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

Posted on November 8, 2018 by Paul Thurrott in Mobile, Android, 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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Comments (30)

30 responses to “Samsung to Push Forward with Bixby, Smartphone Notches, and a New UX”

  1. SherlockHolmes

    I dont get the obsession with the notch. Whats the point of it?

    • skborders

      In reply to SherlockHolmes:

      They are going for edge to edge displays but have to make room for the front facing camera lens and sensors so they "block out" that part of the screen instead of having a small bezel at the top. I feel this is partly the fault of the tech media constantly pining for smaller and smaller bezels

      • colmob

        In reply to skborders:

        I have a Note 8 and I dislike the non-existent bezels; there's nowhere to hold it that doesn't register clicks on the screen. It's just silly.

        I should say that I'm pretty happy with it overall, and considering getting a Galaxy Watch for notifications and health tracking. Bixby is literally useless; it fails to register that I'm speaking at all, around two thirds of the time. It works well otherwise, but it's so unusable that I don't bother.

  2. Tony Barrett

    I wouldn't buy ANY phone with a notch. Period. Hopefully this notch fetish will die a death very quickly, as we assume next gen phones will be truly full screen.

  3. wolters

    I admire Samsung for not giving up on Bixby. And while I could never use it full time, I would use it if it improved. Case and point - there was a lot of hoopla over Bixby being on the Galaxy Watch. It is just renamed S-Voice, which is terrible. And the watch has been out for 3 months with no news on when improvements are coming. And where is the Bixby powered Galaxy Home? They truly aren't moving fast enough if people want to take Bixby serious.

  4. joshhuggins

    I put up with the crappy curved screen on my Note 9, but I will not do a notch. Ever. I rather not have any sensors or camera on the front before I have a notch.

  5. provision l-3

    I'm amused at how polarizing the whole "notch" thing is. There is just no middle ground on that. People are either completely ambivalent to it or really loath it.

  6. locust infested orchard inc

    A leaf taken right from the Orchard, for the notch is oh so inspirational with a touch of engineering prowess.

  7. Pbike908

    I am confused -- do these notches have a functional purpose or are they merely for aesthetics?

  8. skane2600

    These phones don't really have an edge-to-edge display. It might be more appropriate to call it an edge-to-notch display. The notch is a good example of "declaring victory and moving on".

    • sandy

      In reply to skane2600:

      Yes Samsung's flagship Galaxy S9/S9+ does have edge-to-edge (left edge-to-right edge; as did the S8, S7 Edge, S6 Edge).

      Perhaps go into a phone store and hold one (or maybe you're just trolling?).

      This is a manufacturer further maximising the screen on the front, which may be unnecessary but - as has already been suggested - seems to be the trend.

      • skane2600

        In reply to Sandy:

        I thought it was obvious that I was referring to phones with a notch when I said they didn't have a real edge-to-edge display. Why would I mention "edge-to-notch" with regard to notchless phones like the Galaxy S9?

        I also think in the context of discussing notches, that "edge-to-edge" is a two dimensional feature, not a one dimensional one.

  9. dallasnorth40

    I understood that One UI was coming to the Galaxy S9, S9+, and Note 9.

  10. beckerrt

    Was really hoping Samsung would not use the notch on the S10 and keep the headphone jack. Would be a great way to further differentiate themselves from Apple.

    • jbinaz

      In reply to beckerrt:

      I didn't watch the video. Did they discuss removing the headphone jack? Is that a definite thing?

      • IanYates82

        curious about this too. Keeping the Jack makes upgrading from my S8 a no brainer when the S10 comes out.

        My USB-C port was going bad recently. Went to Samsung store. They had a little tool that cleaned it out, removed some deeply recessed lint, etc. Good as new for now at least. I plug & unplug headphones all day. Don't want to do that with the USB port

  11. RobertJasiek

    The purpose of notches is convincing not to buy.

  12. dontbe evil

    so also samesung is going for horrible notches in the end

  13. RM

    I have a Galaxy S8+ with the Bixby dedicated button. The hardcoded button that cannot be changed from Bixby is the reason I will not buy another Samsung phone again! Just putting the phone in my pocket or taking it out can cause the Bixby button to be pushed. So then you have the annoying Bixby app complete with annoying sounds starting up when enter my pin on my phone. You cannot change the app assigned to the Bixby button without rooting your phone and voiding the warranty. I have decided I would rather not have the edge display either, hard to grip this phone without inadvertent button press or edge of phone being touched and causing a different gesture to be used because of your grip on the phone.

  14. skane2600

    Whenever I read the word "Bixby" i think of "My Favorite Martian" and "The Incredible Hulk".