Everything you need to know about Bixby Voice

We've already written plenty about the Bixby functionality on both Galaxy S8 and Galaxy Note 8, but what we haven't touched on is what to expect with Bixby Voice — ostensibly the main reason there's an extra button on the flagship device in the first place.

Up until the latest preview, all we knew about the Bixby is that it enabled you to press a button to control the phone with your voice. Well, now that we've had some time with it, we can confirm that Bixby Voice really is all about talking to your phone. It's not the same as Google Assistant, though, as Bixby is more conversational and apologetic when it messes up. This is a voice-activated virtual assistant that aims to please.

Setting it up

After you've updated all the apps in your Galaxy Apps queue, you can click over to the Hello Bixby panel to start the prompt for setting up Bixby Voice. At present, only American English and Korean are the available languages for the virtual assistant.

Bixby will walk you through a rather storied setup process. You'll need to first agree to a long list of terms and then continue on to update any Bixby Voice-compatible apps, as well as any third-party apps that have access to experimental features from the Bixby Labs. The entire onboarding process is pretty straightforward, and it even starts you off gently by having Bixby dictate the sequence. In the English-speaking version, Bixby is a sprite young female, though you can choose from male or female for the Korean variant.

How to access the Bixby Voice settings menu.

Once Bixby Voice is raring to go, you should be able to press and hold the Bixby button to give it a command from any screen. If you start on the Home screen, you can ask Bixby to open an app and then perform an action. If you're already in an app, however, you can press the button to instruct Bixby on what to do within that app. I tried it first with the Gallery app to crop a photo, and then in the browser to navigate to a web page; Bixby worked effortlessly in both situations.

'Hey Bixby'

Like Google Assistant and Apple's Siri, you can call out to Samsung's Bixby in your time of need. The virtual assistant will help you set up the ability to wake up the phone with a voice command from the get-go; you'll be asked to record yourself saying "Hey, Bixby" about three times, and then you'll be asked to recite a few commands so that the software can learn the different intonations in your voice. When it's finished, you can actually play back what you recorded to ensure it sounds exactly the way Bixby would hear you every time.

Like Google Assistant and Apple's Siri, you can call out to Samsung's Bixby in your time of need.

I have to admit: part of the reason I didn't use Google Assistant much until the Google Home came into my life is that my phones would often struggle to hear me or understand my commands. But Bixby has the opposite problem, as it understands me so well that I was triggering it even while podcasting in a nearby room in my house. I guess there are plenty of words out there that sound like Bixby, so naturally, Bixby thought I was speaking to it.

You don't have to really say a particular phrase to get Bixby to listen, either. I've said both "Hey, Bixby" and "Okay, Bixby" with the Galaxy S8's screen both on and off and it worked remarkably well. I also just shouted "BIXBY!" a few times and that seemed to work, too, despite the fact that I was being antagonistic. Sorry, Bixby.

Of course, if Bixby doesn't understand what you said — which will happen, as it happened to me plenty of times — it will ask that you let it know it didn't perform so well before offers for you to retry your command. You can skip all that if you don't care to do it, though, and simply tap the Bixby icon or press and hold the side button to continue engaging.

What can you do with Bixby?

bixby

What is the meaning of life? Sorry, Bixby can't help you with that.

I'm still figuring out all that's possible with Samsung Bixby. It's like Google Assistant in that it can assist you with even the most basic of smartphone commands, but it doesn't appear to be explicitly tied to a search engine in the same manner.

When you do ask Bixby the kind of question you'd ask Google Assistant — like "What's the meaning of life?" for example because apparently, I had to make this as existential as possible — Bixby will reply quietly in the main home screen. When you ask it to help with doing something, however, it's much more responsive.

Perhaps the best example for showing Bixby's abilities is the crop-and-post example. For instance, I asked Bixby to open up the gallery and select the latest photo. From there, I pressed the Bixby button and asked it to first crop the photo and then, crop the photo in 4 by 3. The Gallery app then cropped the photo as I asked it to, though it waited for me to choose where the crop placement should go before it continued.

