When we first experience Bixby on the Galaxy S8+, it felt like a complete waste. And in the time that followed, it was mocked all over the internet for being a futile exercise, one that Samsung was shoving down our throats giving it a dedicated button on its flagship phones.
Now that the Bixby Voice is working in India, we decided to give it a second try on our Galaxy Note 8 and were surprised by what we saw. Yes, the Bixby still has its flaws but it’s quite impressive for a first generation product and can do a few things lot better than Google Assistant and Siri. We don’t even mind the dedicated hardware Bixby button anymore (even though Samsung now lets you disable it).
Let’s talk about why Bixby deserves a chance.
Understanding natural language and executing complex commands
Bixby can understand and execute complex commands better than any other digital assistant out there. For instance, you can ask it to “ Call a contact using SIM 2” and it will do just that. Or you can ask it to “open gallery and add the first 5 photos to a new folder”. It could surprisingly understand the command above and prompted with “ Ok, now let’s name this folder”.
Though Google and Siri also have some control over hardware, none enjoys as deep integration as Bixby. While you can use Google Assistant to access generic settings like turning on/off Bluetooth or WiFi, you can command Bixby to ‘change the Display mode to Basic’, toggle Bluelight filter on/off, or access any feature buried deep in the settings menu.
So, whenever I am looking for a specific feature but don’t know exactly where to find it, asking Bixby to fetch it is a convenient option.
Better integrated with Apps
Not only the phone’s hardware, but Bixby is also well integrated with a number of third-party apps. You can command it to “open WhatsApp and Send a message to <contact>” or ask it to “Open Facebook and search for <person>” or even tell it to “Open Instagram and post the last image with caption <>”.
At the time of writing this post, WhatsApp integration was added to Google Assistant but it has been a part of Bixby from the very start.
Bixby still isn’t very good at understanding conversation context (Google Assistant is still in lead), but it’s conscious of the App you are using at the moment. That is to say, if you summon it from within YouTube, it will know the context is YouTube for further commands.
For instance, if you ask it to search for Clint Eastwood movies while the YouTube App is open, it will do a YouTube search instead of web search. The same works for all other apps too.
As we discussed, Bixby is capable of understanding and executing complex commands, but that doesn’t mean you have to utter those long phrases repeatedly.
You can also select commands you have used in the past or select existing Bixby commands and compress them to shorter custom commands.
To add custom commands just select the triple dot menu in Bixby Home>> select My Bixby>> and find Custom Command option. Or you can just ask Bixby to “add custom commands”.
We are seeing a lot of hate for the hardware button, but no it’s not a ‘hardware bloatware’. I find it a better way to summon Bixby than using the ‘Hey Bixby’ voice prompt. Also, you can simply press it and seamlessly dictate text whenever the Samsung Keyboard is open. In our books, the Hardware button counts as Bixby’s biggest strength.
Another thing that Bixby does better than other assistants is animations and designs. The Bixby logo, the slick animations, and everything about it except for, maybe, Google home, works great.
Samsung also rewards users for using Bixby Voice. You get XP points, can unlock new levels and will be rewarded with new Bixby themes in the long run. That’s perhaps a good way to motivate people to keep using it till it gets better.
Bixby is still not perfect, but It has the potential
There still are areas where Bixby needs to catch up. It only understands English (unlike Google Assistant), it isn’t very good with Indian Names, It doesn’t understand your Voice prompts as flawlessly as Google Assistant, It just doesn’t work for translation, It’s even quite slow and even needs to understand the context better.
But, Samsung is on the right track. Bixby is refreshingly unique and is following the correct approach from the very start.