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Samsung is blocking users from customizing the Galaxy S8's Bixby button

Ahead of the phone’s commercial launch later this week, Samsung has reportedly prevented the Bixby button on its Galaxy S8 from being remapped to perform other functions. It was previously reported that a third-party app could change the button’s purpose; instead of opening Samsung’s personal assistant, perhaps some users would prefer that it trigger Google Assistant, launch the camera, or open a favorite app.

According to a post at XDA Developers, a new firmware update from Samsung now shuts down the ability to remap the Bixby button. Previously, the button’s command was “intercepted” by the Accessibility Services built into Android. That allowed other apps (once granted accessibility permissions by the user) to change its default function. But the latest Galaxy S8 system firmware removes this possibility.

Samsung Galaxy S8

Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

Keep in mind that Bixby on the Galaxy S8 is launching without voice support, which is perhaps the most important core feature of an “assistant” like Siri and Google Assistant. Without voice, Bixby is similar to HTC’s BlinkFeed or the side panel of Google Now. It attempts to show you useful information and the day’s agenda without requiring much from you, the user.

While checking out a demo Galaxy S8 at Best Buy, I noticed that you can turn off the Bixby pane to the left of your home screen — but there’s no way to completely disable Bixby on the device. Pushing the button always takes you to that same screen. So instead of throwing users a bone of convenience and giving them choice as to what a rare extra button on their phone should do, Samsung is insistent that it remain dedicated to Bixby.

Because let’s be honest: once you remapped it, what are the odds you’d ever use Bixby again? It’s quickly becoming the most annoying thing about what otherwise seems to be a stellar smartphone and successful comeback for Samsung.

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