Samsung has launched its Bixby Marketplace, a dedicated app store where third-party developers can offer their own Bixby-compatible services, similar to Amazon’s Alexa skills. The marketplace, which apparently started rolling out a few days ago, is officially open now for Samsung customers in the U.S. and Samsung’s native South Korea.
Bixby, for the uninitiated, is akin to Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri — it’s an intelligent voice-enabled virtual assistant that allows users to verbally ask questions about almost anything, and receive responses.
There are various components to Bixby, though, including a text element that allows people to type a message to Bixby and ask it to do something — such as remind the user to take the dog out for a walk when they get home. Then there is Bixby Vision, which integrates with the phone’s camera to serve up information on things in the real world, while Bixby Home is a personalized page of information such as reminders, news, weather, and so on. A few months back, Samsung also announced Bixby Routines, which is basically AI that learns your habits to anticipate what you may want at a specific time.
Samsung launched Bixby back in 2017, alongside its flagship Galaxy S8 handsets, and today it’s available globally on more than 500 million devices — this includes Samsung’s smart fridges, smart TVs, phones, tablets, and — soon — Samsung’s very own smart speaker.
While Samsung continues to claim top-spot in terms of global smartphone shipments — despite a broader downward trajectory in phone sales around the world — it lags its other big-name competitors in the virtual assistant realm. Market research firm Ovum last year estimated that Bixby was used by just 6% of Americans, compared to Amazon’s 24%, Apple’s 22%, Google’s 20%, and Microsoft’s 10%. And this is partly what the Bixby Marketplace is setting out to combat — Samsung wants developers’ help to make Bixby more useful.
Back in November, Samsung announced that it was opening Bixby to third-party developers, and launched a toolkit to help them create voice apps that are compatible with the digital assistant. This included the Bixby Developer Center, a centralized hub for developers to create Bixby-enabled apps. At the same time, Samsung announced the Bixby Marketplace for developers to sell and promote their handiwork.
The marketplace is available through the main Bixby page on Samsung phones, though the company eventually intends to include it as part of the main Galaxy app store. Through the marketplace, users can search for services — which Samsung calls “capsules” — that enhance Bixby.
These capsules are categorized by type, which may be “travel and transportation,” “food and drink,” “sports,” “shopping,” “productivity,” and so on, and many well-known apps are featured at launch, including Spotify, Uber, Google Maps, Yelp, and YouTube.
Though users can browse the marketplace for capsules manually, they can also search verbally using natural language instructions. In an interview with VentureBeat last month, Bixby chief Adam Cheyer gave a glimpse into some of the functionality that the new marketplace will offer — for example, if the user asks Bixby to “get me a ride to San Francisco” when they don’t have any ride-share services enabled, Bixby may respond by suggesting several providers (such as Uber). “You’ll then be prompted to try [the different options] and decide whether you like one brand, another brand, or both,” Cheyer said. “If you enable more than one, Bixby will ask which you’d like to use by default.”
Users can add capsules with a tap, and as with traditional app stores, the Bixby Marketplace supports ratings and reviews to help surface the best, or most popular, capsules.
At launch, the marketplace won’t feature “premium capsules,” which is what Samsung refers to as paid or subscription apps — but that will be coming further down the line. However, it will support transactional capsules, where services such as 1-800-Flowers can send flowers to someone upon request, and charge it to the user’s usual card.
Today’s launch is just phase one of the Bixby Marketplace — and the company said that it has “more exciting updates” planned for its Samsung Developer Conference later this year.