No Bixby Yet, But Samsung Restricting Bixby Button Reassignment

How important is it to have your voice assistant front and center for consumers? For Samsung, it’s pretty important. It’s so important that the Galaxy S8 has a dedicated piece of hardware, a button, to access Samsung’s much hyped AI-based voice assistant Bixby. It is Samsung’s answer to Google Assistant, Apple’s Siri and Amazon Alexa.

But, Bixby is delayed and the button remains. Even when the voice interaction becomes available, Bixby will initially only support English and Korean which means many users globally won’t be able to use the voice assistant in their native language. It’s not surprising that some enterprising Galaxy S8 users were discussing a new purpose for the button. Android phones have traditionally enabled users to configure the phones to suit their needs. Why not the new button that is currently useless?

Enabling the Google Assistant Button

XDA had the answer. It involved downloading a free app in the Google Play store called All in one Gestures. There is even a video from a store model showing someone demonstrating the dedicated Bixby Button being used to launch Google.

Samsung already has a problem with Bixby’s notable absence from the Galaxy S8. Google Assistant is available today on the handset. Galaxy S8 owners are likely to start using it and develop habits that make switching over to Bixby less likely when it does eventually launch. If the Bixby button became the Google Assistant button, would anyone ever go back?

Closing The Loophole

The button remapping victory was short-lived, or was it. A Samsung Galaxy S8 firmware update reportedly eliminated the ability to remap the button. This exchange with Samsung’s Philip Berne indicates that Samsung did not support the remapping.

However, XDA reported later that maybe the remapping was still possible after all.

So, Samsung confirmed over Twitter the change to eliminate remapping and some users were then unable to use the remapped button, but others say they can. The XDA explanation of how Samsung changed the event handling for the button manager to eliminate the remapping seems like a fix from the manufacturer’s perspective. With that said, root access would likely make remapping possible again.

What Have We Learned

What have we learned through this minor controversy? Bixby voice assistant is still delayed. Google Assistant is available on the Galaxy S8 phones. Bixby is really important to Samsung and they want to ensure the dedicated button is available when the voice assistant arrives later this year. This is a big deal to insiders, some developers and those privileged enough to receive early demo review devices, but probably will mean little to the vast majority of Galaxy S8 users who are non-technical. The voice wars continue. We are all just pawns.