Samsung’s new voice assistant, Bixby, is off to a rough start.
In a statement sent to media outlets on Tuesday night, Samsung confirmed that the AI helper will not support voice commands when it launches alongside the company’s flagship Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ phones on April 21. The company says you won’t be able to talk to Bixby until “later this spring.”
The assistant’s other features — including a “Bixby Vision” tool that can identify real-world objects and display related info onscreen, a “Bixby Home” tool that serves up Google-like info cards, and a “Bixby Reminder” tool that helps you set, well, reminders — will still be available at launch, according to Samsung.
Samsung did not immediately respond to a comment on the reason for the delay. It’s worth noting, however, that we ran into bugs and as recently as two weeks ago when previewing the new Galaxy S8.
It’s also worth noting that, conceptually, Samsung has not pitched Bixby as a one-to-one competitor to other popular voice helpers like Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and Google’s Google Assistant. Those companies have spent the past few years building out such assistants in the hopes that they will be the next dominant interfaces for personal computing.
Here, though, Samsung mostly wants Bixby to make navigating its phones less complicated. The idea is to call on Bixby when you want to, say, change your screen brightness, or find a specific photo within your camera roll.
Nevertheless, with the more capable Google Assistant pre-loaded onto the phone by default — and with limited language support to start — Bixby’s staggered launch will not do it any favours out of the gate. Samsung will then have to deal with the AI’s more existential problems, namely convincing app developers to lend their support and expanding onto other devices, in the future. Either way, this is clearly a work in progress.
We’ve found the new Galaxy phones to be promising on their own, but Samsung had pitched Bixby as one of their trademark features to the point where it built a dedicated Bixby button onto the side of the devices. Though it is possible to map that button to open another app, the workaround is a bit technical, which means that many Galaxy owners will be left with a shortcut to a limited AI on their new, pricey phones for at least a few weeks.
We’ll have a full review of the Galaxy S8 soon, so stay tuned.