Ben Sin

Bixby opening Twitter and making the correct search.

Samsung is set to unveil its Galaxy Note 8 tomorrow, and though the device will have some impressive hardware, virtually nothing about the device’s look will excite anyone, since clear leaks of the Note 8’s entire body have already hit every tech blog (plus, the phone looks just like a Galaxy S8+ anyway). Samsung, however, is likely to spend a portion of tomorrow’s announcement on Bixby, the digital voice assistant that was first introduced with the Galaxy S8 but somehow still isn’t a fully functional service for everyone who doesn’t speak Korean … until a few hours ago. Samsung has began rolling out English voice support for Bixby, and though that still gives Bixby a grand total of only two language supported, at least a significantly bigger portion of the world speak English than Korean.

I’ve been vocal about the redundancy of Bixby and predicted it will flop, a while back, but after testing its English commands and pitting it against Apple’s Siri and Google’s Assistant, I realized that Bixby, while still redundant, may not suck after all. In fact, Bixby is able to do some cool things that even Siri and Google Assistant can’t do.

(I recorded a video of the test, which can be found below. So if you’re one of those "TL;DR" people, feel free to just watch the video and ignore the rest of the text)

[embedded content]

So the first thing to know about Bixby is it really wants you to use Samsung’s native apps. That means when you ask it to send an email, it will open Samsung’s native mail app even if you have used Gmail from day one and have never even opened Samsung’s mail app. Now I know Bixby isn’t alone on this: Siri and Google Assistant are partial to their own apps too, but iOS’s and Google’s apps are a lot better than Samsung’s default apps. Bixby will still play nicely with Google apps though, it just requires a couple more words. So for example, if you want to send an email via Bixby voice, you’ll have to say "send an email on Gmail."

Ben Sin

A list of sample phrases Bixby can understand, according to Samsung.

In my testing, I asked Bixby, Siri, and Google Assistant a series of two-step commands such as "open Facebook and post a status," "open Twitter and search for LeBron," etc. For the most part, Bixby worked just as well as Siri and Google Assistant, though Bixby is really laggy right now. Samsung’s software is already terribly slow to begin with so Bixby potentially bogging it down even more worries me.

Some voice commands actually work better on Bixby than Siri and Google Assistant. For example, I can tell Bixby to "take a selfie" and it will automatically open up the camera app, switch to the selfie lens, and snap a photo, all without me needing to tap anywhere on the screen. Siri and Google Assistant can open the camera for you but they cannot switch to the front-facing camera, nor can they snap a photo for you.

Bixby can also upload a photo to Facebook and Instagram for me by carrying the command all the way to the final step (the part where I hit "post" in the Facebook app). Neither Google Assistant nor Siri could do that at all (when I asked Google Assistant to "upload a photo to Facebook," it stupidly showed me a batch of search result on how to do that). This is obviously because Bixby works well with first party Samsung apps and the photo gallery in which pictures are stored is one of Samsung’s own.

There’s also a pretty cool "voice password" trick in Bixby that, when working in tandem with the "hey Bixby" wakeup command, allows me to unlock the phone without ever touching it. I set "in west Philadelphia" as my voice password, and Bixby recognized it every time. When I tried to trick it by saying "in mess Philadelphia" and "in east Philadelphia," Bixby wouldn’t budge.

Overall, Bixby’s reliability rate is still lower than Google Assistant and Siri — every now and then that Bixby voice bubble would freeze and stay on the home screen for like 10 seconds after I’ve finished a command. So it is still very much a work in progress. But Bixby being able to do several tasks better than Siri and Google Assistant is something I didn’t expect. To Samsung’s credit, they seem eager to improve Bixby. Every time I finished a voice command, a +5 or +10 XP text would pop up on the screen, as if I’m playing an RPG or building up a scrub in NBA 2K’s career mode. According to Bixby now, I’m on "level 4," and I need "68 more XP points" to level up. I have no idea what awaits at the next level.

Ben Sin

Bixby’s weird RPG XP point system.

