It was only earlier this month that users found a way to remap the dedicated Bixby hardware button on the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus to anything they wanted. Now, even before the two devices have hit consumers’ hands, Samsung have removed this functionality.
Using an app called Button Mapper, the hardware button that is used to launch Bixby on the new Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus devices could be intercepted and replaced with another app. This essentially allowed a dedicated Google Assistant or Google Now hardware button to be created. Unfortunately, what seems too good to be true usually is. Samsung appear to have pushed an OTA patch removing the apps ability (and pretty much all those with no-root access) to interfere with the Bixby button.
Prior to the patch, Button Mapper could utilize Accessibility Services to intercept the key events generated when pushing the Bixby button and redirect it to launch a different app. The developer of the app advised that Samsung have simply prevented Accessibility Services from intercepting this event and therefore removed the option of remapping it.
It seems that the latest system update from Samsung (build version NRD90M.G950WVLU1AQD9) is the culprit that now forces the system to absorb the Bixby button key events before it reaches and therefore interfered with by Accessibility Services.
Philip Berne, who heads up the reviews program at Samsung U.S.A, took to Twitter to confirm the actions were intentional.
@geoff5093 @Lostatsea1923 @One3OneKing @droid_life It was exploiting a system-level behavior. That behavior has been changed. Can’t say it will never happen, but we won’t officially support.— Philip Berne (@philipberne) April 17, 2017
It is certainly unfortunate that the ability to remap the Bixby button has been removed and shows Samsung are clearly trying to
protect the integrity force people to use the new assistant. But with Bixby not actually launching with the Galaxy S8 or S8 Plus at release, it seems odd that the company would care so much as to release a patch specifically targeting this remapping workaround.
Not having Bixby ready for launch is one thing, but now to force people to keep a dedicated hardware button mapped to a service that won’t do much of anything? Drop us a comment below and let us know your thoughts. Remapping this Bixby button was at the top of my to-do list when I got my S8 on Friday the 21st, but looks like that decision has been made for me.