Samsung has already begun taking preorders for its forthcoming Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ handsets, both of which will be available at the end of the next week. On paper, the company's new flagships bring the boom. However, one of its most hyped features, its Bixby AI voice assistant (Samsung's own version of Siri, Cortana, and Google Now) will not be fully functional at launch.
More specifically, it seems as though you won't be able to bark commands at Bixby, not initially anyway. Samsung has been telling media outlets that Bixby Voice will not roll out until "later this spring." In the meantime, Bixby will intelligently perform other tasks, such as providing reminders to events and serving up informational cards similar to Google Now. It's just that voice commands will come later, along with other functionality that gets added over time.
"In addition to the S8 and Gear VR with Controller, we’re excited for you to try Bixby—a service that will evolve over time. With its intelligent interface and contextual awareness, Bixby will make your phone more helpful by assisting in completing tasks, telling you what you’re looking at, learning your routine and remembering what you need to do. 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 U.S. on the Galaxy S8 later this spring," Samsung said in a statement.
Samsung did not say why voice activation will not be ready at launch. Business Insider notes that it has run into bugs previewing Bixby as recently as two weeks ago, and surmises the delay might be related to that. If we're adding our own speculation, it could be that Samsung wants to make sure its servers are up to the task. In the early days of Siri, there were times when she would not function properly because Apple's servers were getting overwhelmed.
Bixby isn't meant to be a direct competitor to other digital assistants, each of which has aspirations of ruling the Internet of Things movement. Instead, it's mainly there to help users more easily navigate the Galaxy S8/S8+. After all, it's a lot easier to configure a reminder by simply saying what you needed reminded of and when, rather than diving into the UI and entering things manually on a virtual keyboard.
Outside of Bixby, there is a lot to like about Samsung's new phones. The Galaxy S8 will feature a 5.8-inch QHD+ screen, while the larger S8+ wields a 6.2-inch display. Both are powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 SoC and sport 4GB of RAM, 64GB of internal storage (expandable via microSD), 8MP front camera, and 12MP rear shooter.