After not getting wearables right for a while — see the original Galaxy Gear for evidence — Samsung really improved things with the Gear S2 and Gear S3, combining great design with a simple interface and that cool rotating bezel. Inevitably, rumors are gathering about a Gear S4 smartwatch, ready to replace the 2016 Gear S3. Here’s what we think we know about it.
Name, release, and pricing
Here’s the all-important details on when we think you’ll be able to buy the watch, and how much it may cost. Before we get to that, there is a chance it may not be called the Gear S4 at all, after a logo with the name Galaxy Watch was registered by Samsung as a trademark in South Korea. Its appearance follows a similar registration in the U.S. in May, which also trademarked the name Galaxy Fit.
It hints Samsung may retire the Gear name and allow its wearables, and potentially other accessories like the Gear VR, to capitalize on the Galaxy brand name’s international popularity and recognition. Samsung used the Galaxy name for its first smartwatches before dropping the Galaxy part to focus on the Gear name. While it’s possible Samsung will use the Galaxy Watch name for its new 2018 wearable, it’s not certain, and the name may be introduced on a future model.
When will we see the watch? In the past, Samsung has announced its newest smartwatches in August and released them shortly before the holiday shopping season begins in November. On June 27, Samsung confirmed its Galaxy Unpacked event for August 9. So, it’s likely the company will show the Gear S4 watch at the event alongside the Galaxy Note 9. If not, our next best guess is that Samsung will get back to its cycle of announcing its wearable lineup at IFA 2018 in August.
Details on pricing are sketchy as well, but we’d expect Samsung to keep at least one of its wearables in the smartwatch sweet spot of $350-400.
Samsung hit a home run with its Tizen OS; but there is confusion over whether it will operate on the Gear S4, as rumors have spread that Samsung will install Google’s Wear OS (formerly Android Wear) on the new watch.
If Tizen is installed — which is most likely — what changes will come with it? It’s possible there will be deep integration of Bixby, after Samsung executives have said the company plans to integrate Bixby into all its products. However, Samsung has never issued a clear road map for this. With the improvements in Bixby with the release of the Galaxy S9 and a rumored Bixby Speaker on the way, it only makes sense we should see it appear in Samsung’s wearables in the near future.
In addition to Bixby integration it appears Samsung has some other tricks up its sleeve for the Gear S4. A report from SamMobile states the company is vastly improving its sleep and fitness tracking technology for the Gear S4.
What about Wear OS? In May, according to a recent tweet by mobile leaker Evan Blass, Samsung employees had been spotted wearing Gear smartwatches that are running Wear OS instead of Tizen. However, a follow-up tweet from Blass said these were one-off devices made by Google for selected Samsung employees, and not prototypes of a future watch.
Seen on the wrists of Samsung employees: Gear watches running not Tizen, but Wear OS.
— Evan Blass (@evleaks) May 23, 2018
In July, a tweet from tech leaker Ice Universe also mentioned the Gear S4/Galaxy Watch will run Wear OS, but did not go into detail on the situation. For this reason, it still remains unclear if Samsung will swap out its own operating system for Google’s Wear OS.
While we have yet to see any leaked images or design hints about the Gear S4 (who knows, maybe it will be a pocket watch), Samsung may have been concentrating its efforts on that big wearable pain point: Better battery life. A patent filing in the United States suggests Samsung will use a special case to recharge a smartwatch, or other wireless charging device, on the move, simply by putting the two together — extending battery life without using a larger battery or reducing features.
The patent describes a case, which looks like a regular folio case, with a wireless charging system inside and a USB Type-C connector that links it to the phone. Concentrating on the applications with the watch, it appears the two must be in contact with each other to activate charging. It may not happen over a distance, and so the watch, when on your wrist, won’t charge from a phone in your pocket. That’s a shame, but it results from a restriction of inductive wireless charging systems. For real short-range wireless charging, we’ll have to wait until systems like Energous are perfected.
Battery cases are often bulky, and it’s not clear whether the system uses the phone’s battery or one in the new case. The latter would be best, as it could charge up your phone, too. If you buy a smartwatch, you’ll want to make use of it, which you can’t do if it’s out of battery. The use of GPS is also becoming more common on smartwatches, and is notoriously power hungry. Topping up the battery without the need to carry around another charger, or find a power outlet, after a run or other sporting event would be a definite benefit.
Before we get too excited, however, it’s worth remembering that patents are filed all the time, and not all of them end up becoming final products. This one doesn’t specifically mention the Gear S4, but the timing may be more than coincidental. It also doesn’t provide solid detail about how the technology will work. It does sound viable though, and isn’t too futuristic. After all, the Gear S3 uses wireless charging now, through its own dock.
In terms of specs, there’s not a lot to go on right now. While we’re definitely anticipating a processor bump for the Gear S4, things are a little dicey. While Apple continues to update its processor each year for the Apple Watch, it seems like Qualcomm has all but abandoned its wearables processors. The company’s last processor, Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100, was already outdated upon its release over two years ago.
There is hope, however. In 2016 Samsung created its own wearables chip, the Exynos 7 Dual 7270. The chip used a much more efficient 14-nanometer processor scale as opposed to the 28-nanometer scale used by the Snapdragon Wear 2100. In addition to being more efficient, the Exynos chip also takes up less room, allowing for more battery space. While the Exynos 7 Dual 7270 is definitely a step up from the current generation Snapdragon wearables processor, we’d anticipate a newer chip for the Samsung Gear S4.
Speaking of batteries, we anticipate Samsung will improve the overall battery life of the upcoming Gear S4. A tweet from tech leaker Ice Universe said the watch will have a 470mAh cell, up from the 380mAh cell in the Gear S3. A smaller, more-efficient processor is another way the next Samsung wearable could gain some much needed battery life, plus there’s also some more novel possibilities such as a secondary battery in the watch strap.
While there’s still lots of details to be filled in, we’ll continue to keep you up to date as we learn more about the upcoming Samsung Gear S4.
Updated July 10: Samsung may call the Gear S4 the Galaxy Watch.