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Samsung is delaying the launch of its Bixby voice assistant, a central feature of its new Galaxy S8, until after its flagship smartphone goes on sale later this month.
On Tuesday Samsung said that while some features of its rival to Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana and Google’s Assistant would be in place at launch on April 21, voice activation will not be available in the US until “later this spring”.
No explanation was given for the delay, which mars Samsung’s attempt to bounce back from last year’s Note 7 debacle. Bixby was a headline feature of the Galaxy S8 when it was unveiled in March – the smartphone even features a dedicated button on its side for accessing the virtual assistant.
“You can talk, tap or type, because Bixby understands it all,” Samsung had claimed in its online marketing for the feature.
Bixby marked a key strategic step in Samsung’s attempt to catch up with arch-rival Apple in mobile services, an area where it has historically struggled to make headway.
Last year, Samsung acquired Viv, a start-up founded by several of Siri’s original creators, to bolster its efforts in artificial intelligence. However, Viv’s technology does not yet form a part of Bixby.
Some early reviewers reported disappointing results from Bixby in demonstrations. At launch, Samsung said the tool could only be used to control a limited set of its own applications, such as making a phone call, rather than the broader array of search queries and third-party apps that Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant offer.
Early buyers of Samsung’s Galaxy S8 will still be able to use Bixby’s on-screen features, which include its Vision camera software, to translate text, read barcodes or shop; Home, a personalised newsfeed that learns from users’ apps, messages and habits; and reminders, which can be set by time or location.