Samsung’s Galaxy S8 and S8+ may have dedicated keys for the company’s Bixby virtual assistant software. But the full version of Bixby wasn’t ready to go when the phones first launched… at least not in the United States.
While South Korean customers could use Bixby to speak to their phones, customers in the US could only access a few Bixby features by pressing the button… and voice wasn’t one of them.
Now Samsung is testing the English-language version of Bixby, and the company is accepting a limited number of beta testers into an early access program.
If you’re accepted into the program, Samsung says you can send text messages, make calls, change settings, or perform other actions by holding the Bixby key and talking.
Bixby is designed to learn from your behavior, so it should get better at recognizing your voice and figuring out what you’re asking it to do over time. But Samsung does caution that the company “does not guarantee the accuracy, completeness, and reliability of Bixby.”
The fine print on the early access page also notes that the only languages that are currently supported are Korean and US English, and not all “dialects and expressions” will be recognized.
At this point only a small number of apps from Samsung and third-party developers will work with Bixby, but Samsung says the list should grow in the future.
Ultimately the idea is to let you control your phone with just your voice, removing the need to touch the screen to perform many actions. While it’s hard to imagine playing touchscreen-based games with voice commands, it’s a lot easier to envision a future where you can make calls, surf the web, look up recipes, or make appointments with the hands-free voice assistant.
In that way, Bixby is designed to coexist with Google Assistant rather than compete directly with it… which makes sense, since Samsung’s phones also ship with Google’s voice assistant software.