You know what's bad design? The Bixby button on the Galaxy S9/S9+

Posted: , by Milen Yanachkov Milen Yanachkov

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You know what's bad design? The Bixby button on the Galaxy S9/S9+
You know what inevitably happens when you get a great device, whatever it may be? Eventually, after the initial period of excitement has passed and you’ve settled with the device, you start noticing the small, annoying things. Things that make you go, “Wow, how could they make such a nice thing and do something stupid like that at the same time?” Such is the case with the Bixby button on the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+, in my experience.

Don’t get me wrong, the phones are good — some of the best on the market right now — and this irk that I have with the Bixby button is likely far from a deal-breaker for the vast majority of people out there. However, as a professional nitpicker and someone who appreciates sensible design, I just couldn’t ignore this. After I realized that every third time I try to press the power button, I also press the Bixby button along with it, I decided to ask around the office to see if people had also had similar experiences with the new Galaxies. Lo and behold, the same complaint coming from all sides. But it's not just us, the professional nitpickers! People have been complaining about it online as well, and for good reason.

So, what’s wrong with the Bixby button on the Galaxy S9 and S9+, and why is it so easy to press when you don’t mean to?

I keep pressing the thing on accident, no matter which hand I'm using the phone with! UGH!
I keep pressing the thing on accident, no matter which hand I'm using the phone with! UGH!

Unlocking a phone is easy – you just press the power button. However, when you think about it, pressing the power button necessitates that you prop the device on the other side. It’s a lot like squeezing the phone, actually, as pressure is applied across the upper half of both the left and right sides of the frame. And what happens when you have something almost perfectly aligned with the power button? You find yourself accidentally pressing it over, and over, and over again. This is why, on the new Pixels and HTC phones, the active Edge Sense area is so close the bottom. If it were somewhere around the middle, users would often times accidentally activate it when locking or unlocking their phones.

Ever wondered why the volume rocker, when it’s on the opposite side of the power button, is positioned so high up? Same reason. If it’s directly opposed to the power button, you’ll be accidentally pressing it all the time. I didn’t really have this issue with the Galaxy S8. I mean, there were accidental presses of the Bixby button, sure, but nowhere near as often as on the S9 models. That’s likely due to the fact that Samsung has moved the button up a tad and made it wider. Now it's placed in such a way, that no matter which hand I'm holding the phone with, I always either have my index finger or thumb on it, but I guess this was Samsung's goal. Unfortunately, I find it really, really annoying.

Gee Samsung, thanks for having this profound consideration for everyone’s unquenchable urge to gain Bixby experience points! 

This is how I like to imagine it all went down. I know, it's not funny and Samsung is king. Tell me more about that in the comments below! Images by Droidsans
Don’t get me wrong, the Galaxy S9 and S9+ are great phones and you could get accustomed to the less-than-optimal positioning of the Bixby button, much like you could get used to the awkward location of the fingerprint scanner on the S8 models last year. But "getting used to it" doesn't amount to great user experience. It's also the little things at times, especially when it comes to top-tier devices like these, that irk me a lot. In its efforts to push Bixby, Samsung has gone too far with this dubious design choice.

And I actually enjoy some aspects of the AI assistant, such as the revamped Vision component, which I currently find more robust than Google Lens. At this point, however, I'm so annoyed with that button, I’m not even mad that I can’t remap it to something else. Even if I could, I simply don’t want accidentally activating features or apps when I don’t need to. In fact, for me at least, the only good Bixby button at this point is a disabled Bixby button. Speaking of that, here’s a quick tip for ya: go to Bixby Settings > disable Bixby key.

Don’t forget to tune in next week, when I’ll be ranting about how annoying Face ID can be, or how notches for the sake of notches are a terrible design choice. Or something else entirely, who knows.


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