Behind closed doors: Our opinion on Bixby Voice
It took a while, but Bixby Voice is finally available across the globe. Samsung’s only just offering support for Korean and US English, so Bixby Voice is far from being as useful as its competitors, but it’s certainly better than not being able to use the feature at all, which was the case for a long time after the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ went on sale. We’ve been using Bixby’s voice capabilities since they went live, and we thought it would be a good idea to let our readers know what we here at SamMobile think of Samsung’s voice assistant. Before you proceed, don’t forget to take a look at our Bixby Voice review and also take a look at how you can set up Bixby on your Galaxy S8 or Galaxy Note 8.
Like everyone else, I hated the fact that Bixby Voice wasn’t available when the Galaxy S8 launched, but now that it is, I have to say I’ve been quite impressed. Samsung took additional time to optimize Bixby’s voice recognition for the Indian accent, and it was time well spent, as Bixby Voice is as good as Google Now at understanding what I’m trying to say. I’ve deliberately talked to Bixby in as much native accent as I could muster, and it almost never fails – the optimization for Indian speakers is that good.
As for the things one can do with Bixby Voice (find an exhaustive list here), I have only been using it for basic stuff such as setting alarms and opening apps while in the car. Bixby handles it all with aplomb, although I dislike that it first opens the necessary app or menu for each function before actually carrying it out. For example, if I tell it to set an alarm, it unlocks the phone, opens the clock app, waits a second, then sets the alarm before closing the clock app. I guess it’s not much of an issue, but it doesn’t feel intuitive. I would prefer if it just does what I ask instantly, like Google Now. Oh, and Samsung also needs to fix the fact that Bixby sometimes takes a long time to process requests, although that may also be down to the company’s not-so-optimized Android interface.
Where Bixby Voice needs work is in waking up with the ‘Hi Bixby’ hotword. I’ve set sensitivity to maximum but it still fails to respond at times, especially when there’s music playing in my car. Google Now feels more responsive in such situations. Also, while I’m using Bixby these days instead of Google Now for basic commands, I’m not sure if I’ll be doing that a few months down the line. Voice assistants are great to use initially, but they just fall by the wayside after a while, and I’m afraid Bixby will meet the same fate. Again, I’m impressed by the overall accuracy of voice recognition on Bixby Voice, so at least Samsung has that part of the assistant down pat.
Samsung’s own voice assistant Bixby is finally here. Was it worth the wait? Well, that depends on what you need and mostly importantly, where you live. As someone who spends more time with Galaxy devices than would be considered healthy, I can say I’ve had some good fun with Bixby. It understands me fine and does what I ask of it. I even think an assistant like this should have its own dedicated hardware key. It’d be silly if a hands-free interface needs a complex touch action to start it. I’m even willing to forgive Bixby not finding RebeKKa (which is how my wife’s name is spelt), because it searches for RebeCCa. Repeatedly. Those kinks will iron themselves out.
However, I am not only a fervent Galaxy user, but a Dutchman as well. My English isn’t complete rubbish, but it is weird talking to my phone in a foreign language in public, something I say on behalf of my colleagues Danny and Martin as well. Unless Bixby learns Dutch, the feature is really of no use to anyone here. Or in any of the other countries whose language Bixby will, in all likelihood, never learn.
It’s not even the fact that most users can and will never use a feature on their smartphone that bugs me. But to have one-quarter of a device’s hardware keys nonfunctional, because you’re in the wrong country is just silly. I understand there are good explanations for this, but they do not amount to a reasonable excuse. If only I could officially make that key do something that is useful to me…
As I mentioned in my detailed Bixby Voice review, it’s a story of unfulfilled potential. The voice recognition can be frustratingly hit or miss sometimes and its ability to pick up the “Hi Bixby” hotword still leaves a lot to be desired.
However, I really like how Bixby can control system functions effortlessly and that Samsung is working to add support for more third-party apps. There’s still a lot to be done, though. Bixby’s conversational skills need an upgrade and it will take time for an entire ecosystem to develop around the assistant.
It’s a step in the right direction but we need to give Bixby some time to reach its full potential.
Truth be told, I’m not a fan of Bixby Voice—and that’s because it’s way too slow. It takes an eternity to process simple requests, like asking for the time in a different country. I commend its ability to control system functions, but I’ll be sticking with Google Now, which is instant in comparison, until Samsung finds a way to make it faster.
As you can see, we’re in two minds about Bixby Voice here at SamMobile. Some of us like it, others think it needs more work, but the general conclusion is that Bixby Voice isn’t bad for a first attempt at a voice assistant. What’s your take on Bixby Voice? Do you think it’s useful, do you stick to Google Now, or do you just ignore voice assistants altogether? Get the conversation going by leaving a comment!