Tech Transformers

Samsung Bixby assistant finally comes to Galaxy S8 users in the US

Key Points
  • Samsung began rolling out its smart assistant Bixby for Galaxy S8 and S8+ users in the U.S.
  • Users need to download a software update to access the U.S. English language version of Bixby.
  • Samsung unveiled Bixby when it launched the Galaxy S8 smartphone earlier this year, but an English-language version of the product has been delayed.
Todd Haselton | CNBC

Samsung began rolling out its smart assistant Bixby — which is a rival to Apple's Siri — for Galaxy S8 and S8+ users in the U.S. on Wednesday, after a delay for the much-hyped feature.

The new software is for owners of Samsung's latest flagship devices in the U.S. and South Korea only, and they need to download an update to access the latest version of Bixby. The voice assistant is only available in Korean and U.S. English at the moment, with Samsung promising additional languages and devices in the "near future."

Bixby is the South Korean electronics giant's own version of the likes of Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, but it goes beyond voice. When Samsung launched the feature with the Galaxy S8 earlier this year, it talked up capabilities beyond just using voice commands. For example, it showed how a Galaxy S8's camera could be pointed at a monument, with Bibxy able to recognize it and provide detailed information.

But the service has so far only been available in Korean. A report in the Wall Street Journal earlier this year suggested that Bixby was struggling to understand English syntax and grammar.

Samsung then launched a beta test for U.S. users to help it improve Bixby.

"Bixby Voice benefits from time to further enhance natural language understanding, and we are currently growing our user testing in the U.S. to prepare for launch," a Samsung spokesperson told CNBC in May.

Now it is rolling Bixby out with some key features. Samsung said users can ask the smart assistant to carry out tasks like turning on the flashlight or taking a selfie. But consumers can also ask more complex questions such as: "Find photos I took in Spain and create an album called 'Vacation'.'"

Bixby can be activated by pressing a dedicated button on the side of the S8 and S8+ or by saying "Hi Bixby". Samsung said that Bixby will improve the more it is used.

"As the Bixby ecosystem grows, it will use its completeness, context awareness and cognitive tolerance to evolve from a smartphone interface to the interface for your life," Injong Rhee, head of research & development, software and services at Samsung Mobile, said in a press release.