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.