After setting up and getting started with Samsung’s Bixby Voice service, the list of commands the company throws at you in the tutorial can be overwhelming.
Bixby Voice is a mixture of a personal assistant you can ask questions and command to set reminders, and an automation tool you can instruct to open apps, tap on buttons and enter text without touching your phone.
If that sounds confusing, that’s because it is. It’s certainly different from what we’ve grown accustomed to from Google’s Assistant and Apple’s Siri, but it’s also more powerful.
Here are some of the more useful commands you can give Bixby:
“Hi, Bixby open [app name].” In general, that’s how the majority of your interactions with Bixby will start. Whether it’s “Open Messages and text my wife,” or, “Open Gmail and show me all unread emails from my boss.”
Bixby can also answer questions similar to how Siri or Google Assistant can, but you have to open an app first.
Samsung included a Q&A app with Bixby for your questions: Start with “Open Q&A,” then ask away.
The next time you’re talking with someone and they recommend an app, have Bixby install it for you.
“Open the Play Store and install the app” will launch the Play Store, search for the, and automatically install it. If there are multiple results and Bixby isn’t sure which one you want to install, you’ll have to manually select it.
Alternatively, you can tell Bixby, “Download the app from the Play Store” and achieve the same result.
Quickly share a screenshot
“Take a screenshot and send it as a message to [contact name].”
Bixby will take a screenshot of whatever is on your screen at that time, then bring up the share menu.
Be more efficient with Gmail
Gmail commands are something I’m still trying to get the hang of, but I can see them being incredibly useful.
Start with basic commands such as, “Open Gmail and show me unread messages,” and then progress to commands such as, “Show the last email from [contact name] that has an attachment.”
If an app is open when you summon Bixby, any commands you give will stay specific to that app. For example, if you have Facebook Messenger open and tell Bixby to send a message, it will assume you want to do so in Facebook Messenger.
Developers don’t need to integrate with Bixby’s commands in order to work. Instead, you have to learn what actions are called within apps.
As another example, the Twitter app Flamingo isn’t officially supported by Bixby, but when using the app I can compose a new tweet and if it’s ready to be posted, I can tell Bixby, “Tweet.” (The name of the button to post a new tweet is actually “Tweet.” If it was “submit” or “send” you’d use that instead, because Bixby can read the command names.)
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Like Siri and Google Assistant, Bixby can control some of the settings on your phone. This is one area where Bixby has a clear advantage over Google’s voice assistant.
For instance, both Google Assistant and Bixby can toggle the flashlight on your phone. But Google Assistant can’t toggle Power saving. Bixby can. The same goes for the Performance mode, Blue light filter, Always On Display, Smart View, Do not disturb and practically every other setting on the phone.
For settings that don’t have toggles, you just have to be a little more specific with your commands. For example, you can say things such as, “Open Settings and increase the font size.”
Create shortcut commands
, you can create command shortcuts, called Quick Commands. These are shortened versions of a full command that might be easier to say. For instance, instead of “Open Settings and increase the font size,” you could just say, “Increase font size.”
Unlike shortcuts for Google Assistant, however, you can’t just create a Quick Command from scratch. You must go to Bixby Voice > History and select a previous command or go to Bixby Home > My Bixby > Quick Commands and tap Add. From there, you have to speak the shortened command instead of typing it in.
Turn on Dictation on keyboard
When typing in any app with the default Samsung Keyboard, you can hold the Bixby button to dictate. You just have to turn the feature on first. Go to Bixby Home > Settings and tap the toggle to the right of Dictation on keyboard.
To use dictation, tap in a text field, press and hold the Bixby button and speak. Your words will be transcribed as you speak.
You don’t have to press the Bixby button
While there is a dedicated button to Bixby, you don’t have to press it to open Bixby Voice. You can just say, “Bixby,” so long as you have Voice wake-up enabled. The catch is that if your phone has a lock on it, you will have to unlock the phone for Bixby to complete most tasks.
You can also open Bixby Home by swiping right on your main home screen and tapping the Bixby Voice icon at the top of the screen (to the left of the Bixby Vision and Reminders icons). Then tap the Bixby Voice icon at the bottom of the screen to speak a command.
You can type to Bixby
If you don’t want to speak a command to Bixby or want to search for command recommendations, open Bixby Voice in full screen mode, then tap on Search Commands. You can also press and hold on the Bixby Voice icon at the bottom of the screen and drag it over the keyboard icon that appears.
