Samsung’s Bixby assistant won’t support voice commands when Galaxy S8 launches

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Samsung has gone to great lengths to position its new Bixby assistant as the automated centerpiece of the new Galaxy S8. It even included a dedicated button on the phone just for launching it (though you can remap the button if you so choose). However, in a statement given to The Verge this afternoon, Samsung admits that Bixby’s headline feature — voice control — won’t be ready in time for when the device ships to US consumers on April 21st. Instead, owners of the S8 will have to wait for a software update to be released later this spring.

“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 US on the Galaxy S8 later this spring,” Samsung’s statement reads. So yes, new S8 owners will be able to use Bixby’s augmented reality camera features, Bixby Vision as it’s called, and the access the “Home” panel, which is basically a pane of widgets. Oh, and reminders — you’ll be able to set reminders.

Yet the biggest differentiating factor between Samsung’s software and Siri or Google Assistant is Bixby’s ability to perform more manual tasks on your behalf, like lightly editing a photo or composing and sending an email. “Anything you can do with touch, you can do with voice” is how Samsung reps have boasted about Bixby in the lead-up to, during, and after the S8 launch event last month.

Bixby was also positioned as perhaps the second most important addition to the Galaxy line during the unveiling, behind only the S8’s bezel-less display. That’s what makes it so confounding that Samsung won’t be shipping the phone with Bixby’s standout feature intact. Whatever the hold up is, it’s likely to complicate Samsung’s grand ambitions for its digital assistant, especially when it only arrives weeks (months?) after launch as an update footnote users might ignore.

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