Samsung's Bixby smart speaker to take on Apple HomePod in second half of 2018

In the midst of all the Galaxy S9 news dominating MWC 2018, Samsung’s mobile president DJ Koh also took time to confirm long-standing rumors of a Samsung smart speaker. 

As first reported by the Wall Street Journal, Samsung will release a “premium” Bixby smart speaker in the second half of 2018. Koh’s announcement contradicted an earlier report from Bloomberg that it would sell the speaker early in the year. 

Presumably, this speaker will connect with Samsung’s SmartThings network to control all your smart home devices via voice assistant commands through the Bixby platform. Unfortunately, actual details on the device’s appearance or capabilities haven’t been announced. 

What we do know is that Samsung doesn’t intend for its speaker to compete with bargain smart speakers like Amazon Echo Spot. “I want to focus on more premium,” Koh told the WSJ. 

A tale of two speakers?

Samsung's Project Ambience speaker prototype may not be the 'premium' device sold in 2018

Samsung's Project Ambience speaker prototype may not be the 'premium' device sold in 2018

Just two months ago, insiders at Samsung claimed that the Bixby speaker would sell for $200 (about £150/AU$250), and were openly planning on undercutting the Apple HomePod price of $350 (about £250/AU$450). Have plans radically changed since then?

Last year, Samsung showed off a speaker prototype called “Project Ambience” that was meant to compete with Google Home Mini. It had a built-in mic and a 3.5mm auxiliary jack, which would connect to existing speakers and give the devices smart capabilities. 

We speculated that Samsung’s early-2018 speaker would be the final version of that prototype. Now, with the only official Samsung announcement stating its “premium” device will come out in late 2018, maybe the bargain speaker model has been abandoned. 

WSJ did report that the Bixby speaker could have different pricing tiers, indicating that a more affordable version with fewer features could release alongside the premium device. But Project Ambience is more of an accessory than a lower-tier device. We’ll have to wait for more concrete details to know more. 

Samsung isn’t the only major tech company focusing on luxury speakers to avoid a bargain speaker war with Amazon and Google

Facebook’s smart speakers releasing in mid-2018, codenamed Aloha and Fiona, could sell for as high as $499 (about £360, AU$640). We’ll have to wait and see how Samsung’s Bixby speaker compares. 

MWC (Mobile World Congress) is the world's largest exhibition for the mobile industry, stuffed full of the newest phones, tablets, wearables and more. TechRadar is reporting live from Barcelona all week to bring you the very latest from the show floor. Head to our dedicated MWC 2018 hub to see all the new releases, along with TechRadar's world-class analysis and buying advice about your next phone. 

Michael Hicks

Michael Hicks began his freelance writing career with TechRadar in 2016, covering emerging tech like VR and self-driving cars. Nowadays, he works as a staff editor for Android Central, but still writes occasional TR reviews, how-tos and explainers on phones, tablets, smart home devices, and other tech.