Does Samsung even understand how to launch a tech product? On Friday, the South Korean tech giant finally let customers sign up for preview access to the eagerly anticipated Bixby personal assistant, which was supposed to launch with its brand new Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8 smartphones. The devices even include a dedicated Bixby button. SEE ALSO: Samsung's Galaxy S8 and S8 prove you can never have too much screen Thus far, that button is only useful for access to Bixby Vision, which can identify some objects and products, and link you to shopping options. The real Bixby will be less like Apple's Siri and Google Assistant with their answers to general interest questions and maybe a little more like Amazon Alexa, with voice control for various devices.
It seems like yesterday when Samsung announced the launch of its smart voice assistant, Bixby -- OK, I jest, it was ages ago. But after several delays, we can now finally say Bixby is globally available, as Samsung just announced its launch in more than 200 countries and territories. These include the U.K., Australia, Canada and South Africa -- we've asked Samsung for a full list and will update this article when we get it. Bixby was originally launched in the United States and Korea in July. SEE ALSO: Samsung's Bixby is finally available for all Galaxy S8 users This does not yet mean that Bixby has learned any new languages -- it still only understands U.S. English and Korean -- only that users worldwide are now able to install it.
Samsung's Bixby isn't exactly the most popular voice assistant, which is why some Galaxy Note 9 owners have been frustrated by the inclusion of a Bixby button on their handset. One tap would bring up the voice assistant, often by accident, and there was no way to disable it. Now, according to Android Authority, the new Note 9 software, which rolls out today, gives users the option to launch Bixby with a double tap, rather than a single tap. The question remains, though, why Samsung has chosen not to provide an option to disable or re-map the Bixby button to something more useful for the bulk of users. After all, forcing customers into using the voice assistant isn't likely to work well.
Now select users will get to test it. One of the most anticipated new features of the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8 prior to the phone's launch in March was an artificial intelligence assistant named Bixby that you were supposed to be able to control by voice. Unfortunately while some of Bixby's capabilities made into onto the phones, the voice-based commands that would make Bixby respond more like the Google Assistant, Apple's Siri, Microsoft's Cortana and Amazon's Alexa was delayed, at least in the U.S. (Bixby is fully operational in South Korea, where Samsung is based). On Friday, Samsung Electronics America announced it will give "select" Galaxy S8 and S8 users early access to Bixby's vocal capabilities as part of what it still considered an early preview test. Samsung hasn't disclosed how many Bixby testers will gain access to this sneak preview, which will let you hold down a Bixby button and start speaking to get the phone to send texts, change settings and make calls.
Video: Samsung's Bixby voice assistant will reach beyond Galaxy S8 You may not be able to get rid of Bixby, but you can at least disable the Bixby button after a recent update to the Bixby app. Bixby voice is unlike any other personal assistant available today. It's unclear when Samsung enabled the new toggle, first spotted by Android news site Droid Life. I can't tell you how many times I've tried to adjust the volume one of the recent Samsung Galaxy devices, only to have Bixby Home open. Its awkward placement, combined with limited usefulness, only exacerbates the frustration.