Once the keyboard opens, you can search for commands or type out your own command.
Drag to move or cancel
When you press and hold the Bixby button, the Bixby Voice overlay will appear at the bottom of the screen. If that’s in the way, just drag the icon up or down to reposition it.
If you speak a command to Bixby and it requires additional information, however, you can cancel the request at any time by pressing and holding the Bixby Voice icon and dragging it to a nearby X logo. (You can also just press the back button.)
It works with some third-party apps
Bixby works with most of Samsung’s own-brand apps, such as Samsung Internet, Samsung Health and Samsung Music. But that’s not all. It works with a growing list of third-party apps under what Samsung is calling Bixby Labs. Here are all the non-Samsung apps that work with Bixby for now:
- Facebook Messenger
- Google Maps
- Google Play Music
- Google Play Store
To interact with any of these apps using Bixby, just say, “Open [app name]” followed by something you want to do. For Facebook, you could say, “Open Facebook and share the three most recent photos,” or, “Open Facebook and show me my notifications.”
You can turn third-party support off by going to Bixby Home > Settings > Bixby Labs and toggling if off.
Change the full screen background color
By default, Bixby Voice has an ombré purplish-brown background. You can change the color to a bluish-purple by going to Bixby Home > Settings > Background color.
Three more colors are available, but only after you’ve leveled up. Samsung has gamified Bixby’s beta by rewarding users with XP for using Bixby to make calls, send messages or change settings. You also get XP for giving feedback, suggesting phrases or responses.
Some of the suggested commands don’t work yet
Samsung provides a huge list of example commands, both within the full screen view of Bixby and in its user guide. It claims that there are over 3,000 things Bixby Voice can do.
Some of the suggested commands seem oddly specific. For instance, one recommended command is: “Open Gallery and show me an animation of the five most recent pictures from the Birthday album.” (In this case, you must infer you already need to have an album called Birthday, otherwise Bixby will just open the Gallery app.)
These suggested commands help illustrate the sort of complex, multistep things Bixby is capable of that other voice assistants can’t do.
That said, a handful of commands in the user guide did not work for one reason or another.
- “Don’t lock the screen for 30 minutes” failed because the maximum screen timeout on the Galaxy S8 is 10 minutes.
- “In 10 minutes, send [contact] a message that ‘I’m leaving now,'” tried to send a message to 10 minutes.
- “Save my parking location” created a reminder titled “Parking location” with no location data, though this worked on a separate occasion on another phone.
It is important to remember that, as with most digital assistants, it should get better over time and as you use it more.
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The clickable button on the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus is finally about to fulfill its purpose. Located just under the volume rocker on the S8’s left side, the Bixby button will launch brand new voice software that phone owners have been waiting months for.
“It’s not a voice assistant,” Quam Erogbogbo, senior director and head of services for Samsung’s services and new business division, said of Bixby Voice. “It’s an intelligent interface that will change the way you interact with the phone.”
Samsung doesn’t want Galaxy S8 owners to compare Bixby Voice to Apple’s Siri, Google’s Assistant (which is also on the Galaxy S8) and Amazon’s Alexa because it does some slightly different things. Bixby Voice puts searching your phone ahead of searching online, and it won’t track your packages or tell you when to leave for the airport. Instead, it promises to do with your voice everything you can tap or type with your digits.
For example, instead of scrolling through layers of menus to look up your SIM card’s phone number (three steps if the S8’s locked), Bixby Voice will deliver it in one step — yes, even if the phone is locked. You can toggle settings, do a ton with the camera and photos, and even set short, customized commands for long, specific steps (this the my favorite Bixby feature so far).
But for all intents and purposes, it’s easiest to think of Bixby Voice as a sidekick of the Siri/Assistant/Alexa breed, because you do use your voice and the software does actually assist you with your phone.
I got a chance to try out Bixby Voice on the Galaxy S8. It’s early days, and this is a development build (basically a “beta” version). I’m still learning it, but generally, I like the concept, as I like any shortcut that can spare my fingers from repetitive swipes and taps. There are idiosyncrasies I’ve already discovered and more that will likely emerge as time goes on.
Samsung will also bolster Bixby’s capabilities in the coming days, and expand Bixby Voice to a wide range of Samsung appliances, like a future fridge, washer or TV.
