Samsung's S Pen is fantastic, but Bixby is another good reason to buy the Galaxy Note 9

Bixby is more than you may think, once you understand what its real purpose is.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is a stunning smartphone and the longer I use it the more essential it becomes to my optimal productivity. I've focused on the utility of the S Pen, but over the past week I've spent time focusing on another unique Samsung feature, Bixby.

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In most of my articles where I discuss Samsung products, I've panned Bixby as a weakness of a Samsung phone or watch. Samsung has included a dedicated button on its flagship phones for Bixby and most reviewers and Samsung users seem to disable or reprogram that button.

Full review here: Samsung Galaxy Note 9: Big battery,superb S Pen experience power productivity

After finally spending some dedicated time with Bixby, I want to say I am sorry for being so harsh about it in past writing. Bixby is often comapred to Apple's Siri, Google Assistant, Microsoft Cortana, and Amazon Alexa, but it is really not focused on being a voice-controlled search engine. Bixby will not always provide you with the next date your favorite team plays, the current score of a ballgame, or answers to trivia questions. It is an assistant that is designed to optimize the use of your hardware while also providing some of the other search capabilities of other assistants.

The real power I now enjoy using is found in the Quick Commands functionality. Tap the Bixby hardware button and then in the upper right corner with the three dot menu icon tap it and choose Quick Commands. Samsung provides several sample/recommended Quick Commands that you can use or select and then modify. One very interesting aspect of these is the three or more commands listed below the command word or words.

One sample is called Going Home and by stating this phrase you will see your device turn on Bluetooth, turn off Wi-Fi, and send a text message that you are on your way home. My longest current Quick Command has six command lines in it and it is called Good Morning. Here is what happens when I launch Bixby and say good morning:

  • Provides today's date
  • Tells me today's weather in Seattle (it often differs from my home 45 miles away)
  • Let's me know of any weather alerts
  • Reads today's schedule
  • Increases my ringtone to 100 percent
  • Opens Google Play Store and updates any apps that need updating

The possibilities are nearly endless with Quick Commands and I continue to monitor actions I perform regularly to see if a Quick Command can be created to make my Note 9 work for me, which is exactly what these smartphones should be doing for us. Some others I have set up control my work settings, switch to Android Auto while driving, open apps like Gmail/Twitter/Microsoft Teams/Google News, and make a payment with Samsung Pay. Do you have any favorites that I should explore?

Also: Android Auto is finally ready to go wireless, mostly CNET

In addition to these Quick Commands, Bixby is set up to perform a ton of functions on your phone in a natural way without you having to always state specific words or phrases. There are quite a few third party apps that support deep Bixby functionality with a SDK available so developers can continue to enhance apps for Bixby support.

With the upcoming Samsung Galaxy Home speaker, it is likely we will see even more Bixby support coming in the near future. Even if you tried Bixby before and hated it, I recommend spending more time with it and exploring the Quick Commands to see if your Samsung Galaxy phone or Galaxy Watch can make you more efficient.

Bixby 2.0 launched on the Note 9 and includes more natural language predictions so you can carry out longer conversations/searches with Bixby understanding the context of your first query when you follow up with less complete commands. Bixby will also learn your preferences over time so the more you use it the better it will be. Soon there should be more Mexican food restaurants offered up since that is one of my all-time favorite places to eat.

Also: 15 handy Samsung Bixby tricks you need to know CNET

While Quick Commands are very useful, some of the fairly basic Bixby commands I've used before (send a specific photo to a friend via text message) do not appear to be working and stop at the share screen. I'll continue to explore these and hope for more Bixby updates.

The S Pen is one reason to buy a Note 9 and Bixby is another. I have the left Bixby button set to a single press to launch and am now using Bixby every single day.