Samsung are planning on releasing their first ever smart speaker and rival to the Amazon Echo in the first half of next year, according to reports.
People familiar with the plans said the Bixby-powered device will synchronise TVs, smartphones like the Galaxy S8 and Note 8, and other Samsung gadgets.
Bixby is Samsung’s digital assistant that rivals Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and the Google Assistant.
The Samsung smart speaker will allegedly also have a strong focus on audio quality as well as managing connected smart appliances like lights and locks.
The Samsung gadget is expected to have a price point around $ 200 (£149), according to sources who spoke to Bloomberg.
This would position the device as more expensive than the Amazon Echo, but considerably less than Apple’s upcoming HomePod which will cost $ 349.
Samsung executive DJ Koh said back in August that the South Korean tech giant was working on a smart speaker without sharing any extra details.
Patrick Chomet, another Samsung executive, is believed to be heading up the project.
A source said one prototype of the Samsung smart speaker that is being tested is between the size of the latest Amazon Echo and the HomePod.
Samsung are expected to release their Bixby-powered smart speaker in a variety of different colours.
The prototype seen was in matte black, and like the HomePod lights up on the top for visual feedback to the user.
The news comes as leaks have claimed that Samsung could be about to fix one of the worst features of the Galaxy S8 with the S9.
The Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus were the smartphones that the Bixby voice assistant made its debut on.
The S8 and S8 Plus’s successor is set to be revealed early next year, with reveals rumoured for either CES or the Mobile World Congress.
The Galaxy S8 and S8+ were a critical and commercial success, but there was one feature that some fans weren’t happy with.
The fingerprint scanner for the Galaxy S8 and S8+ was placed right next to the smartphone’s camera.
This meant it was easy for users to smudge the camera when they were trying to unlock their phone.
It had been rumoured that Samsung would try to address this by giving the Galaxy S9 a 3D depth-sensing front camera to enable facial recognition.
If that sounds at all familiar, it’s probably because the front-facing 3D depth-sensor is one of the flagship features on the Apple iPhone X.
This new sensor system powers Face ID, which unlocks the iPhone X and authenticates contactless payments by scanning the user’s face.
But an alleged leaked schematic for the Galaxy S9 appears to dispel this rumour, showing Samsung are sticking to the fingerprint scanner – for now.
According to the drawings that leaked on Chinese social network Weibo, the fingerprint scanner is getting moved.
The drawings are for the Samsung Galaxy S9, with no mention of the larger S9 Plus model.
It shows a back panel with a vertically-aligned camera and what looks like a fingerprint sensor underneath it.
It remains to be seen if this solves the issue of the camera getting smudged when users unlock the S9, or if the problem persists in spite of it.