Samsung has launched a preview program for Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 owners who want to try out Bixby Voice ahead of its official release in the U.S. At the same time, some updates for Bixby have been rolled out, suggesting that the company's voice assistant could soon be fully functional in the country. On Wednesday, Samsung opened the preview program to allow select Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 users to test out the Bixby Voice command features. Only those who signed up for the program will get the chance to do this. The rollout of this beta will last for a few days, so don't be worried if you had signed up and still haven't received the notification for the update. Android Authority says that consumers who have signed up for the preview should update all of their Samsung-branded apps to their latest versions in the Galaxy App store before testing the voice command features.
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.
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.
While it has been confirmed the Samsung Galaxy S8 will not be unveiled at the Mobile World Congress event (MWC) in Barcelona next month, the company hasn't really announced a launch date for the device. But if a new rumor is to be believed, the company might launch the device a month after MWC. Phonearena, citing a tipster called Ricciolo, claims the device might launch March 29. It further added that Samsung might hold a simultaneous launch across multiple cities in Europe and U.S. and that the company would have an extensive marketing campaign for the device. If the device is launched at the said date, it would mean it would go on sale around mid-April.
Samsung has faced a tough slog getting Bixby to the masses, but now its voice assistant is accessible in more than 200 countries including the UK, Australia, Canada and South Africa. It's been available in South Korea and the US since July, when it launched after months of delays. Part of Bixby's appeal is its positioning beyond that of a simple voice assistant. Samsung claims it learns over time, recognizing "natural language" to make interacting with your phone easier and more intuitive. It understands cross-application commands and thanks to deep integration it can be accessed without any interruptions to what you're already doing on-screen.