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Samsung: You Can't Change Bixby Button

If you thought that the Galaxy S8's dedicated button for activating the Bixby digital assistant could be put to other uses, let Samsung disabuse you of that notion. The company has apparently issued a software update that prevents users from remapping the button to activate anything other than Bixby.

That's the word from XDA Developers, a developer-focused site, which was tipped off to the updated Galaxy S8 software by a developer working to update his app to support remapping the button on Samsung's newly unveiled phone.

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The possibility of remapping the Galaxy S8's Bixby button first popped up shortly after the S8 was unveiled in late March. A video posted to YouTube showed the button remapped to launch Google Assistant. And the developer behind the app Button Mapper was also working on adding remapping support.

A software update from Samsung, however, has taken away the ability to remap the button — if it could ever be said to have existed in the first place. In promoting the Galaxy S8, Samsung never indicated that the button below the volume controls would be able to work with anything other than Bixby. And in a tweet confirming the software update, a Samsung spokesman described the ability to remap the Bixby button as "exploiting a system level behavior.

"I can't say for sure why this behavior changed," Samsung's Philip Berne said in a subsequent tweet, "but I can say that we are not supporting remapping that button."

In one sense, it's a shame, as power users in particular might welcome the ability to customize their phones. On the other hand, Samsung's staking a lot on Bixby with the Galaxy S8 and wants to make sure that users are tapping into the digital assistant.

Bixby is one of the marquee features on the Galaxy S8 and S8+, even though the digital assistant's most noteworthy capability — voice control over many Galaxy S8 tasks — won't be available when the phones ship later this week. (Samsung plans to add voice control support in a software update later this spring.) You can use Bixby to set reminders and look up information; the Bixby Vision feature, which adds object recognition features to the S8's camera, will also work at launch.

Philip Michaels
Philip Michaels is a senior editor at Tom's Guide. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics and old movies. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.