There’s a lot more Bixby testing to go, so keep an eye out for updates to this story and new comparisons as the weeks go on. And remember, beta software changes all the time, so my first experience here is far from the final word on Bixby Voice.
If you’ve signed up for Samsung’s early access program, you’ll start seeing Bixby Voice roll out for your phone. And for everyone else? Bixby Voice is already live in South Korea. In the US, it’ll be available “as soon as possible” (we’re still waiting to hear on other regions, too).
Best so far: Bixby Voice can customize commands
Skipping way ahead, because this is my favorite feature so far. Let’s say you have a specific request that you make often (Remind me where I parked the car). After you make it a few times, Bixby Voice will prompt you to record a shortcut. Then, you can just say, “Where’s my car?”
There are 3 ways to launch it
Press and hold the Bixby button while you speak (like a walkie-talkie).
Say, “Hi, Bixby”.
Open Bixby Home (press the Bixby button once) and press the stylized “b” icon on the top.
You have to have an internet connection
It won’t work without Wi-Fi or cellular data.
Bixby Voice won’t replace Google Assistant on the Galaxy S8
If you’re used to Google Assistant (and Google Now) and want Bixby Voice to do everything it will, you’ll be disappointed. It isn’t made to, at least not yet. So Google Assistant is probably the best to calculate tip, and find the local dry cleaner.
(Bixby Voice opens the calculator and enters the figures; Google Assistant calculates for you.)
And they both can toggle on Wi-Fi and open apps.
But the two are bound to compete for your time and attention, and I foresee that keeping track of when to say “Hi, Bixby” and “OK, Google” is going to start getting cumbersome.
It saves typing, sometimes time
If you’re just trying to turn on the flashlight or open an app, you probably won’t save a ton of time using Bixby Voice over typing, but sometimes, tapping on a screen is the last thing you want to do.
The biggest time savings are when you ask Bixby Voice to do something really specific, like dictate a text message.
You can string together several commands
Go ahead, drill down into Bixby Voice. Here are some of Samsung’s suggestions:
- Open Samsung Internet and delete all of the personal data saved
- Open Gallery and show the details of the most recent picture in the Family album
- Open Camera and turn off radial blur of food mode
- Open phone app and video call David
- Open Settings and set the media volume to max
It’ll take you partway there
If Bixby Voice doesn’t understand exactly what you want, it might try anyhow. For example, it may ask you which app you want to use, or if you’d like to be reminded to call your mom when you arrive at the store or when you leave.
Others’ voices might not get in the way
Bixby Voice often picked up stray words (spoken by me or others). Much of the time, that was OK. It still told me the weather and opened the right app.
You’ll run into bugs
This is essentially beta software. Bugs happen. I’m cutting it some slack at this early stage, and if you have access to this early version, you should too. We’ll continue testing Bixby Voice now and as it matures.
It’ll learn with time
All AI and assistant programs say this. Samsung says Bixby Voice will learn your habits and preferences as you make adjustments here and there. As more people use it, Voice should also build from users’ patterns.
Bixby Voice will work with third-party apps
Right now, apps like Facebook, Instagram, Google Maps, YouTube and Uber (and more) are part of Bixby Labs, which Samsung classes as experiments. Look for a lot more of these to connect with Bixby Voice in the future.
You can search the internet
Samsung recommends using the phrase “Open Samsung Internet” to search for what you want, but I was able to ask:
- When was the Empire State Building constructed?
- When does the sun set in San Francisco tonight?
- What is the Giants’ score?
- And see Google results.
However, if you search for photos, Bixby will pull up pics on your phone first. You have to specify “on the internet” or “online” to see those messages. And if you just ask “When does sun set?”, you won’t get too far.
You can’t remap the Bixby button (not natively, anyway)
You might be able to use a third-party app to make the Bixby button do something else, but Samsung really wants you to use its app. The best you can do is turn off Bixby Voice, so that nothing happens when you long-press the Bixby button (a short press will open the Bixby Home app).
Bixby Voice is the best part of ‘Bixby’
Remember, Bixby Voice is only one part of the app. But even now it’s clearly the most useful. Bixby Home is a screen that surfaces info kind of like Google Now (the weather, an alarm you set, nearby restaurants, a news story…). Bixby Vision is part of the camera and can read business cards and signs and identify landmarks.
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