It has been over a year since Samsung demonstrated its first smart speaker, the Galaxy Home, at the Note 9 smartphone launch event in August 2018. At the time, details about pricing and availability were said to be “coming soon.” We have been treated to numerous predictions about a pending launch such as at the November 2018 software developer conference where the devices were on display, but not really in use and without further details. Then again at the February Galaxy S10 event there were rumors the device would finally arrive. Similar predictions arose around the Note 10 launch last month. None of these turned out to be correct.
We even had Samsung co-CEO DJ Koh say in February 2019 that the device would begin shipping in April which also didn’t happen. He had previously said in February 2018 that the device would arrive later that year which was sort of true because the Galaxy Home was demonstrated even if it never went on sale to the public. It appears that prognosticators, both inside and outside of Samsung, have an average of zero on launch date predictions.
Coming Soon Banner and Shipment to Beta Testers
However, we do have two new signals from Samsung that suggests “soon” may soon arrive. First, TechRadar spotted an updated Galaxy Home banner on Samsung.com website with new pictures of the device and a “coming soon” sign. In addition, TizenHelp and SamMobile are both reporting that Samsung was soliciting beta testers for the Galaxy Home Mini on its Korean website. The application period ended Sunday and appeared to be limited to South Korea. This device sports a nearly identical design to renderings in an FCC application which was approved earlier this year for use in the U.S.
The beta program has led to speculation that the Galaxy Home Mini, which is expected to carry a lower price tag, may precede the larger Galaxy Home to market. Lack of knowledge around a Galaxy Home beta program is typically cited as evidence that the Mini is further along. However, that seems unlikely. Galaxy Home devices have been on display at Samsung events for over a year. That provided ample time for beta testing. More likely is that the media didn’t uncover the beta testing or there was never a formal public outreach.
Also, the latest official line from Samsung suggested that Galaxy Home would arrive in the middle of the second half of 2019. It would have to be a short beta test for Samsung to meet that schedule with the Mini even if it were only released with Korean language support. We suspect Galaxy Home launch details may come as early as this week at IFA in Berlin with information on the Mini coming at a later date. With that said, all things are possible given the unusual circumstances surrounding the Galaxy Home more than a year after it first debuted.
Galaxy Home Implications for Bixby 2.0
TizenHelp also reported that a company spokesperson who was not named indicated that the Galaxy Home launch delay may be related to issues Samsung faced with the premature release of the Galaxy Fold smartphone earlier this year and the need for a Note 7 global product recall in 2016. Add to that, the negative sentiment among the media and users around Bixby 1.0 on the Galaxy S8 in 2017 and it appears Samsung may be trying to avoid another misstep.
People familiar with Samsung’s plans have told Voicebot that company executives know it has an uphill battle in positioning Bixby 2.0 voice assistant against the more mature and more widely adopted Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. They are confident it can be done but there is a recognition that it is not easy arriving on the scene after large competitors have already set consumer expectations and cultivated the market for more than three years.
Bixby has had positive press attention of late with the opening of its third-party app store and launch of a premier developer program. That was undermined a bit when Bixby was not mentioned at the Note 10 launch event in August. If the Galaxy Home arrives in consumer households this fall and grossly underperforms compared to Amazon Echo and Google Home (Nest) in basic functionality such as “wake up” reliability and accurate speech recognition, then it could stall Bixby 2.0 adoption not just on smart speakers but also on smartphones where Samsung is placing a bigger bet.
You may be thinking that yet another smart speaker coming to market is not a big deal at this point. However, to Samsung, it is important because 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 consumers that use Bixby. The device doesn’t have to be perfect but it does need to surpass the unwritten threshold of consumer expectations. It appears Samsung believes it is just about ready. At least you can see that the company is now spending funds on new marketing creative which is a clearer sign of readiness than a casual comment by a senior executive or other insiders.