Samsung Bixby hands-on: What you can do with the new GS8 virtual assistant


Siri, Alexa, Cortana – even the unnamed voice behind the Google Assistant: you can't throw a stone in smartphone-software land without hitting some kind of voice-driven virtual assistant. While some developers would look at that spread and say “enough,” Samsung isn't content to let all the other big players in the mobile world have all the fun, and has put together a service of its own. With the launch of the new Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ this week, the manufacturer introduced users to the first hardware capable of tapping into this system, an assistant it calls Bixby. While going hands-on with the new flagships at Samsung Unpacked, we had the opportunity to spend a little time interacting with Bixby for ourselves; let's take a look at what we saw.

What Bixby does


Like these other virtual assistants, Bixby's feature set is multi-faceted; it's not just in one place on your phone, doing one thing, in one way. So as a result, it's not surprising that parts of Bixby feel a lot like a rehash of what's offered by the likes of Google's services. That sensation's most acute when you're conducting traditional voice searches or accessing the various cards in the Bixby app.

Just like any of its competitors, Bixby can answer your questions, tapping into the vast knowledge banks of the internet to do anything from unit conversion to looking up the capital of Eritrea. And much like the way Google Now presents you information in a card format, Bixby similarly presents you with a long, scrolling list of cards containing news and current events, information saved to your personal schedule, and health data you've logged on your phone. You're free to add new cards to that list, and Bixby helps out there by recommending supported apps you might be interested in installing.

Accessing Bixby


So far, this is all pretty standard, and then we come to the first thing that makes Bixby stand out: its dedicated hardware button. While the Galaxy S8 may be loosing its physical home button, it's picking up an all-new button you can use to call upon Bixby from anywhere in your phone. That makes for a bit more reliable of a voice-command trigger than listening for a hotword, as well as can save you a step or two in navigating to the Bixby card interface.

Embracing the power of voice


Answering questions with voice commands may not be particularly impressive these days, so Samsung is upping the ante with the promise of full voice control over your entire phone. This is an incredibly lofty goal, but Samsung's trying to get Bixby to a place where anything you could accomplish via touchscreen interaction, you can instead do with your voice. Or if you don't want to speak every command allowed, Bixby is designed to let you transition back and forth from spoken to touch control seamlessly.

That sounds hugely ambitious, but for the moment the actual implementation looks a little limited – and in the demos we've seen, Samsung back away from the idea of full no-touch voice control. Expect updates to make this functionality more and more fleshed-out over time, but we wouldn't necessarily bet on being able to buy a GS8 and then never touch our phone's screen again.


Bixby sees what you're doing there


While we're still waiting to go in-depth with that voice control, one part of Bixby that was very much ready to go this week is Bixby Vision, the “augmented reality” image-processing side that taps into the camera on the Galaxy S8 (and also works with previously-taken photos).

Again, parts of this mode ring familiar, reminding us of existing services from other companies: you can point your camera at a foreign-language sign for a translation, ask it to recognize an object and look up pictures of similar things, have it analyze landmarks to work out a photo's location and offer suggestions about nearby attractions, or even identify a product and let you know how you order one of your own.

Though we've seen similar functionality through various services from Google or Amazon, bundling them all together like this really does comes across as something special, and it's also satisfying to see how well Samsung's solution works. With that image search, for example, Bixby excelled at recognizing sometimes-unusual items, and even when pictured in odd situations.

Expectations


It's easy to dismiss Bixby as another me-too virtual assistant, but there really does seem to be some actual promise here, not just delivering functionality that doesn't yet exist in its competition, but tying together what you can only do now through disparate services into one, easy-to-access system.

That said, Samsung has a lot of work ahead of it in continuing to build on this solid framework, and making good on some of the bigger promises it's shared regarding voice control that extends across all corners of your Android experience.

We can't yet say if anyone will buy a Galaxy S8 just because of Bixby's presence, but we'd wager that users will respond favorably to the service, all the same.

Can't wait to take home a Galaxy S8 for yourself and give Bixby a spin? We don't blame you, but until that day gets here, you can check out our hands-on preview video and image gallery.




Related phones

Galaxy S8
  • Display 5.8" 1440 x 2960 pixels
  • Camera 12 MP / 8 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, Octa-core, 2350 MHz
  • Storage 64 GB + microSDXC
  • Battery 3000 mAh(30h talk time)
Galaxy S8+
  • Display 6.2" 1440 x 2960 pixels
  • Camera 12 MP / 8 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, Octa-core, 2450 MHz
  • Storage 64 GB + microSDXC
  • Battery 3500 mAh(24h 3G talk time)

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34 Comments

1. trojan_horse

Posts: 5868; Member since: May 06, 2016

Bixby FTW! I'll be getting both the S8 and S8 Plus!

2. Spyro

Posts: 334; Member since: Mar 29, 2017

Which one are you going to use more often?

10. trojan_horse

Posts: 5868; Member since: May 06, 2016

I'll be getting a Snapdragon Galaxy S8 and a Exynos Galaxy S8 Pus. The one with the better battery life will be my daily-driver... But I'm betting more on the Exynos S8 Plus!!!