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Ben Sin

Bixby opening Twitter and making the correct search.

Samsung is set to unveil its Galaxy Note 8 tomorrow, and though the device will have some impressive hardware, virtually nothing about the device’s look will excite anyone, since clear leaks of the Note 8’s entire body have already hit every tech blog (plus, the phone looks just like a Galaxy S8+ anyway). Samsung, however, is likely to spend a portion of tomorrow’s announcement on Bixby, the digital voice assistant that was first introduced with the Galaxy S8 but somehow still isn’t a fully functional service for everyone who doesn’t speak Korean … until a few hours ago. Samsung has began rolling out English voice support for Bixby, and though that still gives Bixby a grand total of only two language supported, at least a significantly bigger portion of the world speak English than Korean.

I’ve been vocal about the redundancy of Bixby and predicted it will flop, a while back, but after testing its English commands and pitting it against Apple’s Siri and Google’s Assistant, I realized that Bixby, while still redundant, may not suck after all. In fact, Bixby is able to do some cool things that even Siri and Google Assistant can’t do.

(I recorded a video of the test, which can be found below. So if you’re one of those “TL;DR” people, feel free to just watch the video and ignore the rest of the text)

[embedded content]

So the first thing to know about Bixby is it really wants you to use Samsung’s native apps. That means when you ask it to send an email, it will open Samsung’s native mail app even if you have used Gmail from day one and have never even opened Samsung’s mail app. Now I know Bixby isn’t alone on this: Siri and Google Assistant are partial to their own apps too, but iOS’s and Google’s apps are a lot better than Samsung’s default apps. Bixby will still play nicely with Google apps though, it just requires a couple more words. So for example, if you want to send an email via Bixby voice, you’ll have to say “send an email on Gmail.”

Ben Sin

A list of sample phrases Bixby can understand, according to Samsung.

In my testing, I asked Bixby, Siri, and Google Assistant a series of two-step commands such as “open Facebook and post a status,” “open Twitter and search for LeBron,” etc. For the most part, Bixby worked just as well as Siri and Google Assistant, though Bixby is really laggy right now. Samsung’s software is already terribly slow to begin with so Bixby potentially bogging it down even more worries me.

Some voice commands actually work better on Bixby than Siri and Google Assistant. For example, I can tell Bixby to “take a selfie” and it will automatically open up the camera app, switch to the selfie lens, and snap a photo, all without me needing to tap anywhere on the screen. Siri and Google Assistant can open the camera for you but they cannot switch to the front-facing camera, nor can they snap a photo for you.

Bixby can also upload a photo to Facebook and Instagram for me by carrying the command all the way to the final step (the part where I hit “post” in the Facebook app). Neither Google Assistant nor Siri could do that at all (when I asked Google Assistant to “upload a photo to Facebook,” it stupidly showed me a batch of search result on how to do that). This is obviously because Bixby works well with first party Samsung apps and the photo gallery in which pictures are stored is one of Samsung’s own.

There’s also a pretty cool “voice password” trick in Bixby that, when working in tandem with the “hey Bixby” wakeup command, allows me to unlock the phone without ever touching it. I set “in west Philadelphia” as my voice password, and Bixby recognized it every time. When I tried to trick it by saying “in mess Philadelphia” and “in east Philadelphia,” Bixby wouldn’t budge.

Overall, Bixby’s reliability rate is still lower than Google Assistant and Siri — every now and then that Bixby voice bubble would freeze and stay on the home screen for like 10 seconds after I’ve finished a command. So it is still very much a work in progress. But Bixby being able to do several tasks better than Siri and Google Assistant is something I didn’t expect. To Samsung’s credit, they seem eager to improve Bixby. Every time I finished a voice command, a +5 or +10 XP text would pop up on the screen, as if I’m playing an RPG or building up a scrub in NBA 2K’s career mode. According to Bixby now, I’m on “level 4,” and I need “68 more XP points” to level up. I have no idea what awaits at the next level.

Ben Sin

Bixby’s weird RPG XP point system.

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