Samsung may bring its fancy 6GB Galaxy S8 to North America

The higher-storage Galaxy S8 may come to North Ame…

Read more: Samsung may bring its fancy 6GB Galaxy S8 to North America

One of the Galaxy S8's most important features won't be available at launch

Bixby Voice is only going to be launched in the spring.

Samsung has come out ahead of the Galaxy S8 launch to say that Bixby Voice, one of the cornerstone features of the new phone's AI assistant, won't be available until sometime this spring.

With its intelligent interface and contextual awareness, Bixby will make your phone more helpful by assisting in completing tasks, telling you what you're looking at, learning your routine and remembering what you need to do. Key features of Bixby, including Vision, Home and Reminder, will be available with the global launch of the Samsung Galaxy S8 on April 21. Bixby Voice will be available in the U.S. on the Galaxy S8 later this spring.

In a statement, the company says while some Bixby features, including the clever Vision contextual camera helper, the Home interface embedded in the launcher, and Reminder, a place to store notes and to-dos, will be available when the phone goes on sale April 21, the ability to navigate the phone's UI and perform actions using voice won't come until "later this spring."

Samsung is making it clear Bixby isn't just a Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa or Apple Siri competitor, but "a conceptually new philosophy to the problem [of virtual interaction]," according to a blog post written by the company last month. "It is the machine that needs to learn and adapt to us." This is a very hard thing to do, and is likely why Samsung wants to make sure the experience is great for everyone.

In her briefing with Samsung last month prior to the phone's announcement, Florence Ion described Bixby Voice as "your own 'push to talk' for artificial intelligence."

It's not a search engine like Google Assistant; it is an assistant, and it can navigate around your smartphone the way that you normally would with your own fingertips. Bixby will support almost every task you ask it to do, like cropping a photo, applying a filter, or sharing it with your favorite social network. Eventually, you'll be able to talk Bixby through your process without looking at the screen at all.

Bixby is also supposed to complete tasks, even if you don't shout out the entire command. The idea is that as it's learning what you do with your device, it's also learning how to stay three steps ahead in anticipating what's next. And if it doesn't understand everything that you asked, it can get you most of the way there instead of failing and asking you to try again.

Samsung isn't saying what is holding up the release of Bixby Voice, which will only be available in the U.S. and Korea when it launches, but we expect it is being done with ample weight on the effects of this announcement.…

Read more: One of the Galaxy S8's most important features won't be available at launch

Google has completely messed up Assistant's 'shopping list' feature

I don't have Google Home or Google Express. Why make my experience worse?

Starting April 10, Google moved Assistant's excellent shopping list feature from Keep to Express, which means that users that rely on Google Keep, like me, to track shopping items are going to have a harder time.

The gist is this: Google is pushing its Home speaker and Express delivery service to make it relatively easy for people to save a shopping list and fulfil the order in one fell swoop. That's great, because Google Assistant is awesome for that. Until recently, asking Google Home, or Google Assistant on your phone to "add eggs to my shopping list" would automatically populate a running list in Google Keep. So far, so good, since Keep is ubiquitous, available on the web or mobile, and is saved offline in case you're somewhere that doesn't have internet service.

With this change, Google now saves the list to either the Google Home app, or Google Express. If you have neither, the list opens a Chrome tab, which is only accessible through a mobile browser and has no actual desktop web presence. It's also not available offline.

For someone like me, who has access to neither Google Home nor Google Express, this change is for the worse. The kicker, too, is that using the Google search tab on your phone, either from a browser or in the "Feed," saves your written requests to... Google Keep. Yes, the confusion is real.

Also, why won't Google Assistant let me add pears?…

Read more: Google has completely messed up Assistant's 'shopping list' feature

Android and SD cards: The Ultimate Guide

Everything you ever wanted to know about SD cards and your phone.

Android has supported SD cards since the G1 started it all. The overall idea is simple enough — slap an SD card in your phone and expand the storage so you have room for more stuff. While this is mostly the case, there are a few things to know about, especially before you go out and buy one.

We've rounded up everything you need to know about buying and using an SD card with your Android to try and make everything as simple as it can be.

SD card form factors

Before you do anything, make sure your phone can use an SD card! Since so many different companies make Android phones in so many different models, you will run across some that don't have a slot for a card. Phones from Google are this way, and every name you recognize when it comes to making phones has made at least one model that doesn't have support for an SD card. If you're not sure, poke around the outside of your phone to see if any doors or flaps open up, or grab the manual out of the box and see what it says.

Phones use the smallest microSD card form factor.

Once you've got that sorted, you need to make sure you get the right type of SD card. For your Android phone, you're looking for the microSD form factor. SD cards come in three different sizes. An SD card is the biggest — a little larger than a postage stamp — and is used for things like standalone cameras. The Mini SD form factor is about half the size of a full SD card and they aren't very popular. Chances are you won't ever buy anything that needs a Mini SD card. The microSD card is about the size of your fingernail and the one we're looking for.

