Samsung's S Voice Drive app might not suck (hands-on)

At Samsung's Galaxy S4 launch event, CNET got a chance to play around with a new adaptation of Samsung's voice assistant for cars.

Jessica Dolcourt Senior Director, Commerce & Content Operations
Jessica Dolcourt is a passionate content strategist and veteran leader of CNET coverage. As Senior Director of Commerce & Content Operations, she leads a number of teams, including Commerce, How-To and Performance Optimization. Her CNET career began in 2006, testing desktop and mobile software for Download.com and CNET, including the first iPhone and Android apps and operating systems. She continued to review, report on and write a wide range of commentary and analysis on all things phones, with an emphasis on iPhone and Samsung. Jessica was one of the first people in the world to test, review and report on foldable phones and 5G wireless speeds. Jessica began leading CNET's How-To section for tips and FAQs in 2019, guiding coverage of topics ranging from personal finance to phones and home. She holds an MA with Distinction from the University of Warwick (UK).
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Jessica Dolcourt
2 min read
Watch this: Introducing Samsung's Galaxy S4

During Samsung's questionable launch of its marquee Galaxy S4 smartphone, the handset-maker introduced S Voice Drive, a breakout version of its S Voice assistant designed specifically for use when on the road.

After the show, I got my hands on an untethered version of the Galaxy S4 and tested it out. Or at least, tested the driving app as much as I could while sitting in a plush, fold-down chair so deep inside a massive theater that I could barely register a GPS signal.

The interface looks smooth, a constellation of circular icons that represent all you can do with your voice command -- like play music, place a call, send messages, look up the weather, and call out for directions.

However, owing to S Voice's extremely spotty history of intense lagginess and inaccuracy, I was more concerned with how well it works.

For the few minutes I was able to test it before the GS4 went back into its secure box, it seemed to work decently well. I called out "Hi, Galaxy" to wake it up, then commanded it to play music. There was only the briefest delay before it started playing a preloaded tune.

Hands-on with Samsung Galaxy S4's S Voice Drive (pictures)

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I then interrupted and asked it to take me to the nearest Starbucks. In a few seconds, it loaded up a list. Not bad, considering how choked GPS was, and how past uses of S Voice hung, spun, didn't understand me, and returned errors.

It's clear that Samsung and/or its partners have done some work to improve the S Voice software on the back end as well as on the front end. Just how much improvement has yet to be seen, but never fear, we'll get S Voice Drive in a hot CNET test car as soon as we're able.

Samsung's S Voice Drive app should also appear on future Galaxy handsets.