Samsung announced its first smart speaker, the Galaxy Home, at the company’s Galaxy Note 9 Unpacked event. Powered by the company’s virtual voice assistant, Bixby, the Home also promises to work well as a multi-room audio solution, particularly given Samsung’s other audio-related announcement last night: it’s snuggled up to Spotify as it’s official streaming audio partner and will bring slicker integration of the service to all future Samsung kit, including the Galaxy Home.
If you didn’t see the Galaxy Home on the horizon, well, shame on you! Not only does every consumer electronics company worth its microchips want in on the growing and lucrative smart-speaker segment, but Samsung’s invested heavily in audio in recent years, and really wants to make Bixby a serious contender against Google’s Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri.
Samsung’s mini three-legged potjie pot speaker has full-range speakers, an onboard subwoofer, “sound steering” (it’ll blast the music towards you) and “audio tuning by AKG”. It also has eight far-field microphones for use with the assistant, so when random on Spotify throws up some N’Sync it’ll hear you yelling “Hey Bixby, skip track!”.
We don’t know much more about the alien egg at this stage, only that we do prefer other voice assistants to Bixby in the Stuff office. We’re not quite sure how the majority of the world is going to react to the Galaxy Home. Although we do know how Twitter has reacted so far…
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Some more background on Bixby — it’s Samsung’s answer to an assistant like Siri or Alexa, and debuted on Samsung Galaxy phones and tablets last year. It has since appeared in the company’s smart refrigerators and smart TVs. The last few generations of Samsung’s flagship handsets have even had a dedicated Bixby button beneath the volume rocker… but most Galaxy users we know have turned that button off. Maybe Bixby will come of age soon and we’ll put it back on — let’s not forget how abysmal Siri was in its early days, after all.
Smart assistant concerns aside, the Galaxy Home is up against some stiff competition. There are dozens of speakers that feature Amazon’s Alexa, including the popular Echo series, then there’s Google Assistant-powered Google Home range, and the Apple HomePod featuring the much-loved, if not-too-fond-of-playing-with-others, Siri. There are even devices like some of Sonos’s speakers that support more than one of the above.
All three of the leading smart speaker systems have had a few year’s head start, so little ol’ Bixby has a lot of catching up to do. Still, at last night’s even it did manage to hail and Uber and make restaurant reservations, so let’s not write it off just yet. As for pricing and availability, Samsung’s promised more details about the Galaxy Home will come at its developers’ conference in November. Maybe they’ll explain the curious design choices then, too.