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 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, perhaps with the Samsung Gear Pop hybrid device, and here's what 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, that's unclear, 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.
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. 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.
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.
Android Wear to return?
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.
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. That meant it could drop the announcement ahead of Apple's (expected in September) 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 from 30 August, once again to make a grand entrance.