On a technical level, Samsung’s Bixby assistant is actually capable and has a lot of potential. Yes, it demonstrates Samsung’s NIH (Not Invented Here) syndrome, but that has never stopped other companies (like Huawei) from taking the same route. Instead, Samsung is being chastised mostly for shoving Bixby down its users’ throats. It has somewhat compromised on that but, starting with Bixby 2.0 on the Galaxy Note 9, it’s taking its stubborn stance once again.
Dedicated hardware buttons or squeezable edges to trigger smart assistants on smartphones are probably going to be a thing. It is admittedly faster and more convenient than having to say a trigger phrase all the time, especially when you already have the phone in your hands anyway. The problem with these buttons is that, almost like a camera shutter button, they are mostly single-purpose only. Some don’t even provide a way to use it for any other action, let alone assign a different smart assistant.
That has been Samsung’s biggest crime post-Galaxy Note 7. The Bixby button that started on the Galaxy S8 last year locked you into using Bixby and Bixby alone. Its strategic position meant that it was very convenient to accidentally trigger it all the time.
Given the backlash, Samsung begrudgingly agreed on a compromise: disabling the button completely. No, you can’t use it for anything else. It’s Bixby or nothing. Nevertheless, that option gave rise to tools like bxAction that allowed users to trigger some action as long as Bixby doesn’t get activated by the button. Sadly, that might no longer be the case soon.
XDA reports that Bixby 2.0 on the Galaxy Note 9 has removed that option, so we’re back to square one. Chances are, other Samsung phones will soon behave the same once they updated to the latest Bixby version. So while Samsung is striving to improve Bixby’s capabilities and integrations, it is also taking steps to ensure even more people will hate it.