The English language version of Samsung’s new virtual assistant Bixby will not be ready by the time the Galaxy S8 hits the US market on 21 April.
According to The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), the assistant could be delayed until end-May as its English voice recognition capabilities were found to be lagging compared to Korean during internal tests.
When Samsung unveiled the much anticipated S8 in late March it said Bixby would initially be available in both Korean and English. However, the vendor placed more emphasis on a visual feature offering information on places of interest based on pictures taken by users.
A Samsung company representative said the Galaxy S8’s other features will be available at launch, but voice-activation would come to the US “later this spring.”
The WSJ report said the decision to delay Bixby’s voice-activation features comes after years of Samsung pushing hard to meet promised launch dates – a potential factor in the Note 7 battery debacle.
This time round, in an unprecedented move, the Galaxy S8 doesn’t have a more powerful battery and the company said it had introduced an eight-point battery safety check.
Experts told the WSJ the Bixby delay would not impact sales too much, due to the level of hype around the look of the device alone. The view is borne out by a recent by Fluent LLC survey, which found three-quarters of Samsung users don’t care if a phone features an intelligent assistant.
IHS Markit analyst Ian Fogg wasn’t positive on Bixby at the time of the launch, saying it “falls short of its goal of being a comprehensive assistant because of weak app integration and limited voice compatibility.”
He added: “Samsung has had little time to develop Viv since the acquisition. For now, Bixby integrates with only a handful of Samsung’s own apps and officially is only compatible with US English and Korean voices, unlike Google Assistant which also ships on the S8.”
However, Fogg expects Bixby to have a strong impact on Samsung’s sales: “Assuming the S8 has no significant hardware issues, IHS Markit forecasts Samsung will ship 331 million smartphones in 2017 – up 6.8 per cent from 2016 as Samsung counters a strong recent performance from Apple and competitive pressure from Chinese handset makers.”
The device is under a lot of pressure to live up to the hype which typically comes with a new Samsung handset, as it will not only be competing against a new line-up of rival Android-based devices launched at the recent Mobile World Congress – including Huawei’s P10 and LG’s G6 to name a few –, but also Apple’s next iPhone, the much anticipated tenth anniversary edition expected to launch later this year.