17. ibend

Posts: 6747; Member since: Sep 30, 2014

that's just obvious.. even with same battery size, exynos can beat snapdragon :-/

26. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

THE + will win. Even if the chips draw the same amount of power, the + s battery is much larger and rated for much longer than the 8. Silly contest is silly.

11. FlySheikh

Posts: 444; Member since: Oct 02, 2015

You won't get the Note 8?

3. Spyro

Posts: 334; Member since: Mar 29, 2017

I'm really curious to why they just dumped the S Voice. They could've just added more features to it just like Apple does to Siri. What a marketing ploy.

5. hurrycanger

Posts: 1759; Member since: Dec 01, 2013

I feel like all these features don't fit the name S Voice. I mean, S Voice makes me instantly think of "Samsung Voice Command" and no more than that. I think that's what it was. Imagine "S Voice Vision", "S Voice Images", "Hello S Voice"

6. mikehunta727 unregistered

Sometimes it's actually better to just rebrand/"rename" the service, S voice hasn't exactly enjoyed a good reputation in the past so using a new name is perfect. Marketing 101 breh

8. darkkjedii

Posts: 30956; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

S-Voice was utter crap, and the worst part of every Samsung device it was on. I'm glad they ditched it, and started from the ground up with Bixby. I immediately disabled S-Voice on my Galaxy's, and never thought about it again. Google asst, and Siri are miles (no make that light years) ahead of it. Kudos Samsung on the new approach.

13. joevsyou

Posts: 1091; Member since: Feb 28, 2015

very limited and bad rep. Also bixby isn't just a name change it's a brand new software. Bixby is on a whole different level than s voice

22. Lumia_Luigi

Posts: 173; Member since: Mar 22, 2017

Bixby sounds better than S voice

4. CreeDiddy

Posts: 2143; Member since: Nov 04, 2011

The scrolling seems choppy....

9. darkkjedii

Posts: 30956; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Pre release software probably. It'll be hammered out by the 21st, still expect choppiness here and there.

23. Lumia_Luigi

Posts: 173; Member since: Mar 22, 2017

It is a Samsung

25. Unordinary unregistered

You beat me to this comment. The phone physical looks beautiful, but I'll still never buy a Samsung device until it runs pure Android. My wallet is ready for the next pixel device.

30. sissy246

Posts: 7063; Member since: Mar 04, 2015

I will never buy a phone that runs pure Android.

32. Unordinary unregistered

Why? It's come a long way from the s**tty disgusting and poorly designed mess it used to be

33. darkkjedii

Posts: 30956; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Me either, I actually love touchwiz, but it does get laggy here and there. Every other OS I've used has too though.

34. sissy246

Posts: 7063; Member since: Mar 04, 2015

I am the same, I like TouchWiz. It has gotten better then it use starting with the s6. I am happy to with my exynos note 5 , really not much lag at all to speak of, especially with adblocker. With out adblocker this site lags a lot.

7. darkkjedii

Posts: 30956; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

With Bixby's camera integration, I wonder if it will extend to pics moved to SD, or just the ones stored internally as far as the scanning process goes. I also wonder if Bixby will have Siri like voice dictation (highlight and area of text anywhere, and have it read out loud to you). I also wonder if either of these two phones will work with an S-Pen, as there were several rumors point to the possibility. Just some of the things I'd like to know, and experience before buying. It's an interesting device.

12. sun0066

Posts: 265; Member since: Feb 12, 2011

samsung did not learn the lesson , put lot of thing on the phone , that at first work more or less but then apps start filling up the phone and everything start lagging and slow and hot . why them do not focus on performance and reliability as apple does , because , it does not matter how many thing phone is able to do , we just end up using phone, browser, maps, music, media and apps if samsung did not learn it yet, I did

14. Plasticsh1t

Posts: 3097; Member since: Sep 01, 2014

S-voice part 2. Samsung loves to bloat their phones to no end.

31. sissy246

Posts: 7063; Member since: Mar 04, 2015

Bixby is way better then s voice.i can see that bixby will actually come in handy, s voice never came in handy.

15. jeroome86

Posts: 2314; Member since: Apr 12, 2012

Speaking of bloat is Samsung going to stop carriers from putting their crap on there? Verizon the worst offender replacing Samsung apps with their own garbage.

16. Mr.Pussy

Posts: 348; Member since: Feb 16, 2017

Got to see the phone today. Pretty impressive. The regular S8 is much easier to hold. The Plus is nice too if you Luke bigger phone. Feel smaller than my iPhone 7 Plus.

18. poojarathod

Posts: 41; Member since: Mar 06, 2017

Bixby is same as google assistance?

20. mikehunta727 unregistered

No, a bit different

19. xondk

Posts: 1904; Member since: Mar 25, 2014

Hmm, could actually be interesting, and at least they've done it properly so you can control bixby's access in this time of privacy worry. Was fully expecting there to be a "is listening to me!" ala Samsung TV's uproar (that proved to have really nothing in it)

21. tangbunna

Posts: 474; Member since: Sep 29, 2016

Hi Bitch-b

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