Samsung has been on a bit of a roll with its smartwatches, and rumours are growing about the release of the Samsung Gear S4.
With the arrival of the Fitbit Ionic smartwatch and mounting speculation an Apple Watch Series 3 unveiling is imminent, it's going to be over to Samsung to offer its riposte to Apple, Fitbit and the growing Android Wear army.
IFA UPDATE: Samsung Gear Sport is official - hands on review
Last year, Samsung went with a bigger design, more sporty features and two versions offering something for fitness lovers and admirers of classic-looking watches. But we still got that great rotating bezel and Tizen running the OS show. The Korean tech giant has also been regularly rolling out software updates, adding new watch faces and features to make it even more useful.
So how will Samsung top things in 2017? The Gear S4 will likely land before the end of the year, perhaps with the Samsung Gear Pop hybrid device. It may also land in the form of the Samsung Gear Sport, if an FCC filing is to be believed.
Whatever the case, here's what we think it might look like.
Gear S4: Design
Likely: Time to lose some weight
After giving us the slender Gear S2, Samsung decided to bulk things up for 2016's Gear S3, which was a consequence of adding a host of extra sensors including built-in GPS. We weren't the biggest fans of the jump up in size – but a new innovation could mean a super-slim Gear S4.
Samsung has announced mass production of its Exynos 7 Dual 7270 chipset, which is likely to power its next generation of wearables. It packs a lot of guts, including a 4G LTE modem, into a smaller package than is currently on offer. The result should be slimmer devices, which is definitely music to our ears.
Might happen: Samsung Gear Edge
So we've seen Samsung phones with curved screens, but will the Gear be next in line to get the edge treatment? A patent filed suggests that could well be the case, showing off a thin strip of a display formed on the edge of the dial. It would offer users a shortcut to apps with basic information like the date, time and weather available, too. The display would also only be rotated 90 degrees and is split into an upper and lower section, although it's not clear why.
You should always take patents with a pinch of salt, largely because many ideas end up getting dumped, but Samsung has showcased this kind of design before and is clearly a fan of the idea.
Don't bet on it: Galaxy Wing
Another idea Samsung is keen on is flexible devices, and another patent, revealed last year, outlines a wraparound wearable that's all screen. Samsung has already announced that it plans to launch flexible smartphones, and so a smartwatch version of this design isn't ludicrous to imagine.
Could we see it on the S4? Probably not quite as you see it above, but there may well be some flexible element in there if Samsung is as enthusiastic about this tech as it seems to be.
Samsung Gear S4: Features
Wherefore art thou Bixby?
Samsung's Bixby digital voice assistant has only just launched alongside the Galaxy S8 and S8+ smartphones, but it's already expected to replace S Voice on Samsung's Gear smartwatches, wearables and smart home devices.
Recently, when we asked a Samsung rep if Bixby was coming to the Gear smartwatches in future, he said: "Definitely, Bixby is the assistant that we're going to empower many other Samsung devices with – the watch, the TV, the fridge."
Great, so it's a lock for the Gear S4? Well, don't bank on it, with the rep also noting that there's no specific roadmap for when the fully-fledged Bixby will arrive on wrists. There's also the forthcoming Bixby-powered earbuds, to take on the Apple AirPods, which would be a neat assistant to the Gear S4.
More recently, the full version of Bixby has been the subject of delays, after it has reportedly faced issues understanding English. It also apparently lacks enough data needed to develop deep learning technology. Whether this all affects the potential wearable rollout is unknown, but it certainly isn't a positive step in the Bixby story.
Where does S Patch fit in?
Since it first teased the idea of the dedicated health and wellbeing device back in January 2016 at CES, we've been waiting to see what would become of the S Patch. And while things stayed silent for some time, a FCC listing for the device recently surfaced, indicating Sammy is gearing up to launch an S-Patch 3 to the masses.
Just when that might happen, mind, is obviously unknown. But when it does eventually drop, it could feature some interesting interactivity with the company's next smartwatch, since Bluetooth connectivity is on board for the ride. This could potentially deliver data – such as PPG, skin temperature, galvanic skin response and body fat analysis – in real-time to the Gear S4, which could be fed into the wider S Health picture.
Going big on health?
With the strong possibility Samsung is calling this watch the Gear Sport, health and fitness could be top-line features. In an interview with CNBC, Samsung Mobile chief DJ Koh said: "If we can put in place properly a smartwatch that can monitor everything for your health and provide the information, then the market will grow."
Earlier this year Samsung rebranded S Health to simply Samsung Health, and has been working to improve its health and fitness platform - we expect the Gear S4 to tap into this in a major way, hopefully with some new sensors.
Charging through the phone
As we all know, most traditional smartwatches haven't yet cracked short battery life issues, leaving you prone to a blank screen if you forget to charge for a day or two. But, as a recent Samsung patent indicates, the Gear S4 could make use of a smartphone in order to spring back to life and take on some juice.
Essentially, the device could be charged by a smartphone case simply by resting on top. The case would use a USB-C port to take power from a phone that, in turn, would provide power to the smartwatch using a hidden coil, just by touching it to a conductive plate on the case.
Of course, any patent faces an uphill battle to make it to a finished product, but this would be a nifty addition to help your wrist remain in the loop.
Tizen to return
It was never really a likely proposition that Samsung's next watch didn't run the company's own Tizen OS, but it would appear we now have confirmation.
The Samsung Gear Sport moniker we mentioned earlier has also popped up when passing through the Wi-Fi Alliance, noting that the device will run Tizen 3.0. Whether the Gear S4 and Gear Sport turn out to be the same remains to be seen, but it's almost certain that its own software will be running the show once more.
Read this: Tizen vs Android Wear
Samsung Gear S4: Release date
The last Samsung watch was announced at the end of August last year, though didn't go on sale until November. Samsung has now confirmed to CNBC that it will announced the next Gear smartwatch at IFA 2017, as well as dropping the below tweet. This all means it will get ahead of Apple's next device, which is expected in early September.
What's new in wearables? You're about to find out. Watch live on 08.30.2017 at https://t.co/D1o7wTsE5Hpic.twitter.com/7z0qMrkIQK
— Samsung Mobile (@SamsungMobile) August 28, 2017
What's more, it's expected to announce the new watch alongside the Gear Fit2 Pro, which was accidentally revealed in all its glory on the company's own website, before being pulled down.
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