It's been over a year since Samsung unveiled its first smart speaker, the Galaxy Home, at the Note 9 smartphone launch event in August 2018. pricing details and availability are said to be "coming soon". We have been dealt with many predictions of an upcoming launch, such as at the November 2018 Software Developers Conference, where the devices were on display but not in reality and without further details. Then again at the February Galaxy S10 event, rumors emerged that the device would finally arrive. Similar forecasts emerged around the launch of the Note 10 last month. None of them turned out to be right.
We even had Samsung co-chair DJ Koh in February 2019 that the device would start shipping in April, which also didn't happen. Earlier in February 2018, he had said the device would arrive later that year, which was kind of true because the Galaxy Home was on display, even if it was never sold to the public. The forecasts, both inside and outside Samsung, appear to average zero at launch date forecasts.
Coming soon banner and shipment to beta testers
However, we have two new signals from Samsung, which suggests "coming soon" may be coming soon. First, TechRadar noticed an updated Galaxy Home banner on Samsung.com's website with new device photos and a "soon" sign. In addition, TizenHelp and SamMobile announce that Samsung has requested beta testers for the Galaxy Home Mini on its Korean website. The application deadline ended on Sunday and appears to be limited to South Korea. This device has an almost identical design to the FCC rendering that was approved earlier this year for use in the US
The beta program has led to speculation that the Galaxy Home Mini, which is expected to carry a lower price, may predates the larger Galaxy Home on the market. The lack of knowledge about the Galaxy Home beta program is usually cited as evidence that the Mini is further along. However, this seems unlikely. Galaxy Home devices have been showing up at Samsung events for over a year. This provided ample time for beta testing. The media is more likely to fail to reveal beta tests or there has never been any official public information.
Also, Samsung's latest official line suggests that Galaxy Home will arrive in the middle of the second half of 2019 will need to be a short beta test in order for Samsung to meet this schedule with the Mini, even if it is released Korean only. We suspect that Galaxy Home launch data may be coming to the IFA in Berlin later this week, with information on the Mini coming later. With that being said, anything is possible given the unusual circumstances surrounding the Galaxy Home more than a year after its debut.
Implications of Galaxy Home for Bixby 2.0
TizenHelp also reports that a non-baptized company spokesman has indicated that the delay in launching Galaxy Home may be due to issues Samsung faced with premature launch the Galaxy Fold smartphone earlier this year and the need to recall the global Note 7 product in 2016. Add to that, the negative sentiment among media and users around the Galaxy S8's Bixby 1.0 in 2017 and it looks like Samsung may be trying to avoid another skip.
People familiar with Samsung's plans told Voicebot that company executives know there is a difficult battle in positioning Bixby 2.0 Voice Assistant against the more mature and more widely accepted Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. They are sure that this can be done, but there is recognition that it is not easy to appear on the scene after major competitors have already set consumer expectations and cultivated the market for more than three years.
Bixby has received positive press attention from late as it opens its third-party app store and launches a premier developer program. That was a bit undermined when Bixby was not mentioned at the Note 10 launch event in August. If Galaxy Home arrives in consumer households this fall and has far lower performance than Amazon Echo and Google Home (Nest) in core functionality such as "waking up" reliability and accurate speech recognition, then it could halt the adoption of Bixby 2.0 not only on smart speakers but also on smartphones where Samsung is making a bigger bet.
You might think that another smart speaker coming to the market is no big deal at this point. However, this is important for Samsung, as Galaxy Home will fill an important gap in the company's current smart home portfolio and is expected to become a key interaction point for users using Bixby. The device may not be perfect, but it must exceed the unwritten threshold of consumer expectations. Samsung seems to believe it is almost ready. At least you can see that the company is now spending money on a new marketing creative, which is a clearer sign of readiness than casual commentary from a senior executive or other insiders.
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