Samsung has been on a bit of a roll with its smartwatches. The Gear S2 and then the Gear S3 have somewhat made up from the more underwhelming launches of pretty much every other Gear smartwatch that came before them. That includes its one and only Android Wear effort.
With the rumours and speculation already rumbling about the Apple Watch Series 3, which is expected to launch later this year, it's going to be over to Samsung to offer its riposte to Cupertino's third-generation smartwatch.
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, and here's what it might look like.
Time to lose some weight
After giving us the slender Gear S2, Samsung decided to bulk things up for the Gear S3, likely to compensate for the addition of a whole host of sensors including built-in GPS. We weren't the biggest fans of the jump up in size, but Samsung could squeeze that tech into a smaller body again after announcing mass production of its Exynos 7 Dual 7270 chipset at the end of last year.
Highly likely to power its next generation of wearables, the 7270 packs a lot of guts, including a 4G LTE modem, into a smaller package than what's currently on offer. The result should be slimmer devices, which is definitely music to our ears.
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.
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 of this design isn't ludicrous to imagine.
Could we see it on the S4? Probably not 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 makes out to be.
Android Wear in the house?
Okay so this one sounds pretty unlikely, especially after Samsung ditched Google's operating system after the Gear Live, which debuted Android Wear alongside the LG G Watch.
But some crafty folks over at the XDA Developers forum have been working on porting Android Wear to the Gear S3.
Read this: Tizen vs Android Wear
Despite the lack of app support action, Tizen is a pretty slick operating system, although the prospect of seeing what Wear could bring to the table might mean those at Samsung HQ keep an open mind. We doubt it would ditch Tizen at this point, but it could offer an Android Wear device alongside.
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 is 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, it's unclear, with the rep also noting that there's no specific roadmap for when the fully-fledged Bixby will arrive on wrists.
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, mind, is obviously unknown. When it does eventually drop, it could feature some interesting functionality 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.
When will we see it?
The last Samsung watch was announced at the end of August last year, though didn't go on sale until November. That meant it could drop the announcement ahead of Apple's and let people know they had another option on its way. We expect that Samsung will drop the Gear S4 around the same time, perhaps using IFA once again to make a grand entrance.
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