Once again, I pressed the Bixby button and asked it to save the image and share it, and from there it popped up Android's sharing dialog window.

I also used Bixby to launch the Gmail app and dictate a message. It was strikingly easy, and I was impressed by the way Bixby seemed to move forward with what it figured I'd ask it to do next.

There is certainly more that you can do with Bixby, and the commands change whenever you're inside another app. With this preview mode, the trick is to test what it can do and take it from there.

About that extra button

Let's talk about that extra button on the side of the Galaxy S8.

Let's talk about that extra button on the side of the Galaxy S8.

There's good news for those of who you've managed to either successfully remap the Bixby button or just aren't interested in the push-the-talk action of Bixby Voice. The app doesn't actually require you use the added hardware to interact with your assistant. Rather, it's there to help in times of need, like when the environment is too loud for the phone to pick up on your command. Bixby pops up an on-screen indicator to let you know it's working hard, and there's a quick toggle shortcut in the Hello Bixby app.

Admittedly, using the Galaxy S8's built-in Bixby button feels a bit strange as it's not something that I'm accustomed to. I've been long using Google Assistant — or Google Now, as it were — to do my bidding and that merely requires I utter "Okay, Google" or tap on an icon.

Regardless, the push-to-talk ability is a nice alternative when you're in situations where it'll come in handy, though it would be nice to be able to officially remap the Bixby button when the situation calls for it.

Bixby's Home screen

Bixby's home screen reminds me quite a bit of Apple's Siri because of its black-to-purple ombre background, but besides the similarities of the female voice, it's really quite different. For one, you can type in your command to Bixby if talking to it isn't a possibility (that's coming soon to iOS 11 for Siri users), or you can cycle through some of your past commands. There's even an easy screenshot toggle if proving your friend right requires photo evidence, and you can individually adjust the sound of Bixby Voice.

Bixby Voice's home screen.

If you're inside an app and you conjure up the Bixby home screen, the app will offer up a bevy of suggestions for commands you can use specifically within that app. It's helpful to have this resource to learn what it is you can control with just your voice, though you might find that it's simply easier to go by trial and error. After all, the best way to learn something is to practice it (as my math tutor told me all those years) and with Bixby, you'll have to learn how to be really specific without being long-winded.

Bixby points system

bixby

Bixby requires quite a bit of validation to ensure it's properly operating. But the upside is that each positive interaction earns you "points" towards leveling up your Bixby experience.

Bixby will improve itself over time, though it relies quite a bit on feedback to steer itself in the right direction. Each time you command Bixby, you'll rack up points towards your overall Bixby Level. If your interaction is less than stellar, however, you can let Bixby know that it needs improvement over a particular subset of commands, and the virtual assistant will do its best to accommodate you during the next round.

Take a gander at what Bixby's point system looks like.

If you're curious to see where you're at on the points scale, tap on "My Bixby" in the main Hello Bixby overflow menu. This will reveal all of your growth stats. There's also a counter that keeps privy to how many conversations you've had with Bixby, and you'll see how many times you've given it props and when you've told it that it could have done a better job.

Frankly, Bixby's "level up" screen looks akin to the dashboard you'd find in a roleplaying game — all it's missing is a counter for the hit points. But that's sort of the point of this page existing in the first place. The "experience points" you can procure to effectively level up Bixby were clearly added in an effort to encourage users to play on by gamifying the experiences with the virtual assistant. I'm curious to see what I'll unlock the more I interact with it; I'm close to unlocking more background colors, for example, and I wonder what other little treats are hidden in the interface.

What you can change

Bixby Voice's settings panel seems limited in its beta state.

Bixby Voice's settings panel seems limited in its beta state.

The Bixby Voice settings aren't as customizable as Google Assistant, but there are some extra features you can enable to make the virtual assistant more robust. In addition to the ability to enable constantly, always-on voice command capabilities, you can also choose Bixby's feedback style. If you prefer quick, terse answers, you can choose to keep Bixby's responses short. Or if you're really aching to connect with it, you can opt to have the assistant talk to you in full sentences.

