- Samsung unveiled its new Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus phones yesterday, simultaneously introducing Bixby, a smart assistant meant to compete with Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa and others. The news was detailed at a live event and in a press release.
- Bixby is currently only available on the new phones, which feature a dedicated button for accessing the digital assistant. A tight integration with the built-in camera and voice commands that mimic touch commands are two of Bixby’s unique features. Pinterest's visual search technology will support image search in Bixby, according to Ad Age.
- The S8 phone will have a 5.8-inch screen and start at $750 while the larger S8 Plus will have a 6.2-inch screen and start at $850. They are available for pre-order starting today and will land on shelves April 21.
Samsung needs a win in the smartphone space following a tough year that saw a worldwide recall of its Note 7 device because of battery issues, putting a dent in the company’s reputation as a leader in the space.
The company, which has a lot riding on the Galaxy S8, is turning the spotlight on Bixby as a key point of differentiation, suggesting that digital assistants have become a must-have for mobile devices. Apple, Amazon, Google, Microsoft and others may have beat Samsung to the table, but the company is hoping a couple of marketer- and user-friendly features could help it gain traction.
Bixby’s integration with the S8 camera means users can point their phones at an item and ask Bixby for information about it. It’s easy to see how this feature could be extended making a purchase. With Bixby and the camera, users can also search for wine, identify places and landmarks, translate text, find similar images and read QR codes and barcodes.
Offering voice commands that can be used instead of touch interactions is another point of differentiation, although this feature currently only works for a few Samsung apps like the photo gallery and messages. For example, users can tell Bixby to show them specific photos.
Other apps will have an opportunity to integrate Bixby, suggesting this could be one way the company hopes to build a stronger ecosystem, something that has been a challenge for it previously. Building such an ecosystem of third-party apps and services is crucial if Samsung is to compete with Google, Apple and Amazon, who have each built a formidable combination of consumer-friendly hardware and complementary software services.
Bixby also has a Home feature on Galaxy S8 phones that features smart reminders, news and weather. Third-party apps can also be displayed here.