First we had the Alexa-powered Amazon Echo, then Google Home with the Google Assistant. Now a number of big-name brands are getting in on the smart-speaker act, including Panasonic, Sony, Sonos and Apple (with its upcoming HomePod).
Given its efforts to create its own voice assistant that is built into its flagship smartphones, one well-known brand stands out here as being more notably absent than most: Samsung.
Things won't stay that way for long, though, and Samsung has confirmed that such a device is in the works. When questioned over the possibility of a smart speaker, DJ Koh, President of the mobile division, told CNBC "Maybe soon we will announce it. I am already working on it."
Smart speakers are much more than music-streaming devices. They take the immense power of online search to answer any question you want to throw at them, serve up media and help you plan your day. Almost anything you would ask Siri or Google Assistant to do on your phone can be done via a smart speaker, but in a home environment for all the family to enjoy.
What is Bixby?
We answer this question in much greater detail in our related What is Bixby article but, to summarise, Bixby is a new voice assistant that launched on the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+, and is also available on the Note 8, with the phones even featuring a dedicated button on their side to quick-launch the feature. (See how to turn off Bixby Home.)
Bixby is just like Siri, Google Assistant, Cortana and Alexa, a witty companion that can answer your requests. It offers a whole new way to use your smartphone, a new voice interface that can supplement - and to some extent replace - the existing touch interface.
Version 2.0 of Bixby that will fill in the incomplete parts of Bixby 1.0 is expected to be announced at the Samsung Developers Conference on 18 October, but we'll have to wait and see whether this comes alongside some altogether more exciting Bixby news.
When is the Samsung smart speaker release date?
In truth no-one knows exactly when Samsung will unveil its Bixby speaker. However, the WSJ reports that it has been in the works for over a year, and that it is codenamed Vega.
We didn't get a glimpse at IFA event on 30 August, so MWC at the end of February 2018 now seems the most likely. But a launch date this far from now could cause Samsung to miss the boat, with smart speakers expected to top Christmas wishlists this year.
Bixby has been plagued with issues since its announcement, and we’ve only recently (22 August) seen an English-language version of Bixby on the Galaxy S8 and Note 8.
Samsung will be going head-to-head with Apple and its HomePod, which launches in December. So the race is on.
How much will the Bixby speaker cost in the UK?
We think Samsung is likely to position its smart speaker closer to the Apple HomePod than it is the significantly cheaper Google Home (£129) and Amazon Echo (£149). The HomePod will then cost $349 in the US (and likely £349 in the UK) when it becomes available at the end of the year. We’d estimate the Bixby speaker will cost between £299 and £349.
What are the rumoured features and specifications?
Smart speakers typically feature very similar specifications, combining a cylindrical speaker design with multiple noise-cancelling mics, wireless connectivity and a bunch of LEDs that show you it is listening to you. We’d hope to see the Bixby speaker also feature Bluetooth, which is one thing missing from Google Home.
The Bixby speaker will outperform the Google Home and Amazon Echo, according to Dinesh Paliwal, CEO of Harman, speaking to the Korea Herald. The audio firm is making the speaker in partnership with Samsung.
"A significant level of joint research and development of the device is underway. The Samsung speaker will have a better AI platform than Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa," he said.
Paliwal also stated that the speaker will be 'complete platform' and will be able to interact with home appliances and mobile devices stating "What we are going to launch will be a whole new ecosystem."
Very little is known about the upcoming Bixby speaker, but we will update this article when we hear more.
Read next: Google Home vs Amazon Echo vs Apple HomePod