Speechless: Galaxy S8 to Launch Without Bixby Voice in the U.S.

Posted on April 12, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Android with 12 Comments

Speechless: Galaxy S8 to Launch Without Bixby Voice in the U.S.

In its first major misstep in an otherwise stellar Galaxy S8 launch, Samsung admitted this week that the flagship handset will not include full Bixby personal digital assistant functionality in the U.S. Instead, its most critical feature, voice control, will come to U.S.-based customers later in the Spring.

“With its intelligent interface and contextual awareness, Bixby will make your phone more helpful by assisting in completing tasks, telling you what you’re looking at, learning your routine and remembering what you need to do,” a Samsung statement notes before getting to the point. “Key features of Bixby, including Vision, Home, and Reminder, will be available with the global launch of the Samsung Galaxy S8 on April 21. [But] Bixby Voice will be available in the U.S. on the Galaxy S8 later this spring.”

(The emphasis there is mine.)

Along with its tall edge-to-edge curved display, Bixby is one of the marquee new features of the Galaxy S8 and S8+, so this omission is a bit glaring. It’s also one of the most controversial, given that the Galaxy phones run on Android, which already includes Google Assistant, arguably the best such assistant on the market.

“We do not need yet another one of these things, and I expect the world to simply ignore this,” I noted in my Samsung Galaxy S8 Preview.

But Samsung is, of course, looking to step out from under Google’s shadow. And my expectation, voiced in Apple, Samsung and the Battle for Platform Control (Premium), is that Samsung’s ultimate aim is to replace both Android and Google everywhere in its phones somewhere down the line. Adding its own digital personal assistant is just the latest step in that process.

Anyway, a few months won’t kill Bixby. I suspect the market will do that on its own.


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Comments (12)

12 responses to “Speechless: Galaxy S8 to Launch Without Bixby Voice in the U.S.”

  1. Omega Ra

    Assuming I got one I wasn't likely to use it anyway, as you stated Google Assistant is great so no need for yet another.

  2. Simard57

    "Samsung’s ultimate aim is to replace both Android and Google everywhere in its phones"

    what will they replace it with? Tizen?

  3. jrickel96

    Samsung has a long way to go. Most of their sales are in the low and mid-range. The Galaxy S7 makes up less than 1.3% of Android devices - and it may be under 1%. Apple sells 70% of all premium smartphones in the world while Samsung sells 17%. And Samsung doesn't really have the ability to create a unified platform like Apple.

    I have no doubt that Samsung wants to control its own OS. I also have no doubt that the will fail miserably.

    • Roger Ramjet

      In reply to jrickel96:

      I don't see how it follows that Samsung will fail if they try to control the OS? Yes, it is not an easy thing to do, but what is the precise argument. They have the largest mobile phone device share, yes, Apple dominates premium, it doesn't mean a provider that ships >50% more widgets than Apple can't afford to make their own OS. It was suggested here recently that Microsoft, with ~0% share try an Android type fork, what would fundamentally prevent Samsung with all these devices, all these customers, from doing something similar? Obviously Microsoft would immediately support such a platform, many developers in Asia will not be able to pass it up. Google would have a decision to make (much more agonizing than whether to support a similar roll out from Microsoft for example).

      So, why is it a sure thing that it can't work.

  4. MikeCerm

    Growing pains are inevitable with all these virtual assistant type services, e.g., Siri launched as a beta, barely worked at all, and is still pretty useless. Eventually they work out the bugs, the service improves, and consumers continue to ignore them for the most part. Still, Samsung deserves extra shame for this failure because they actually put a stupid Bixby button on the phone. If you're going to dedicate a hardware key to a particular function, that function better work at launch and it better be awesome. They should just let users remap that button to some other function, because nobody gives a crap about Bixby.

  5. kjb434

    Does this mean I could map the dedicated voice assistant button to Cortana? Would be a big plus to switch to Android?

  6. nwebster

    Samsung already has a unified platform in their Tizen OS. It is what runs on their watches. It's nowhere close to where Android is now, but it has been a focus of theirs for some time...

  7. wshwe

    Any alternaitve to Android that Samsung could come up with will lack the vast arrary of apps that both Android and iOS possess. I certainly wouldn't buy any phone that wasn't running Android or iOS. Samsung has already run up to the app gap issue with their otherwise excellent Gear S line of smartwatches.

  8. Daekar

    Nobody bought the S8 for Bixby. I agree with Paul, this is a non-issue to 99% of the population. All voice assistants are terrible at the moment, even Cortana, so not having yet another isn't a problem.

  9. BLeduc

    Interesting how this is a misstep, but when Microsoft does this when releasing features for the US market only, it is barely mentioned.

  10. melinau

    Although I too consider "Assistants" currently to be mainly flim-flam, the inability to deliver Bixby suggests problems under the surface: missed targets, technical problems etc. which undermine the value-proposition. You may never use Bixby, but you've paid for it and want it!

    For my money, Samsung's Ultra-Premium strategy with S8 is counter-productive, especially alongside the OnePlus 3T which offers 90% of the ability at less than 50% of the price. An "infinity" display is a nice to have, but not £300 nice!

    Ignoring the hardware, it's worse for Samsung, as compared to iOS, Android is still unpolished. Tizen is perpetually in the wings, but never seems to actually get on-stage and into the spotlight.

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