The wearable tech bandwagon had barely got out of first gear before Samsung was jumping aboard, two thumbs up and a big ol' grin across its face.
Samsung's early efforts were admirably for how bold they are, but not always the most refined. Things have come a long way since the 2013 released Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch and its camera-hosting strap protrusion, however. Now, four years on, the Korean manufacturer may not be top of the pack when it comes to fitness tracker and smartwatch sales but it's still one of the biggest players in the wearable tech space, offering connected self tech for your wrist, ears and eyes.
We sat down with Mark Notton, Samsung's European head of product management, to see exactly what the future holds for Samsung wearables.
The whole body is up for grabs
When it comes to wearables, Samsung isn't happy leaving the heavy lifting to the likes of Apple and Fitbit. Instead, not only does it plan to launch multiple new devices this year, but it believes the new devices will be innovative enough to see others copy its lead.
"It's a key area of focus for us," Notton said of the wearable tech space. "It's clear to us that the wearable market continues to grow year-on-year and we're in a position where we can influence that."
Samsung has teased that it has new devices coming in 2017 to keep things progressing at a steady rate. The tech giant's upcoming devices won't just focus on efforts for the head and wrist, either. Discussing how wearables could be brought to other parts of the body, he teased: "It's all up for grabs."
The company already believes its had one of the most pronounced effects on the shape of the wearable space, most notably on the VR front.
"We've sold one million Gear VRs across Europe already, five million worldwide, and have had a huge impact on the market," Notton told us. "Without us doing that, you'd be sat here and maybe there would have been a Daydream launch and nothing else. Last year was just the start. We look forward to another great year with VR as a key part of our core strategy."
Accessories and apps for the Gear VR
While not the only focus for the coming year, VR will once again play a key role in Samsung's 2017 wearables push. At MWC last month, we were treated to a Gear VR headset that comes equipped with its own bundled controller. As well as making it easier to engage with objects in the virtual world, this is just phase one of the company's latest VR efforts.
"At the moment, VR is at the very early stages," Notton said. "We are continually looking at ways to improve the experience. We will continue to bring out enhancements in Gear VR."
On this front, Notton has suggested that the new handheld controller is just the first of many new VR-friendly first-party peripherals and add ons that will drop this year. Samsung's own C-Lab teams are already developing everything from handheld controllers to a headband that generates heat and touch sensations for VR.
"You'll probably see other peripherals come out to support it," he told us. "We're committed to VR as one of the core messages that we go through this year. We obviously have our 360 camera [the Gear 360], so we're taking it all the way from users creating their own content that can be viewed in VR.
"If you only have the controller on the side of the headset and you use it for a length of time, your arm starts to get sore. So we thought OK, let's develop a controller. It's a more natural and less uncomfortable solution."
Despite teasing new VR accessories, Notton suggested that it will be software more than hardware that kicks VR to the next level. Again, three new Gear VR apps were shown off at MWC last month as C-Lab projects.
"In terms of how we're moving forward, the big thing that you'll see this year is different applications of the technology rather than step changes to the hardware," he said.
"We have shown people what is possible with the hardware, but what you will see in the consumer and enterprise space will be app developers developing custom apps so you can have different experiences and use VR in even ways we don't think is possible.
"When Android first launched there were limited apps and limited games, as it continues to develop, the ecosystem will continue to get broader, and there will be more solutions to entice people to come and buy even more."
A refined Gear smartwatch design
Despite the Samsung Gear S3 having only dropped in September, the Korean manufacturer has already started planning its next smartwatch efforts.
Unlike the company's smartphone efforts, however, Samsung has confirmed that its smartwatches won't head down a features-based specs race route, with annual updates crowbarring in unnecessary gimmicks and unwanted yet costly additions. Instead, quizzed on how it plans to push its smartwatch efforts forward, Notton was clear on what the manufacturer has planned.
"We need to continue to refine the design," he told us. "What you see from the Gear S3 is we had different iterations of just getting that tech on the wrist in any form factor and then you iterate and refine."
Pressed on the matter, Notton suggested that "refining the design" was the company's core focus, suggesting the Gear S3's rotating bezel and traditional styling will remain.
An accessory for the Galaxy S8?
It won't be years until we start to see these tweaked smartwatch designs filtering through either. According to the Samsung product head, these new devices will start to drop in the coming months.
"You'll see, as we go through the year, that there will be more and more wearable products that come from Samsung that we will launch," he told us.
There's a chance that we could even see new Samsung wearables later this month. With the company having confirmed that it will unveil its next flagship phone, the eagerly awaited Samsung Galaxy S8, on 29 March, according to Notton, this might not be all that the firm has to unveil.
"We have got lots to unveil and show you," he hinted while discussing the upcoming event, suggested more than one new device was on the cards.
Despite his tantalising tease, he failed to namedrop any specific device or offer further insight into what we might all be treated to. The latest web leaks suggest a Samsung Gear Fit Pro is likely and the logo for its new Bixby voice assistant has already leaked online. Its Samsung Gear IconX earbuds, too, could be due an upgrade - they launched last June. Until the end of March then, we'll have to just keep waiting for the next wave of Samsung wearables. Only a few weeks to go.
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