Bixby also offers a helpful dictation featurette, which I found to be just as useful as the ability in Google Keyboard. This ability doesn't require that you tap on a microphone icon when the keyboard app is up, however; rather, you'll want to toggle on the Dictation on keyboard capability to enable the ability to start the dictation mode by pressing and holding the Bixby key while the Samsung Keyboard is open. This means you'll have to actively use the Samsung Keyboard, but the dictation ability appears to work just as accurately as Google when it comes to forming sentences.

Florence Ion was formerly an editor and columnist at Android Central. She writes about Android-powered devices of all types and explores their usefulness in her everyday life. You can follow her on Twitter or watch her Tuesday nights on All About Android.

39 Comments
  • How is all that data that data Samsung will have access kept SECURE? I haven't read all the disclosures, but Samsung will probably pay for the ongoing development of Bixby, by selling user's confidential data. Everything has a price, and bixby probably comes at too high a price, for me.
    I'm a S8 owner who will NOT activate Bixby.
  • How's this any different than Google?
  • For the last time, Google does not sell your data.
  • I have feeling that when you say for the last time, that you don't really mean it. Of course Google sells data.
  • No, I mean it. Look it up. Did it for you, it's from some website I have never heard of, but sounds legit. https://www.androidcentral.com/ask-ac-does-google-sell-your-data
  • Looks sketchy. I don't like the look of that Jerry Hildewhatever guy.
  • I think Google is quite the opposite actually... they want to keep all the data so that they can provide the most valuable services. They may sell ads/services that take advantage of that data... many see that as similar to selling your data, but it doesn't really change hands.
  • They don't sell data. They sit on it like a dragon on a pile of gold. Other companies can pay Google to have Google use the data that they have collected on the third-party company's behalf, but the other company does not access your data.
  • You must work for Google.
  • I wish!
  • Like Google, Facebook, and any other app don't sell your personal data already. Tin foil hat alert...
  • Working surprisingly well for me! I'm glad there's great integration with Google's core apps as well.
  • I signed up for early access. No Galaxy apps left to update and no BVoice for me.
  • Same here.
  • No traffic cards? Hmm, that's a big miss. I still have to go to Google Now for traffic.
  • I noticed that too, but for me the workaround was not bad at all, when I asked for traffic information to work it opened a Google mini card with the information and when I clicked on it, it opened Google Maps, so again for me it was kind of a good workaround.
  • Good deal, just seems like an unnecessary extra step, but we'll see. Good to know it will
    Acknowledge it.
  • Bixby has actually been working well for a preview. I already use it more than Google Assistant.
  • What about it do you find more useful than Assistant? I don't have an S8, so I won't be able to play with this myself for quite a while.
  • I actually like the hardware button now. And it works very well with Samsung's stock apps that I prefer over Google. Some small things like when you say turn my alarm off bixby turns it off Google said you can do it in this app. If you say send a picture from my gallery bixby takes you there to select pics, Google Assistant showed me some web app on how to send a picture. I use the theme store alot and if I ask bixby show me new themes in the theme store it takes me to it, Google took me to some map location on the web lol. I can just say turn on or off auto brightness with bixby, tried it with Google Assistant and it took me to a how to turn on auto brightness on an iPad tutorial! You can just do so much more with bixby. Seems like you can do any settings task you want with bixby. I even said restart my phone and she said ok. Google Assistant said I can't restart your phone.
  • Can you ask Bixby to do a search for restaurants near by or ask a question like who was the first president. Can you ask Bixby to navigate somewhere? Curious.
  • Yes you can say show me restraunts nearby, asking certain questions shows you answers on the internet. I tried the president one and it showed me a picture and the right answer. you can say open maps and go to this place or address.
  • https://www.cnet.com/news/we-tried-bixby-voice-on-the-galaxy-s8/
  • Good video. Some of that actually looks real-world useful.
  • Yeah agree, but like the article says, more of a companion to Assistant. I do not think it will ever be a major search application. Could be wrong, we'll see.
  • It does more than Google Assistant. And uses the internet browser for search. You can make Google your search engine.
