Samsung has already botched one of the most important product launches in the company's history, and it hasn't even happened yet. Samsung confirmed that its digital assistant — Bixby — will not respond to voice queries when it launches with the new Galaxy S8 later this month.
In a statement to Gizmodo, Samsung said:
With its intelligent interface and contextual awareness, Bixby will make your phone more helpful by assisting in completing tasks, telling you what you're looking at, learning your routine and remembering what you need to do. Key features of Bixby, including Vision, Home and Reminder, will be available with the global launch of the Samsung Galaxy S8 on April 21. Bixby Voice will be available in the U.S. on the Galaxy S8 later this spring.
The statement was first reported by VentureBeat.
This is a blow to Samsung, which desperately needs a win after reportedly losing $US5 billion ($6.6 billion) in profits following the exploding Galaxy Note7. Samsung has gone to great lengths to tout Bixby as one of the key features on its new Galaxy S8 smartphone, and the phone has already broken pre-order records in South Korea and is outpacing last year's flagship Galaxy S7 in the US.
The company has also gone so far as putting a button on the side of the phone to draw attention to its brand new digital assistant, which it scooped up as part of an acquisition of Viv Labs in October last year. That button on the side, however, will be relatively useless at launch.
It's worth noting that Bixby was not working during our brief demo with the Galaxy S8. We were able to play around with some of the image recognition features of the assistant, however, the more useful voice commands were not enabled.
Bixby has been positioned to compete directly with Google Assistant, Apple's Siri and Amazon's Alexa, and Samsung has stopped just short of calling it a genius. The assistant can supposedly translate 52 different languages (compared to Siri's 30 languages). Bixby also appears to have a nicer user interface than some of its competitors. On paper, the assistant sounds great — but it's hard to say whether it will live up to the hype since we haven't been able to fully test it.
There are still plenty of other reasons someone might want to purchase a Galaxy S8 phone. The display has practically no bezels so it's downright beautiful. And Samsung also engineered a slick dock called Dex, which allows the phone to power a handsome desktop experience. Indeed, the phone is so exciting and interesting that the missing Bixby Voice support at launch is really disappointing — let's hope Samsung fixes it quickly.