The new Samsung Galaxy S8 has fans and critics excited; with facial and iris scanning, the ability to connect directly to a desktop version, and wireless charging just a few of the excellent features fans can look forward to. Almost all these features have been touted as being faultless by those who have tested the device, and critics have given Samsung a virtual standing ovation for it’s new flagship mobile.
The same critics have been passionately critical of Samsung’s new, and very late to the show, virtual assistant – Bixby. Described as being, “clunky,” “annoying,” and, “pointless,” Bixby is a shadow of Siri, Alexa or OKGoogle.
To be fair, Samsung has described Bixby as a way to navigate the device itself, rather than being a virtual assistant in the same vein as Apple and Google’s versions, but Bixby doesn’t even seem to be good at doing that. Importantly, regardless of the intention, people will naturally assume that Bixby is a virtual assistant, and attempt to treat it as such. Comparisons with other virtual assistants are inevitable, and Samsung should have been aware that this would be the case.
Unfortunately, Bixby may be a necessary evil for Samsung who has aspirational goals of hyper-connectivity in the home and office, with the mobile phone acting as the hub. As they haven’t produced a virtual assistant before, and lack the required test data to produce a robust system in the future, Bixby was likely seen as a requirement to test and measure.
Importantly, this is simply a matter of Samsung not betting on virtual assistants becoming important in the future, and then realising that they would be. Where other tech giants have hedged their bets with technologies that they may not have been passionate about, but still accepting might take off, Samsung was apparently far too certain that Suri and Alexa wouldn’t gain traction. Now, forced eat humble pie, the Korean giant is stuck with a subpar offering in what is probably the best phone in the world.