  • Hey, I know you are all in on Bixby, but when it comes to search with voice, Assistant wins hands down.
  • I signed up for early access, updated all my galaxy apps and still nothing for me either :(
  • Me either...
  • Sam, Just stop it. I really want them to revamp their software strategy it's a waste of R&D - focus on fluidity we don't need redundant apps! And unless you have an actual hueman assistant enough already, I've seen the videos and reviews the Google crap is "cool" but I wish I could disable it it adds nothing to my user experience and I rather just do it myself. Google voice search for what song is this or what's the weather is about it. Bixby shouldn't exist on android and should be a convenience key or bring back push to talk or something. But two "assistants" the general populous isn't using this trash
  • Wut?
  • Yeah, exactly! Like we should only have one company manufacturing TVs, cars and computers too. There is just too much time wasted on other companies developing things that its going to get too confusing to the customer. I mean who needs all these options and features that weren't invented by zenith, ford, or IBM. The billions spent by Samsung each year for R&D can be better spent on making the phone curvier... /S
  • That's a ridiculous attitude. It's not even anything like Google assistant and does things Google assistant can't and isn't even meant to do. And while if you fall for all the anti Samsung bias that claims Samsung shouldn't do software that compromises Google's monopoly in any way you'll miss out on all the things that Samsung software can do that Google and in fact no other android software can. These capabilities unfortunately are never covered by the media unless it's something you can't miss like AOD and there are so many of us who wouldn't even be using android if it wasn't for Samsung software. Knox for instance allows all sorts of amazing calamities. You can even use it to block ads and trackers globally without even having to root or use a resources intensive VPN that you have to keep turning on and off, you just set it and it works forever. There are so many things like that that would never get media coverage while Knox is represented as if it's just an anti virus or something. Bixby only tracks whatever usage you allow it and doesn't even run in the background. It's designed for people who want to use an AI but maintain their privacy. And beyond that it is necessary to provide a voice control solution for smart things so that we could have something like Apple home. There are so many spins online and if you buy into it'll seem true to you because you'll end up acting as if it was true. One of the best things about it is that a recent update added a walkie talkie like key interface where you press and hold, then talk, then release. This allows it to work even in noisy areas or the living room with background audio going. Unfortunately the media spun the update as "just a way to block Bixby key remapping" which is blatantly ridiculous but it caught on among their choir who buy into everything they say. I bet you believe that Samsung software is just pointless copy cat apps of other things you can just get from the play store. That isn't true at all. Even the apps like email and amazing internet all have unique features and unlike their Google counterparts don't track you at all.
  • I like it so far. It is pretty interesting how in depth it can get. Only complaint is it's a little slow, and I'm not a fan of having to hold the button the entire time I'm talking. I would rather just tap it, even Google Assistant you only have to hold long enough for it to start and that's it. And for doing multiple things in a row it would be nice to not have to say hi bixby every time or hold the button every time. But that's something that even Google is still working on.
  • So, it sounds like it's actually better than a lot of people expected? Sounds like it might be legitimately useful? I mean, as useful as talking to your phone is ever going to be anyway (it was awesome on Star Trek, but the reality of everyone talking to their phone in the mall doesn't seem quite as awesome). Good to hear!
  • Got an update tonight but sadly no Bixby.
  • Bixby looks to be pretty unique compared to Google Assistant and also useful. Clearly both are for different tasks and having the Bixby button helps so you can still use the Home button for GA?
  • Yea exactly. I see a lot of the media calling it a Google assistant clone etc but it really isn't. It's at its core just like they say, a voice control interface that allows you to do what you would otherwise be doing with your hands anyway. It's meant to be an overall voice control system the same way a mouse and keyboard is.
  • It would be nice to change the command prompt from Bixby to some other name (like THELMA or HAL)