When you buy a microSD card, you often get an adapter in the package. The smaller card slides into the adapter so it can fit into something that needs a full-size card — like your computer — as well as something like your phone that needs a microSD card. Keep track of this, because it's pretty handy when transferring pictures or video from your phone to your computer.

SD card storage versions

There is a method to the madness of all those letters you see.

The next thing you need to know is the storage version. You can buy microSD cards, microSDHC cards, and microSDXC cards. A microSD card was designed to hold up to 2GB of information, though a few 4GB versions are available that work outside of the specifications. microSDHC cards (Secure Digital High Capacity) are designed to hold up to 32GB of data. microSDXC (Secure Digital eXtra Capacity) cards are designed to hold between 32GB and 2TB of data. It's important to know what version your phone can use. Most modern phones — Android or otherwise — will be able to use a microSDHC card. Many newer phones are capable of using a microSDXC card.

There are no easy-to-see differences between a phone that can use a microSDXC card and one that can't. You'll need to consult the documentation that came with your phone or hop into the forums and ask other folks who have already found the answer. The versions are backward compatible (a microSDXC card slot can use a microSD or microSDHC card) but there is no forwards compatibility, and if your phone can't use a microSDXC card, it won't ever work.

SD card speed classes

No card is going to be as fast as the listed maximum.

You need to understand the speed class ratings. Those are the numbers and letters you see printed on the card and the packaging. The short version is to never buy one with a number lower than 10 when it comes to speed class, and if you use a phone with a 4K camera, go even faster and look for a UHS class card.

We've broken down the specifics of what all this really means and which you need, and you can read that right here:

Everything you need to know about SD card speeds and your phone

Adoptable storage and you

You'll probably see people talking about adoptable storage when SD cards and Android are in the conversation. It's a really neat thing that your phone probably doesn't have and chances are you're better off for it.

The idea is to use a fast SD card and make it a permanent part of the system. Once it goes in, it never can come out or all your stuff stops working. It's also a part of the phone it came out of and nothing else will be able to use it unless you reformat it and start over.

This, and concerns about performance, is why most companies making Android phones don't let you use Adoptable storage without hacking it in yourself. On Android things that aren't phones — like the NVIDIA Shield TV for example — you can plug in USB stick drives or hard drives and "adopt" them into the system. This makes a little more sense and a 500GB USB drive is a great match for your Android TV box. We go into details at the link below.

Everything you need to know about your SD card and Adoptable storage

Should I encrypt my SD card?

This is one of those things that if you have to ask, the answer is usually no.

SD card encryption is a great way to make sure nobody can see anything you have stored on your card without being able to sign into your phone, but there are a few drawbacks:

  • It takes a little longer to read something from or write something to the SD card. Not a lot but it's a definite thing.
  • You can't take the card out and do something like transfer pictures and music from a computer.
  • If your phone dies, you've lost everything on the card because your phone is the only thing that can decrypt it.

Keep all this in mind if you decide to try it, and make sure to have a good plan to keep your data backed up somewhere else.

Quick Q&A

  • How should I format my SD card? Insert it into your phone and follow the instructions in the notification you get. Since there are several different file formats an SD card can use, you should let the phone pick the one it wants. Don't worry, your card will still work in a computer to copy files.
  • Do SD cards go bad? Yes, but that's becoming less of a thing with recent cards. Your SD card has a limited amount of times it can be read from and written to before it starts to have errors. If you start to get errors when you are using it, consider buying a new one before it goes bad. As mentioned, newer cards last longer than cards from just a few years ago.
  • Is my SD card waterproof? Maybe. It will say on the packaging if it is designed to get wet.…

Read more: Android and SD cards: The Ultimate Guide

Google's AutoDraw can help turn a disastrous doodle into a masterpiece

It's exceptionally fun to use and you can save your project when you're finished.

Do you like to doodle? I find it particularly difficult to do so with just my mouse on the screen, but fortunately, Google has artificial intelligence that can help effectively translate what it is I'm attempting to draw.

Google's automated drawing bot is called AutoDraw and it's available to play with right now. The browser-based bot is based on the Quick, Draw! experiment launched some time ago and, per the introductory video, it's meant as a "drawing tool for the rest of us."

AutoDraw is exceptionally responsive and easy to use, though not always accurate. Select the Auto Draw tool to see suggestions as you're drawing. Once the Google's intelligence engine catches on to what you're attempting to do, you can select the image that's closest to what you're going for to convert your scrawl into passable clip art. Here are a few examples of mine, both of which I drew without the aid of a stylus.

Behold, my attempt at drawing with AutoDraw.

You don't have to hang with the artificial intelligence engine if you don't want to either. There's a "free draw" tool, which lets you create without Google looking over your shoulder. When you're finished practicing your Picasso skills, you can save and share your creation as a PNG file. And the best part is that AutoDraw works inside the browser on both your computer and mobile device.…

Read more: Google's AutoDraw can help turn a disastrous doodle into a masterpiece