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.
“If the initial goal with Bixby is to sell more Android smartphones, it will drive interest, but the hardware innovations in the devices are likely what buyers will primarily focus on,” said Silva. “Software innovations, while interesting, will probably be of secondary importance, giving Samsung some time to continue polishing those features.”
Another analyst, Richard Windsor, of Edison Investment Research, wrote in a research note that Samsung’s delay of its core Bixby voice assistant feature “is a strong indication of just how far behind Samsung is when it comes to artificial intelligence, reinforcing our view that the investment case still lives and dies with hardware.”
The likely reason for Samsung’s Bixby delay “is that the voice recognition system in English is not nearly good enough and substantially lags behind Bixby’s performance in Korean,” Windsor said.
He calls the problems “a significant blunder on Samsung’s part” because “it appears that Samsung has put more effort into making Bixby work in Korean than English. We think that this was not a very sensible choice,” Windsor said, As Samsung will sell the vast majority of Galaxy s8 handsets to people around the world who don’t speak Korean.
In addition, the Bixby delay “is a sure indicator of just how far behind Samsung is compared to everyone else when it comes to developing intelligent services,” he wrote. “Despite much fanfare at the launch of the Galaxy S8 just a few weeks ago, it turns out that Bixby’s functionality at launch will be greatly curtailed as Samsung can’t get it to work properly.”
Samsung had publicized its upcoming Bixby features in late March, touting Bixby’s artificial intelligence capabilities and features in the upcoming Galaxy S8 smartphones, according to an earlier eWEEK report.
The idea behind Bixby is to reinvent Samsung devices so they learn and adapt to the behaviors of their users, rather than requiring users to adapt to the devices, according to the company.
That means being able to properly and appropriately respond to voice commands to provide functions for users, rather than users having to search through deep and often complicated command menus to operate their devices.
Samsung has said that Bixby will also be deployed by Samsung over the coming months in many of the company’s other products, from home appliances such as air conditioners to televisions and more, giving users new ways to control their devices.
Samsung has been eyeing the use of artificial intelligence in its devices for some time, according to a November 2016 eWEEK report.
The Bixby delays follow Samsung’s Galaxy Note7 smartphone disaster in the fall of 2016, when it was forced to recall all of its approximately 2.5 million Galaxy Note7 phablets due to fire and explosion issues around the world. For Samsung, moving on to the new Galaxy S8 smartphones likely can’t come quickly enough after the Note7 fiasco.
Samsung’s interest in AI was deepened in October 2016 when the company acquired Viv Labs, an artificial intelligence company started by the creators of Apple’s Siri digital assistant, to bolster AI capabilities in its smartphones and other consumer products.
Viv Labs’ open AI platform lets third-party developers use and build conversational assistants and integrate a natural language interface into applications and services, which can extend mobile devices and services for users.
Samsung’s own previous personal assistant product, S-voice, never captured as much attention from smartphone buyers as did Apple’s Siri personal assistant.