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Samsung's botched Bixby rollout stopped me from buying the Galaxy S8
You can’t really go wrong with any of the major flagship releases in 2017. The HTC U11, LG G6, and Samsung Galaxy S8 all bring something different to the table, and none of them really fall short in any key areas. Plus, at least for the U11 and S8, HTCand Samsung have both included new and unique features in their handsets to help them stand out from the crowd. The U11’s Edge Sense is super handy (and it’s only going to get better over time), and the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus, if I’m being totally honest, are two of the most beautiful smartphones ever made.
Okay, so beauty is subjective, but it’s hard denying that Samsung put a lot of effort into making these smartphones look and feel futuristic. From the Infinity Display on the front, to the smooth aluminium frame, to the way light reflects off the back of the phone, using a Galaxy S8 just feels different from using other smartphones… which is why I was heavily contemplating buying one when it first launched.
More specifically, I’d have to agree with Lanh when I say that the Galaxy S8 Plus fits the bill for me. I want something with a bigger screen, but something that’s a little more manageable than a gigantic device such as the HUAWEI Mate 9.
But for as sexy as the S8 Plus may be, I won’t be upgrading to Samsung’s new device any time soon.
Maybe I just have trust issues
I don’t have a ton of extra money to spend on new smartphones for myself, so I need to make sure the ones I do buy with my personal funds are the right ones for me. And on the surface, the Galaxy S8 Plus is the smartphone for me.
The problem is, Samsung lost my trust this year with its botched Bixby rollout.
We’ve covered Samsung’s Bixby woes extensively in the past, so I’m not going to go too in depth here. If you need a refresher however, here’s a short history of Samsung’s Bixby:
- March 20: Samsung announces Bixby, a little over a week before unveiling the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus.
- April 12: Samsung confirms that Bixby voice control, perhaps the most anticipated faction of Bixby, won’t be ready in time for the S8 launch in the U.S.
- April 21: The Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus officially go on sale in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, and South Korea.
- May 1: Bixby Voice rolls out to devices in South Korea, while the company assures the feature will launch in the U.S. “later this spring”.
- May 31: The Wall Street Journal reports that Bixby Voice will be delayed until late June, due to the voice assistant “struggling to comprehend English syntax and grammar”.
- June 21: Samsung begins rolling out Bixby Voice to beta testers in the U.S.
- July 4: Bixby is reportedly having trouble understanding English due to the lack of big data, which is required for deep learning technology. Poor communication between U.S. and South Korean engineers was also cited as a reason for the delay.
Looking at the timeline above, a couple things are clear: Samsung is trying to be as transparent as possible when it comes to Bixby delays, and the company seems to be working hard on making Bixby Voice as accurate as it can without delaying it too much longer. It’s not in the company’s best interest to ship a half-baked product to millions of users just to reach a deadline. So, the longer we wait, the better Bixby Voice will be when it finally gets here. Glass half full, folks.
Samsung completely overpromised and underdelivered with the launch of Bixby on the S8 line
That’s the good news, anyway. The bad news is that Samsung completely overpromised and underdelivered with the launch of Bixby on the S8 line. In doing so, burned this bridge. The Jimmy Bridge.
Not releasing Bixby Voice at launch was a slap in the face to Galaxy S8 buyers, but the fact that it’s still not available has me worried. It’s now July, over two months after the S8 first went on sale, and voice control is still not here. This has me worried for a few reasons. For starters, Samsung already has a poor reputation for delivering software updates much slower than others. The unlocked Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, for instance, didn’t receive their Android Nougat updates until about 260 days after Nougat was first released. That’s… not acceptable. Prior to that, I don’t think any Galaxy S6 user would necessarily vouch for Samsung’s speediness when it came to the Marshmallow update, either.
I know software updates are an entirely different ballgame compared to building an entire personal voice assistant, but it seems like Samsung is so slow at software development that it just can’t compete with how quickly other OEMs can deliver new updated software.
I just can't bring myself to invest that type of money in a smartphone whose flagship feature isn't done yet
To top it all off, the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus aren’t cheap. The unlocked S8 Plus from Samsung’s website costs $825. I just can’t bring myself to invest that type of money in a smartphone whose flagship feature isn’t done yet. Yeah, Bixby Vision, Home, and Reminder are all available on the S8 line at launch, but, as I said, Voice seems to be bread and butter of Bixby.
When you pay upwards of $800 for a smartphone, you’re paying to join a club… an exclusive club that only people with $800 to spend can join. And right now, Samsung is saying “Join our club! Feel free to bask in the comfy chairs near the pool. Nice, right? Here are some pool towels and a robe, but don’t expect to swim in the pool just yet. We’re not filling it up for another couple months.”
The decision to include a physical Bixby key on the S8 would have been a great idea if the phone would have launched with voice control. However, it didn’t, so the physical button is not much more than an annoyance for S8 users as of right now.
For a while, there were a few apps floating around that allowed users to remap the Bixby button to open Google Assistant or perform other functions, which seemed like a great temporary fix for users wanting that extra button to be a little more functional. Then Samsung decided to put the kibosh on S8 users’ fun, issuing a software update that blocked the remapping of the Bixby button. Security was the main reason for Samsung issuing that update, so good on them for patching it up so quickly.
And if you've never held an S8, just know that this button is super easy to press on accident
Even if this update was warranted, that still leaves S8 users with a button that merely opens up the Bixby feed (similar to the Google Feed or HTC BlinkFeed) from anywhere in the OS. You can turn off the Hello Bixby page from your home screen, but pressing the physical button at any time will still bring it up. And if you’ve never held an S8, just know that this button is super easy to press on accident. Someone even (tried to) made a Galaxy S8 case that renders the Bixby button unpressable.
So where does that leave us? The Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus are currently our top picks as the best Android phones you can buy right now. And I’m not disagreeing with Josh, Lanh, or anyone else’s opinions on why these phones are so good. They look futuristic, they come with some amazing cameras, and Samsung’s Android experience has improved drastically this year.
I have no doubt that Bixby Voice will be awesome when it finally arrives
But Samsung was clearly faced with a problem. Bixby Voice development wasn’t going as swimmingly as planned, so what were they going to do, delay the S8 launch? Hell no. Especially when the company was still trying to bank on the success of the S7 and S7 Edge due to the whole Note 7 debacle. Instead, they did what they could with the time they had, and went ahead with the launch of Bixby and the new S8 line.
I have no doubt that Bixby Voice will be awesome when it finally arrives. I love using voice assistants, and I can’t wait to dig into what Samsung has to offer. But there’s no way the company could convince me that the S8 is a finished product. And I wouldn’t spend over $800 on an unfinished product, even if it is one of the sexiest products out there.