We’ve known for a while that the Samsung Galaxy S8 would be the first phone to ship with Samsung’s new Bixby voice assistant software. What we didn’t really know until now is that Bixby isn’t exactly competing with Google Assistant or other voice assistant software such as Siri, Alexa, or Cortana… at least not yet.
Other voice assistants are designed to answer questions, provide news and weather updates, help you shop-by-voice, and generally let you interact with the internet by talking.
Bixby lets you interact with your phone by talking. In fact, Samsung says the idea behind Bixby is to provide completely hands-free control: anything you can do by touching your phone can also be done with Bixby. That’s the idea anyway.
In practice, thousands developers will need to update their apps to support Bixby before that’s actually true.
A launch Bixby does let you navigate some Galaxy S8 features using just your voice, and you can interact with a handful of Samsung apps to do things like launch and control the camera, phone, and messaging apps.
You trigger Bixby by pressing a dedicated button on the side of the phone and then you tell it what you want it to do. For example, take a picture, rotate it, and then stream it to a connected TV. You can also launch Bixby by saying “Bixby” or tapping a home screen icon.
Bixby also has a Google Goggles-like feature that lets you point your phone’s camera at items to identify them. This will help you identify landmarks and other items… but more importantly for Samsung, you can also use it to recognize books, food, wine, or other items and then get links to purchase those items. Hello potential revenue source.
Eventually it’s possible that Samsung could add features to Bixby that make it more of a competitor with Google Assistant. But for now the two services coexist on Samsung’s Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ smartphones. Long-press the on-screen home button and you get Google Assistant. Press the Bixby button and you get… Bixby.