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July 11, 2017

Samsung’s attempt to halt remapping of Bixby button targets T-Mobile users

by John_A

Why it matters to you

The one-upmanship between Samsung and users who have been remapping the Bixby button on the Galaxy S8 will likely continue for the foreseeable future.

Samsung — unsurprisingly — wasn’t too enthused when it learned some users were remapping the button dedicated to its not-yet-entirely-functional virtual assistant immediately following the launch of the Galaxy S8. The company responded to that news in the expected way — it released an update that crippled the apps customers had been using, many of which existed long before the device, to remap hardware keys on other Android phones.

However, where there’s a will there’s a way, and every time Samsung has forced developers to take a step back, they’ve usually found a way to take two steps forward. Now, Samsung has released yet another update to keep the button locked to Bixby and only Bixby. Curiously though, this one seems to target T-Mobile users exclusively.

The news comes from developer Jawomo, creator of bxActions, a Bixby button remapper, who related his findings to Android Police. According to Jawomo, T-Mobile customers using his app have reported that last month’s security update has rendered it useless.

Seemingly, the update hasn’t only broken bxActions, but other remapping apps as well, of which there are many on the Google Play Store. These kinds of widespread reports aren’t coming from Galaxy S8 users on other carriers, meaning the block appears to be confined to T-Mobile at the moment. Of course, that can — and very likely will — change in the future.

Nevertheless, developers will probably find a way around this one as well. If Samsung feels obligated to continue to fend off users’ wishes, it will likely face an uphill battle — at least until it can demonstrate Bixby’s value to customers. With the English version of Bixby voice still unreleased — now almost three months since the launch of the device — all pressing the key does is call up the Google Now-like Hello Bixby page.

Worse yet, it doesn’t seem there’s any quick end in sight for Bixby’s absence. Just last week, we learned that Samsung apparently needs even more data to get Bixby’s machine-learning language model to a point where it can be launched to the public. The company is reportedly expanding beta testing in the meantime, but cracks in the communication line between Samsung’s California-based English development team and home base in South Korea have only furthered hindered progress. Rumors suggest the sluggish development pace has even squandered Samsung’s plan to launch a Bixby-powered smart speaker to take on Amazon’s Echo line, Google Home, and Apple’s upcoming HomePod.




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