It’s been a while since Samsung had a new, big watch release. The Gear S3 arrived late in 2016, while a sport-oriented smaller model, the Samsung Gear Sport, launched last fall alongside a slimmer curved-display fitness tracker, the Gear Fit 2 Pro, with many of the same features. It could also leapfrog other hot watches this fall by being announced ahead of the next Apple Watch, and Google’s expected Wear OS smartwatch.
Aug. 9 is Samsung’s Unpacked 2018 in New York, and CNET will be there. Here’s what we think we know about Samsung’s next smartwatch so far.
A name shift: Goodbye Gear, hello Galaxy?
Originally, we assumed the watch would be called the Samsung Gear S4, following previous Samsung watches. But the latest reports increasingly say the name’s shifted to Samsung Galaxy Watch. It would fit into Samsung’s existing galaxy of Galaxy products. (Does this mean that Samsung Gear VR would eventually become Samsung Galaxy VR, too?)
Previous reports also suggested the Galaxy Watch name shift, but in a watch running Google’s Wear OS. Which brings us to another question…
Will it run Tizen, Google’s Wear OS software… or both?
Samsung has followed its own smartwatch path with proprietary software, a whole unique Tizen-based OS and apps that’s run separately from Google’s Wear OS watch ecosystem (formerly Android Wear). The latest reports suggest the Galaxy Watch will run Tizen, in a new 4.0 version.
But previous rumors from noted Samsung leaker Ice Universe said Samsung’s watch would run Google’s Wear OS.
What if both rumors are right? There’s a possibility that Samsung is readying one version now, and another running Google’s Wear OS later.
It’s not impossible, or even all that crazy. Samsung makes Windows 10 PCs, Google Chromebooks and Gear VR headsets running Oculus mobile software. It’s not afraid to play with other company’s OSes. Also, Samsung has done this before: It made one of the first Android Wear watches, Gear Live, even while making a separate Tizen-based smartwatch, the Samsung Gear 2.
Google’s expected to launch a new set of redesigned Wear OS watches this fall, but those watches will have Qualcomm processors, while Samsung’s watches could use Samsung-made Exynos processors like previous models.
Samsung’s AI is on its phones and a growing halo of products, and it seems inevitable like it’ll be on Samsung’s newest watch, too. SamMobile’s report of the Galaxy Watch running Tizen 4.0 also says Bixby comes standard as the watch’s voice assistant. (Is there any chance Google Assistant will be on tap, too?)
A similar size to last year’s Gear Sport
Droid Life noticed FCC filings for the Galaxy Watch that seem to confirm a 1.2-inch display, which matches last year’s nicely sized Samsung Gear Sport, and would be smaller than the Samsung Gear S3.
The most likely outcome: The Gear S3’s more ambitious set of features might end up being thrown into a watch that’s smaller and more Gear Sport-sized.
Better battery life?
Whether it’s a bigger battery or a more efficient processor, expect the next Samsung smartwatch to improve on past performance. Samsung’s watches have actually done better than average, and the Gear S3 released in 2016 could already handle several days on a charge. But the Gear S3 is a big watch. Last year’s Gear Sport traded out some features like speakerphone calling for a smaller size. Samsung’s watches already have onboard sleep tracking much like Fitbit and Garmin watches do, but better battery life would still help.
Ice Universe’s recent tweet (above) claims the new battery is 470 mAh. The Samsung Gear S3 Frontier from 2016 (pictured above) has a battery capacity of 380 mAh, and the Samsung Gear Sport’s battery is 300 mAh.
Could it have a sleeker design or a wild new display?
Last year’s Gear Sport brought Samsung’s smartwatches into a slimmer, more universally appealing design range instead of the Gear S3’s megawatch feel. Lots of reports point to some crazy new display ideas which would be very Samsung. The new watch could have a second display in the rotating bezel, indicating modes or extra features. A frequently linked-to patent from 2017 shows a second-screen curved edge that could offer second readouts on the sides, like the curved OLED edges Samsung’s Galaxy and Note phones have had for years.
Samsung’s prowess is in its OLED display tech, and previous smartwatches such as the Gear Fit have explored curved displays, so this is not outside the realm of possibility.
A new type of UX, indicated by previous Ice Universe tweets, could come along with a new display innovation. Right now, this seems like more of a wild card possibility.
LTE calling should be back
Samsung made phone-enabled smartwatches before anyone else, and while last year’s Gear Sport left the feature out, it’s likely to return now that Apple Watch S3 has been featuring cellular calling for months. Droid Life reports that LTE will indeed be on-board, but that a Wi-Fi-only model will exist, too.
Three colors, at least
Black, silver, gold: These could be your Samsung Galaxy Watch color options, according to SamMobile. The June report also suggests two different designs, which could flex into Sport and Classic variants, or something similar. (Samsung has had design variations on its watches in the past, notably with the Gear S2 and S3.)
Added health features
Samsung added telemedicine into the company’s Samsung Health phone app in 2017 via a partnership with Amwell, a US-based telemedicine service. There’s a strong chance that Samsung’s next watch would introduce new sensors, too: perhaps enhanced heart-rate sensors that could aspire to tracking atrial fibrillation or sleep apnea like Apple and Fitbit are aiming for. Maybe it could measure blood pressure: Samsung’s latest Galaxy S9 phones have an experimental blood-pressure-measuring sensor on the back that’s been in trials over the last few months, and more recent rumors suggest blood pressure sensing of some sort onboard the next watch.
Last year’s Gear Sport cost $300 (£299, or AU$499) when it debuted last fall, and the more full-featured Gear S3 Frontier cost around $350 for the cellular-equipped version in 2016. This seems like a reasonable territory to expect for the next model, with or without cellular onboard.
It looks like it’s arriving alongside the Note 9
Recent reports say a new Samsung watch has already been certified in Europe, indicating something imminent. It could be unveiled in late August in Berlin at IFA, not at Samsung’s upcoming Aug. 9 event in New York.
The latest report from ZDNet South Korea now says the Samsung Galaxy Watch will indeed appear with the Note 9, and go on sale in late August ahead of Apple’s expected September Apple Watch reveal, and Google’s fall smartwatch revamp.
It makes ample sense for Samsung to unveil the Galaxy Watch alongside a new phone, especially if new onboard health features tie into an updated Health mobile app.
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