back to article Bixby bailout: Samsungers bailing on lame-duck assistant

With its much-hyped Bixby Voice assistant still learning basic English, Samsung has to deal with a mass defection of its user base. The Android Store has become a haven for apps that allow end users to kill off the Samsung virtual assistant in favor of Google's in-house option. Samsung has been pitching Bixby Voice as its …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    But...

    Voice assistants are the biggest thing since sliced bread. Surely Samsung can't cock this up. It is far too important to fail here. Oh well, they say things come in threes. With this and the Note 7, what's next?

    OTOH, if Apple come up with a big improvements to Siri (their big conflab is next week) then it might be all that Samsung needs to can Bixby. We shall have to wait and see.

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: But...

      Why would Samsung's Bixby strategy be based on what Apple does or does not do? On the software side they compete with Google only, not Apple.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: But...

        " On the software side they compete with Google only, not Apple."

        Samsung definitely wants to be Apple and have their own ecosystem. That is why they are trying, and failing, with all of these apps and software features. They don't like they idea that they are just a case for Google, albeit a nice case... even if they can reap billions upon billions for building those cases. Google gave Samsung the deal of the century. Google builds the ecosystem, Google builds the OS, Google provides all of the critical software... Samsung makes all of the money (or most of it) and Google allows them to alter the UI, etc so they can differentiate vs their OEM competitors. Samsung, in one of the craziest cases of greed and hubris in tech history, says that isn't good enough. They want to compete with Google, even though Google already gives them all the money to be had in smartphones (Google making their money on search, but, come on, people use Google search regardless of OS).... I think they are about to get their comeuppance as they have dared Google to come out with their own hw... Google has, it's really good.

        1. robin thakur 1

          Re: But...

          Erm, except that everybody knows that Google makes all the money from most Android phones being used, with the hardware overpriced and devaluing to hardly anything in a very short time indeed. Samsung as a premium maker is in a position to make more profit than most due to it's high RRP, lack of competition and suite of expensive accessories, but it's no Apple. It must irk Samsung that whenever they try Apple's strategy it always goes down in flames, sometimes literally.

          No matter if it's Air Scrolling, S-Voice, Bixby, Tizen, Heart Rate monitoring, Knox, Group Play it's always so utterly useless that people just turn the feature off. The problem comes when you can't turn off or override the Samsung feature because it is locked down to prevent you using the Google alternative. E.g. on my S7 Edge I couldn't use the Google dictation, it would constantly disable itself on the Google Keyboard, and "OK Google" didn't work reliably unless the phone screen was on, and the edge screen was the most annoyingly pointless things I'd ever used. Basically, I had actively paid more to have a worse experience than I would have with some no name, landfill Chinese brand.

          For as long as I can remember, most Samsung owner complaints have always been about Samsung's useless software. On the TV side, they only compete in software with Sony, LG and Panasonic, who are also fairly clueless about UI design but on the phone side, they have to compete, not only with the big beast Apple but also now, the PixelPhone. That's assuming they don't drop their own ball with exploding phones, inaccessible finger print readers, or overly fragile glass.

      2. robin thakur 1

        Re: But...

        The sort of customers that buy iPhones also buy Samsung's S series and Note series though. people that pay £6-900+ per phone. I think to can Bixby before it's even released would be a verrrryy embarrassing climb-down for Samsung, given them stressing that they have "thousands" of people working on it. Similar things happened with their Tizen OS phones, though at least Tizen is on their TV's to recoup some of the R&D.

        From a consumer's perspective though, who on earth would rather have Samsung Pay over Android Pay, and Bixby over the Google Assistant? A robust Siri re-launch might make Samsung consider that Bixby, far from being a positive is actually quite a big negative to selling a premium phone when it could just have Google Assistant (or whatever it's called this week) and people would be happier. Nobody wants to pay extra for something shitter than the competition; just ask Apple back when the first version of Apple maps came out...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: But...

      Voice assistants are the biggest thing since sliced bread.

      Amongst the moronic corporations that produce them, yes. Here in the real world, there's a few happy users, with the other 99% of the world thinking "Is that all you've got? Where's my jet pack? Where's my flying car? Where's my robot butler? Where's my robot sex doll? ......And all you bring me is this crap robo-DJ"

      1. m0rt Silver badge

        Re: But...

