Remapping Samsung’s Shitty Features, Denied

Sammobile has a headline that caught my eye: ‘Samsung has a legitimate reason to block Bixby button remapping, whether we like it or not’

This headline is interesting because it highlights a big difference between iOS and Android users: Android users expect to be able to make hacks around crappy features like Samsung’s Bixby and the dedicated Bixby button.

I wrote about how half-baked Bixby was when it debuted a few months ago.

“Bixby, get back in the kitchen and make me a goddamn sandwich!”

Samsung adds and swiftly removes sexist Bixby descriptor tags:

Samsung’s new voice assistant Bixby has finally arrived, and unfortunately, it was accompanied by sexist descriptions for its male and female voice options.

Under “language and speaking style” in the Bixby menu, as several have pointed out on Twitter, the female voice was accompanied by descriptive tags such as “chipper, clear, and cheerful,” while the male voice was described as “assertive, confident, and clear.” After it was spotted and dissent circulated online, Samsung said it would remove the gendered hashtags, telling Gizmodo it is “working diligently to remove the hashtag descriptions from the Bixby service,” and it is “constantly learning from customer feedback.”

The subtitle to this article is “Why does this keep happening”.

I can’t tell you why this keeps happening but I’ll tell you this: the Korean-American women I know personally refuse to date Korean men from Korea because of their — pick your adjective — outdated, sexist, and/or backwards views on the roles of men and women.

via Daring Fireball

“Compared directly against Google Assistant, Bixby Voice is in for some embarrassing showdowns.”

Samsung has released a preview of their AI assistant ‘Bixby’ to beta testers:

First things first. If you registered to be a beta tester, make sure you’re running the current version of Bixby by going to its “about” screen. Download any updates that appear there. I also had to clear the data and cache for Bixby apps in my S8+’s settings screen before Bixby Voice appeared. Once it does, you’ll get a tutorial that involves teaching you how to trigger the voice feature and then teaching it to recognize your voice.

This already sounds like a great user experience. Clearing cache, tutorials. Bixby sounds even more beta than Siri was went Apple launched it.

Even the essential task of text messaging someone is surprisingly hard to pull off. For one, you’ve got to use Samsung’s Messages app as your default SMS app. And if you don’t word things exactly right, it won’t happen. “Text mom and ask ‘how are you’” sent me to a Google search. “Send a text to mom and ask ‘how are you’” worked — but still necessitated a few taps to fire off the message. What’s the point of voice, then? Google Assistant nailed it with a single attempt.

One more nugget:

Compared directly against Google Assistant, Bixby Voice is in for some embarrassing showdowns. Until things get better, a lot of people will be asking “What’s the point?” I’m not really sure Bixby Voice saves you much in the way of time since it often runs through the same menus and screens you would with your finger when performing tasks.

Haha. Good luck with this, Samsung.

What I love most about this is that Samsung phones run on Android and Google already has Google Assistant which is way more advanced than Bixby, but Samsung wants to differentiate themselves from the sea of other Android phone manufacturers.

I suppose in that respect they’ve accomplished their mission.

No Speaky to Bixby

Samsung says Bixby voice assistant won’t ship with Galaxy S8:

One of the key signature features of Samsung’s Galaxy S8, its Bixby voice assistant, won’t work out of the box, when the device goes on sale later this month. Other parts of Bixby, including its visual search and reminder abilities, will ship at launch, a Samsung representative told Axios in a statement.

Samsung really doesn’t like being reliant on Android to power all their mobile devices. Tizen is the most obvious example of this. TouchWiz is another. Bixby is the latest example.

What I want to know is if Samsung is truly invested in Bixby for the long-term?

Siri was very beta and had many problems when it first launched. Today it has much fewer, although it has a ways to go. Apple’s great at having the balls to ship 1.0 versions of products and then iterate year after year. Remember when everyone was bitching about the shitty colors, icons, and hard-to-read Helvetica Light in iOS 7? If you compare iOS 7 to iOS 10 you can see a lot has changed in four years.

Even if Samsung does decide to stick with Bixby, they have yet to prove they can ship top-quality software experiences on par with iOS and Android.

If Samsung is dreaming of overcoming Apple, they have some work ahead of them.

They call it a dream, because you have to be asleep to believe it.*

Over at The Verge, Dan Seifert has a interesting look into Samsung and their goals behind the new S8:

“We have a dream to overcome Apple.”

With that simple, obvious statement, the air was sucked out of the large conference room in Samsung’s Suwon, South Korea, headquarters before the company even had a chance to show me the device I flew halfway across the world to see. It’s not often that you hear someone at Samsung actually verbalize the unsaid motivation for many of the company’s products — most executives won’t even mention Apple by name. Yet here was the company’s vice president of product strategy just blurting it out to a small group of journalists.

It seems marketshare isn’t always enough and doesn’t always make you feel like the best. It was only in Q4 2016 that Apple regained the #1 spot in market share. Before this past Q4 Samsung had been the reigning champ.

One of the S8’s flagship features is their new AI ‘bright sidekick’, Bixby:

It’s a smart play: Samsung knows it can’t compete with Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and others when it comes to raw machine learning power and putting vast amounts of information at your fingertips, so it’s using Bixby to solve a simpler task, one that those companies have largely ignored. Bixby isn’t going to try to be the everything-assistant. Instead, it will be that “bright sidekick” that complements those other services. It’s a new user interface, not a new way to ask how tall the Eiffel Tower is.

Wow, less capable than Siri and ‘Ok, Google’. Sounds like a must-have feature!

Seifert had a nagging thought that quelled his optimism for the S8:

As I watched brand-new S8 phones get bolted together on Samsung’s new production line in the Gumi factory, it was obvious that the company has a plan for designing great hardware in the wake of the Note 7 fiasco. But as much as I knew that the devices coming off that factory line would have amazing hardware and eye-catching design, I couldn’t escape a nagging thought.

I realized that there’s a thing that many pro users do when they get their hands on a new Samsung smartphone: they immediately disable as many of Samsung’s own apps and services as possible and replace them with Google’s versions. The appreciation for Samsung’s design and hardware rarely extends to its software efforts.

Samsung makes Android phones, so the only way (outside of hardware) they can distinguish themselves from all the other Android phone makers is to make a unique software experience and people are disabling their software features.


Good luck with that dream, Samsung.

*the title of this piece was borrowed from George Carlin