Samsung is planning to introduce a smart speaker powered by its Bixby digital assistant in the first half of 2018. The smart speaker will compete against similar offerings from Amazon, Apple and Google.
The Samsung smart speaker will have a strong focus on audio quality and support smart home control functions allowing its users to control lights and locks. Bloomberg reports the device will also connect with TVs, Galaxy smartphones and other Samsung products. The device will use Bixby 2.0, Samsung’s rival to digital assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri.
Samsung wants the smart speaker to serve as a companion device to those already using Galaxy smartphones and IoT-based products from Korean company’s SmartThings subsidiary. The smart speaker could be priced around $200 (approximately Rs 13,000) and Samsung is planning to make it available in multiple markets including the U.S.
At $200, Samsung’s smart speaker will be more expensive than Echo, which starts at $100 but cheaper than Apple’s HomePod, which will be priced at $349 and will go on sale sometime next year. According to people familiar with the development, Samsung is still working on improving voice-based web search and the pricing, release plans can change.
Samsung is a late entrant to the smart speaker segment and the digital assistant race, per se. It announced Bixby voice assistant alongside Galaxy S8 series in March but the voice feature was not available until July of this year. With Echo, Amazon concentrates on e-commerce while Google’s focus remains search with its Google Home devices. Apple, on the other hand, sees its HomePod as just another accessory for over a billion iPhone users in the market but Samsung lacks such kind of concrete focus with its smart speaker.
Samsung first confirmed that it is working on a smart speaker with Bixby assistant in August this year alongside the launch of Galaxy Note8 smartphone. Samsung executive DJ Koh confirmed that company’s smart speaker will be better integrated with smart home devices that its rivals. The market for smart speakers has seen exponential growth in the past year with Amazon claiming over 70 percent market share in the US. Amazon and Google are the two dominant players in the segment with Apple and Samsung, two leading device manufacturers having little or no presence.
With the upcoming smart speaker, Samsung aims to change that equation and drive consumers away from Google Home and Echo. It is testing a device that falls between Amazon Echo and Apple HomePod in terms of size and is said to arrive in different color options. It will lack a screen but the important question will be whether Bixby is tuned to function as a potent digital assistant.