User choice on a smartphone seems to be slowly but surely disappearing from both the hardware and software. Apple removed the headphone jack on the iPhone, and others are sure to follow. Samsung, on the other hand, added a Bixby button to the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+. You can’t remove it, but Samsung just decided to let you disable it (sort of).
The Bixby button is linked to Samsung’s voice-powered digital assistant, which was introduced alongside these two Galaxy S8 phones (albeit delayed by three months). The dedicated button can be used in two ways: a quick press loads Bixby Home, while a long press loads Bixby Voice ready for your vocal commands.
According to Android Headlines, Samsung is quietly rolling out an update to Galaxy S8 and S8+ owners that adds a new option to the Bixby Key page within Bixby’s settings. Under the heading “Select what to open with the Bixby key,” there is now an option for “Don’t open anything.” By opting for that setting, a quick tap of the Bixby Button will no longer load Bixby Home. You can’t remap the button press to anything else, only disable it.
It’s not a full button disable, though. While the short press can be set to do nothing, holding down the Bixby Button will still launch Bixby Voice. That’s not surprising as Samsung is positioning Bixby as a competitor to rival assistants including Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, and Google’s Assistant. So disabling it completely would not be in Samsung’s best interests regardless of how users feel about it.
The roll out of the update seems to be quite random for now, and Samsung isn’t officially announcing it. So it’s impossible to say if and when S9 owners get it. Another anomaly with regards to this update is the fact the Galaxy Note 8 also includes the same Bixby Button and functionality, but isn’t getting the update. At least, it isn’t yet.