        My experience of Google voice:

        Using voice to dial at home - can't get it to use speaker phone initially so have to pick it up anyway. So much for dialling when hands full/covered in oil etc.

        Using voice to dial when bluetoothed to Supertooth Buddy in car. Dials and automatically puts it into speakerphone mode, not bluetooth headset.

        1. bazza Silver badge

          Re: But...

          @M0rt,

          Using voice to dial at home - can't get it to use speaker phone initially so have to pick it up anyway. So much for dialling when hands full/covered in oil etc.

          Using voice to dial when bluetoothed to Supertooth Buddy in car. Dials and automatically puts it into speakerphone mode, not bluetooth headset.

          This is exactly the kind of thing that has kept me on BlackBerry 10 for so long. It does things like talking to a Bluetooth headset and a Bluetooth audio streamer very well, in just the way I want it to. Voice dialling and subsequent phone call through the hands free, music to get audio streamer, no messing about.

          And whilst their audio assistant might not be as all encompassing as Siri or Google's, it does the things I want to do by voice (i.e. dialling, navigation) perfectly well.

          Despite being late to the party and now being almost dead, things like Bluetooth just work, and work in ways that the likes of Android just hasn't thought of yet.

    3. 080

      Re: But...

      I don't like sliced bread either.

      1. Ralph the Wonder Llama
        Joke

        Re: But...

        What, you eat whole loaves?

        1. PNGuinn
          Joke

          Re: But...

          Haven't you got 2 hands?

          Real geeks eat 2 at a time.

    4. GrapeBunch Bronze badge

      Re: But...

      Bixby: tinny Reminder

  2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    "The delay is no surprise to industry analysts, who are growing increasingly skeptical of Samsung's ability to compete with the likes of Google and Apple when it comes to mobile software."

    That's putting it very politely. Without wish to pick on Samsung (because all the others do it and they are all shit too), the only people who use the branded software on a phone are the people who don't know how to remove it.

    All hardware vendors are complete idiots when it comes to writing apps. Samsung (OK, I am picking on them now) actually managed to write a chat application that only worked in the US and then proceeded to ship it on every phone they made, regardless of where it was sold. Presumably they have one or two decent kernel-level people on the staff, in order to write the drivers that they need because they idiotically refuse to document how their stuff works (so that they could use a mainline kernel). But apps? Nope.

    Perhaps this is because, if you are really good at writing drivers, a major phone manufacturer is quite an interesting place to work, but if you are really good at designing apps, there are far better places to ply your trade.

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Yes, I've seen no indication that any of the Android OEMs are anything but complete shit as far as writing software. They only do it to try to differentiate their products, if they just ran clean Android it would quickly be a race to the bottom on hardware specs & price, and the Chinese would beat up Samsung, LG, Moto etc. and steal their lunch money.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Yeah, they have the ability to alter their UI though, which is the main point of differentiation. Samsung has enough differentiation to charge higher prices than Apple right now and win. I have no idea why Samsung would want to step on Google's toes with this app push. It seems like an astonishing strategic blunder to make Google come out with their own high end Android phone, Pixel, to ensure Samsung doesn't make a mess of the experience by publishing two pay apps, two digital assistants, two MDM platforms.

  3. Toc-H-Lamp

    This article reads as if voice assistance is something all users crave. It could be used as a price differentiator. I'd pay good money to have it permanently disabled.

    1. jMcPhee

      Shiny junk. Remember Viiv?

    2. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Permanantly disabled

      Not disabled, removed. One thing that really irritates me about new phones is removing (or not) all the manufacturer's crap that comes with a new one - my current Sony has dozens of default applications I don't use, don't want to use, and don't want to fill up the memory with - but which I can't remove and which Sony spend one day a week updating.

      Pointless.

      All a phone *needs* is a basic dialler, text messager, and possibly a browser - and a way to access the application store. Let the user decide what he wants on it, rather than filling it with crap he'll never use. Yes, I'm quite aware that my needs are not the same as those of a fifteen year old, but that's rather the point, isn't it? Let *me* put on the phone those things I need, not sell me something, half the memory of which is full of unremovable cruft. (One of the things I really don't need or want is voice input - maybe I'm too old...)

