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9 tips and tricks for getting started with Bixby Voice

Bixby Voice is packed with features and commands. It's a lot to take in at first, so here are nine tips and tricks to get you started.

Josh Miller
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Bixby is the assistant software unveiled to much fanfare alongside the Samsung Galaxy S8 ($729.11 at Amazon.com) and Galaxy S8 Plus. It comes in three flavors: Bixby Home, Bixby Vision and Bixby Voice.

Bixby Voice, which is similar to Siri or Google Assistant, was the only facet of Bixby that did not come with the S8 at launch. However, overnight Samsung started rolling out an update that will enable Bixby Voice for all Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus users -- CNET's own Jessica Dolcourt went hands-on with the new voice assistant.

Here are nine tips to get you started with Bixby Voice.

Use it to toggle device settings

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Taylor Martin/CNET

Like Siri and Google Assistant, Bixby can control some of the settings on your phone. This is one area where Bixby has a clear advantage over Google's voice assistant.

For instance, both Google Assistant and Bixby can toggle the flashlight on your phone. But Google Assistant can't toggle Power saving. Bixby can. The same goes for the Performance modeBlue light filterAlways On DisplaySmart ViewDo not disturb and practically every other setting on the phone.

For settings that don't have toggles, you just have to be a little more specific with your commands. For example, you can say things such as, "Open Settings and increase the font size."

Create shortcut commands

Like with Google Assistant, you can create command shortcuts, called Quick Commands. These are shortened versions of a full command that might be easier to say. For instance, instead of "Open Settings and increase the font size," you could just say, "Increase font size."

Unlike shortcuts for Google Assistant, however, you can't just create a Quick Command from scratch. You must go to Bixby Voice > History and select a previous command or go to Bixby Home > My Bixby > Quick Commands and tap Add. From there, you have to speak the shortened command instead of typing it in.

Turn on Dictation on keyboard

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Taylor Martin/CNET

When typing in any app with the default Samsung Keyboard, you can hold the Bixby button to dictate. You just have to turn the feature on first. Go to Bixby Home > Settings and tap the toggle to the right of Dictation on keyboard.

To use dictation, tap in a text field, press and hold the Bixby button and speak. Your words will be transcribed as you speak.

You don't have to press the Bixby button

While there is a dedicated button to Bixby, you don't have to press it to open Bixby Voice. You can just say, "Bixby," so long as you have Voice wake-up enabled. The catch is that if your phone has a lock on it, you will have to unlock the phone for Bixby to complete most tasks.

You can also open Bixby Home by swiping right on your main home screen and tapping the Bixby Voice icon at the top of the screen (to the left of the Bixby Vision and Reminders icons). Then tap the Bixby Voice icon at the bottom of the screen to speak a command.

You can type to Bixby

If you don't want to speak a command to Bixby or want to search for command recommendations, open Bixby Voice in full screen mode, then tap on Search Commands. You can also press and hold on the Bixby Voice icon at the bottom of the screen and drag it over the keyboard icon that appears.

Once the keyboard opens, you can search for commands or type out your own command.

Drag to move or cancel

When you press and hold the Bixby button, the Bixby Voice overlay will appear at the bottom of the screen. If that's in the way, just drag the icon up or down to reposition it.

If you speak a command to Bixby and it requires additional information, however, you can cancel the request at any time by pressing and holding the Bixby Voice icon and dragging it to a nearby X logo. (You can also just press the back button.)

It works with some third-party apps

Bixby works with most of Samsung's own-brand apps, such as Samsung Internet, Samsung Health and Samsung Music. But that's not all. It works with a growing list of third-party apps under what Samsung is calling Bixby Labs. Here are all the non-Samsung apps that work with Bixby for now:

To interact with any of these apps using Bixby, just say, "Open [app name]" followed by something you want to do. For Facebook, you could say, "Open Facebook and share the three most recent photos," or, "Open Facebook and show me my notifications."

You can turn third-party support off by going to Bixby Home > Settings > Bixby Labs and toggling if off.

Change the full screen background color

By default, Bixby Voice has an ombré purplish-brown background. You can change the color to a bluish-purple by going to Bixby Home > Settings > Background color.

Three more colors are available, but only after you've leveled up. Samsung has gamified Bixby's beta by rewarding users with XP for using Bixby to make calls, send messages or change settings. You also get XP for giving feedback, suggesting phrases or responses.

Some of the suggested commands don't work yet

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Josh Miller/CNET

Samsung provides a huge list of example commands, both within the full screen view of Bixby and in its user guide. It claims that there are over 3,000 things Bixby Voice can do.

Some of the suggested commands seem oddly specific. For instance, one recommended command is: "Open Gallery and show me an animation of the five most recent pictures from the Birthday album." (In this case, you must infer you already need to have an album called Birthday, otherwise Bixby will just open the Gallery app.)

These suggested commands help illustrate the sort of complex, multistep things Bixby is capable of that other voice assistants can't do.

That said, a handful of commands in the user guide did not work for one reason or another.

  • "Don't lock the screen for 30 minutes" failed because the maximum screen timeout on the Galaxy S8 is 10 minutes.
  • "In 10 minutes, send [contact] a message that 'I'm leaving now,'" tried to send a message to 10 minutes.
  • "Save my parking location" created a reminder titled "Parking location" with no location data, though this worked on a separate occasion on another phone.

It is important to remember that, as with most digital assistants, it should get better over time and as you use it more.

First published June 28, 2:33 p.m. PT.

Update, July 19 at 9:30 p.m.: Adds apps to Bixby Labs and instructions for how to disable third-party app support. Removed mentions of the beta in the beginning and at in the last line.