Samsung to Push Forward with Bixby, Smartphone Notches, and a New UX

Posted on November 8, 2018 by Paul Thurrott in Android, Mobile, Smart Home with 30 Comments

Samsung Electronics CEO and president DJ Koh

While Samsung’s foldable display understandably received a lot of attention yesterday, the consumer electronics giant also announced some other interesting initiatives. This is important because Samsung, as the world’s largest maker of smartphones, is being hit hard by a slump in device sales. And it’s getting harder than ever to convince even its most loyal customers to keep upgrading.

Here are some of the other highlights from yesterday’s Samsung Developer Conference 2018 opening keynote.

Bixby. Samsung’s digital personal assistant is currently the laughing stock of the industry, but the firm has huge plans to expand the capabilities of this technology. And it has an interesting and unique way to do this because Samsung isn’t just a phone maker, it also makes a crazy range of other devices, including such things as refrigerators, TVs, washing machines, and more, all of which are getting smarter. To this end, Samsung is opening up Bixby, finally, to third-party developers in order to escalate the war against Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. It has created a tool called Bixby Developer Studio for adding Bixby to devices and services, is offering Bixby Capsules as an alternative to “skills” on other platforms, and is making them available to consumers through the Bixby Marketplace. None of this guarantees success. But what I just described above is more than Microsoft has done for Cortana over several years. Samsung is serious about this.

SmartThings. Samsung’s Internet of Things (IoT) platform faces similar challenges to Bixby, but it can likewise benefit from the same market power that Samsung wields. To advance this platform, the firm has released a new version of its SmartThings Developer Workspace with enhanced tools like SmartThings Cloud Connector, SmartThings Device Kit and SmartThings Hub Connector. And it has updated its Works with SmartThings (WWST) certification program with new capabilities that will help ensure that devices and services are fully optimized for the platform.

One UI. As I’ve noted in past reviews of the Galaxy S8+ and Galaxy S9+, I actually like Samsung’s heavily-modified “skin” on the stock Android user experience. But this has been a source of contention for many users and reviewers, and Samsung is apparently listening: It will replace its current UX with a new version called One UI that it says is “clean and minimal” and, in an interesting move, “keeps the most relevant content on the bottom half of the screen – making it more natural and comfortable for one-handed use.” (iPhone users, who can’t even put icons where they want, can relate.) From what I’ve seen so far, this new UX looks great. But there’s bad news, too: It looks like One UI will not be coming to existing Samsung devices. That’s a big mistake.

Notches. I thought they were joking when I viewed this part of the keynote the first time, but Samsung actually confirmed that it will bring a series of notch designs to its smartphones over time. And they are all ludicrous. And named for the letter of the alphabet that most closely resembles the notch shape: Samsung says it will introduce what it calls Infinity-U, Infinity-V, and Infinity-O notches on devices before finally moving to something called New Infinity. I still think this is a joke, frankly.

Other display technologies. Samsung demonstrated its foldable Infinity Flex display, of course, but it also briefly highlighted two future display technologies it’s working on, rollable AMOLED and stretchable AMOLED. It’s not clear if these technologies will be used in isolation or in tandem with the foldable Infinity Flex display. But it is clear that Samsung is the worldwide leader in display technology and it intends to keep it that way.

If you’re interested in what Samsung is planning, you can watch the keynote replay now on YouTube. It’s worth doing.

 

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