With the launch of the Galaxy S8, Samsung decided to get in on the “personal assistant” action with its own version, called Bixby—there is even a dedicated button to launch the service on the S8. The thing is, Bixby is not excellent.
In traditional Samsung form, Bixby launched as a sort of half-baked idea, and honestly a pretty sorry entry into a market that already has some excellent offerings. Compared to Google Assistant, Apple’s Siri, and even Amazon’s Alexa, Bixby is just plain wrong.
So, unsurprisingly, people want the Bixby button to do more than launch a shoddy, half-baked Assistant. Moreover, while Samsung has made a few attempts to block this from happening, the developer community continues to come out on top and find ways to circumvent this silly limitation so S8 owners can do what they want with their hardware.
There are a couple of apps in the Play Store that will let you do this, but for this tutorial, we are using one called bxActions. Go ahead and install it. It is worth noting that there are both free and paid ($1.99) versions of the app—the free version is, of course, limited; the paid version offers all the features. As always, I suggest giving the free version a try, and if you like it, support the developer and go for the paid version.
When you first fire up bxActions, it will give you a little note on how it works—by quickly blocking and cancelling Bixby when it launches. Once you have remapped the Bixby button, you will see a quick glimpse of the app before your custom action is executed. It is not a perfect solution, but it is so much more beautiful than being stuck with a useless button on the side of your phone—or worse, actually launching Bixby.
Now that you know what to expect, you’ll need to define which Blocking Mode you want to use. There are a couple to choose from:
- Comfort Mode: The current app stays open, with full functionality available.
- Performance Mode: This jumps to the home screen first, which offers better performance.
- Hybrid Mode (Pro only): A combination of both modes—the current app stays open and offers better performance.
Once you’ve figured out which method you want to use—I would try them all and see which one works best for you—you’ll have to activate that method in Accessibility settings. This is required in order for the app to take over the button press action. You should get redirected to this menu once you’ve ticked the Blocking Mode option you want.
If at any point you decide to change modes, you’ll have to allow Accessibility options again. Since each method has its own Accessibility entry, you’ll have to do this each time you change. (Only one mode can be activated at a time in Accessibility.)
With that out of the way, you’re ready to set your custom action. Click the first option under the “Remap Button” sections—the default setting is to launch Google Assistant.
There is a slew of options under this menu—I won’t list them all here to save your eyes, so I’ll leave it up to you to comb through the menu and figure out what you want from the Bixby button. I personally set mine to launch Google Now.
NOTE: These checkboxes can be slightly misleading, but you can only select one action at a time.
That’s pretty much all there is to it for the most part. The only other thing worth mentioning is that the most recent update for Sprint and T-Mobile S8s blocked all Bixby remapping software, so if you’re having issues getting it to work, you’ll need to tick the “Compatibility Mode” button, which you’ll find in the Experimental subsection at the bottom of the app’s Settings screen. That should fix it.
There are also a couple of other cool options here if you’re using Comfort as your blocking mode: Bixby Shutter, which allows you to use the Bixby button as a shutter button while in the camera, and Toggle Apps, which will open and close apps with the Bixby button. Neat.
All in all, bxActions is a great way to make use of an otherwise useless button on the side of your phone. I call that a win.
Like I said earlier, Samsung doesn’t want these kinds of apps to existing, so the company has sent a few updates that block Bixby button remapping. But the developer community is resilient, so clever workarounds are always just around the corner. If at any point this app stops working, just keep it installed and wait for a patch to roll through, which should fix the issue.