      1. Linked

        Re: Permanantly disabled

        You have to draw the line somewhere though. Otherwise you'd be asking everyone to build their own ROM. The benefit to galaxy devices is that you only have to install a fraction of the apps you would on something like the pixel and moreover the pre-installed apps are fully integrated with one another allowing for a much more streamlined work flow. On stock android you have to install a full on app for every basic task, even editing a screen shot requires an entire app be launched. This allows it to have smoother animations but everything ends up being a lot ckunkier and taking a lot more time. And all the hardware integrated software allows for a vast array of features that are impossible on stock android as well even with rooting and modding. Knox allows for s pay and s health to work and even let's you to run multiple simultaneous android environments at once, each recycling anything in common to only use a minimal amount of resources. It even lets you block ads and trackers globally without having to root. There are hundreds of capabilties like that that stock just can't hold a candle to and it requires zero meddling. It works perfectly fine right out of the box.

        Unfortunately I've seen so many people take bad advice and install things like package disablers Greenify and not Bixby remappers which not only are not needed at all but lead to performance degradation that is then blamed in the device itself as if those problems happened to the rest of us. We have a weird situation where anyone who hates the software will find countless ways to be fooled into destroying their own devices to confirm the worse of their expectations whereas the rest of us who are using it normally are having a flawless experience.

        There have even been countless tests between devices with all the supposed bloat items labeled by package disablers compared to devices left alone and the ones that were gutted always performed worse, especially after a few months. Unbeknownst to the pole encouraged to gut their devices, what they're doing amounts to deleting the system 32 folder in hopes of forcing Windows to free up ram and not expecting any repercussions.

  4. clocKwize

    Even if Bixby was amazingly clever, I still wouldn't use it. My Bixby button switches to the most recently used app, good for switching between 2 things. That is far more useful than a voice assistant (even a good one).

    1. Linked

      Just as a word of warning. That stutter you're getting is due to the Bixby remapper. People are being encouraged to install them so that their devices could stutter and stock android Fanboys can laugh at them and convince them that it's because of TouchWiz. The same scam is used to promote package disablers which can in no way help at all but lead to hanging system processes that over time cause glitches and lag.

      If you don't believe me reenable everything and run your device for 3 or 4 days. Then check your battery stats and also running services in your developer settings. You'll find that no bloat actually shows up at all. Nothing actually runs unless you are going out of your way to use a feature. I've helped repair so many devices on reddit by simply recommending that they get rid of the Bixby remapper and the package disabler.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A new trend !

    After 'fake news' we're now seeing the emergence of 'wishful reporting'. It's apparent wit all the reporters who now see the signs may is going to lose the election, Trump is going to be impeached and Bixby is going to be the undoing of Samsung and the final victory for Apple.

    I can still remember the Scorn Siri attracted when it appeared, the derision of Cortana is still fresh in my memory, and a commercial with the line OK Google sending every android phone or a loop.

    I doubt that Samsung users are shunning the 8 because Bixby isn't mature enough yet. Maybe the reporter would like very much this to be the case, but that doesn't make it factual.

  6. Milton Silver badge

    Unwanted

    My personal list of features/software to be actively avoided:

    1. Anything that has an open mic when I have not initiated it for a call or recording.

    2. Anything which does so AND is connecting to the net, thereby passing much input straight out over the airwaves.

    3. Anything which for entirely trumped up reasons bypasses the enormous processing power of a modern smartphone for voice recognition, claiming this can only be done in "cloud". (Voice recog was working years ago on comparatively feeble CPUs: vendors use "cloud" for lockin, not because it helps you.)

    4. And beyond that: any and all of the lousy, superfluous bloatware and other clumsy attempts by manufacturers to take me and my data hostage.

    Just sell me a dratted phone, will you, and stop confecting bundles of shiny shyte designed to try and hook me like some feeble-minded, gullible would-be addict?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Unwanted

      Regarding #3: "Anything which for entirely trumped up reasons bypasses the enormous processing power of a modern smartphone for voice recognition, claiming this can only be done in "cloud". (Voice recog was working years ago on comparatively feeble CPUs: vendors use "cloud" for lockin, not because it helps you.)"

      Have to disagree with you on that; Google's voice recognition relies massively on context to disambiguate the words it receives, and that information is not available on your smart phone. If you say 'Where's the dog & duck in dagenam?' to Google, its knowledge that there is such a pub in that town can be used to reduce the search space if any one of those words is poorly recognised.

      As someone with a gruff voice, I often see the voice search correct itself during 'recognising' and can clearly see the influence of external information being brought to bear.

