Samsung Bixby, Apple 3D Sensing Won't Be Ready for Latest Smartphones

Key parts of Samsung's Bixby voice assistant and Apple's planned 3D sensing features are lagging in development, according to media and analyst reports.

Samsung Bixby

Samsung has high hopes for its upcoming new Bixby voice assistant and Apple has been planning 3D sensing capabilities for its next iPhones. However, It's unlikely that these new features will ready when Samsung and Apple launch their new smartphone models this year.

The voice assistant component of Samsung's Bixby feature won't work out of the box when the new Galaxy S8 and S8+ smartphones go on sale starting April 21, according to an April 11 report by Axios.com.

But other Bixby components, such as its visual search and reminder capabilities will be available. An unnamed Samsung spokesman told Axios.com that the voice assistant features will be available in the U.S. later this spring, the report continued. Samsung isn't saying why the assistant feature is delayed, according to Axios.com, which noted that demonstrations of the assistant "failed to work properly."

Apple's problems with the development of 3D sensing capabilities, which have long been rumored for the next model of iPhones, likely the iPhone 8, could now mean that the feature might not appear until a later iPhone 8s version, according to an April 11 story by BGR.com.

The possible delay of the 3D sensing feature, which reportedly will help give the next iPhones augmented reality and eye scanning capabilities, were revealed in a research note from Needham & Co. analyst Rajvindra Gill, the story reported.

"While we note that a delay is possible we believe it is more likely that Apple will announce the iPhone 8 on time with shipments available in October/November," while the inclusion of the 3D sensing feature could be pushed out to the second half of 2018 "and potentially introduced on an 'iPhone 8s' model rather than this year's model," wrote Gill in the research note. Such a delay could mean that Apple won't be the first smartphone maker to introduce the technology on a smartphone, he continued.

Several IT analysts told eWEEK the delays affecting the latest smartphones from Samsung and Apple are not unexpected.

"This development is not surprising, especially when it comes to Apple, which has always been careful to include technology that is fully vetted," Lynette Luna, an analyst with research firm GlobalData, said in an email reply to an inquiry. "Remember it held out on including LTE in its phones until it was ready."

For Apple, the user experience is very important and "technologies like augmented reality and especially artificial intelligence are quite complex and immature."

Samsung, meanwhile, "historically has not been afraid to add new—and sometimes not fully baked—technology, but given its debacle with battery fires in the Galaxy Note 7, it has to be careful of its reputation," said Luna.

"Bixby promised to be more advanced than other AI capabilities in the market, and it was probably prudent of Samsung to do this, although it's another embarrassment for the company since it was hyped and promised," Luna said. Bixby's failure to live up to promises would have been a bigger embarrassment if the technology didn't work as advertised, she noted.  

Chris Silva, an analyst with Gartner, said Samsung had already said Bixby's features would be released in waves over the next few months, and its first demonstrations showed its features to be fairly limited to start. "That said, this is such an emerging space, that the delay may not be all that bad for the vendor," since it is still not a highly-sought feature by a majority of smartphone users, according to Gartner's latest research, said Silva.