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.