      Only Google's servers (or 'the cloud' in marketing speke) can provide that information for whatever random question you happen to throw at your phone.

      But I totally agree that it should only listen to you when you tell it to (which voice search does).

  7. Tristan Young

    Digital assistants - don't really care about them, just as long as I can disable them.

    They've always been fadish, just like Microsoft's good ol' pal Clippy.

    1. P. Lee Silver badge

      >Digital assistants - don't really care about them, just as long as I can disable them.

      Samsung need a new strategy. Following Google (lots of free stuff, lots of snooping) won't work because Google does it better. Following Apple doesn't work because you can't charge a premium for what is essentially Google stuff.

      Why not team up with Canonical? Someone with enough software expertise to do a phone which doesn't track you. Minimal effort for Canonical; Geek cred and kudos for Samsung, poke in the eye for Google & Apple.

      1. Alumoi

        Re: >Digital assistants - don't really care about them, just as long as I can disable them.

        ... to do a phone which doesn't track you...

        After all those things they packed into modern phones and app to better track and monetize you, do you really expect any phone manufacturer to do that?

        I know, I know, they are only doing it for your convenience and I have a bridge to sell you.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    People should just buy Google Pixel. I have one and it's great. All of the Google stuff you want, probably why you went with an Android phone, without any of the useless OEM apps and bloatware. As it is pure Android, it is also really fast and gets updates when they come out as opposed to whenever the OEMs and carriers feel like it (which could mean never if they want to move some new hardware). Samsung should just stick to hardware... where they are making a killing. No idea why they would want to take something perfectly great, an arrangement where Google does all of their heavy lifting for free, and mess it up. They are trying their best though. They want to be Apple, but it is more likely they will become nothing.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The problem is right there

    "Bixby Voice benefits from time to further enhance natural language understanding, and we are currently growing our user testing in the US to prepare for launch"

    If Samsung PR can't write a simple declarative statement in ordinary English, what hope is there for its software?

    "Bixby Voice will improve its natural language understanding with time, and we are doing more testing in the US as we prepare to release it."

    The $500 in the usual brown envelope please, folks.

  10. Kincaid

    Including Bixby in its current form was a fool's errand

    I get that Samsung has been trying to push their own voice service/assistant for quite some time and acquiring Bixby was a next step but only partially implementing it was a fool's errand. It either should have been complete or not implemented at all in the S8 until they could drop the whole package in as an update at a later time. In the meantime, let Google's assistant do its thing.

    I own numerous Samsung phones/tablets but I didn't move to the S8 because I have no need to upgrade yet but even if I had I would be one of the people over-riding the hobbled Bixby to use Google instead. In the long-run the poor decision didn't benefit Samsung at all.

  11. Linked

    Give it time. While the tech media never seem interesting in covering this angle, many of us prefer the Samsung approach for its emphasis on privacy and security. While Google assistant may be popular among the crowd who don't care about usage tracking, Samsung's solutions are very popular among the population who don't want to have their usage data tracked. This market is consistently under represented but it's huge and growing especially in light of all the new legislation being passed in the UK.

    Bixby unlike how the coverage presents it doesn't work like Google assistant at all, it's a control hub that runs locally and doesn't leech your usage data to some server somewhere at all. In fact galaxies have tracker and ad blocking capabilties built in so everything can be used without restriction without usage tracking or ads.

  12. USslang

    Bixby is wasting everyone's time!!!

    Bixby is wasting everyone's time! Here's how.

    Bixby is a poorly programmed AI. I've used it for over half a year before I realized it's a huge waste of time, the reason is that Bixby lost EVERYTHING I taught it. And I taught a lot. Lately I was earning over 500XP points per day, and I would've become the top contributor worldwide within a month. Instead I became super frustrated and promised myself I would never contribute to Bixby and inform everyone not to waste their time to develop it.

    When I called samsung regarding Bixby, the customer reps were making fun of me. I think it was a call-center in Philipines. They admitted they're all philipines at one point. They never helped me over the phone and were very irresponsible.

    What we need is Samsung to allow other AI's to be assignable to the dedicated AI button. At the moment you have no choice but have bixby assigned to the AI/bixby button. If Samsung releases their phones the same way in 2018. We should avoid investing into their phones. Because They're trying to push a lame AI that's capable of forgetting everything. And that's unacceptable when there are way more advanced AI's out there.

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