and cut down the S Note feature.

I have a Galaxy S3 and enabled Nova Launcher. I cannot figure out how to get back to Touchwiz. Can anyone help please?

If its like any other galaxy, go into applications,find nova,force stop it, turn your screen off and on again, unlock and it should ask you which launcher you want to use.choose tw.

I unfortunately happened to have my syncing turned off from the top drag down toolbar when my s3 updated last night. In the new version they have removed this option from the drag down toolbar and there does not seem to be any overriding option in the settings to allow me to turn it back on. Now none of my accounts will automatically sync. Does anyone know how I can re-enable syncing without having to remove and re-create all my accounts?

I (with some assistance from Alex who wrote this post) found the fix for this.

It's in a bit of a weird place:

Got to Settings, select Data Usage and hit the menu button: Tick "Auto-sync Data" and it has the same effect.

or

If you have the standard "Power control" widget, the auto-sync is the second option button from the right; the one that looks like two arrows circling each other. Enable that button and Sync is back on.