Samsung’s next watch could lean on health features and better battery life. Could it also get a new name?

Sarah Tew/CNET
Samsung’s next big event is coming soon, and the Note 9 is expected to make its official debut there. But Samsung might also reveal a new smartwatch, too.

It’s been a while since Samsung had a new, big watch release. The Gear S3arrived 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.

August 9 is Samsung’s Unpacked 2018 in New York City, and CNET will be there. If there is a new smartwatch, it might look a little something like this.

The massive Samsung Gear S3 had decent battery life, but the Gear S4 could be sleeker.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Better battery life

Whether it’s a bigger battery or a more efficient processor, expect the next Gear S4 watch 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.

Samsung’s already done curved-screen smartwatches (Gear Fit 2 Pro). What’s next?

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

A sleeker design and 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 mega-watch 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 like the Gear Fit have explored curved displays, so this is not outside the realm of possibility.

A new name?

Maybe it won’t be called the Gear S4. Some rumors say it could become the Samsung Galaxy Watch, which would fit into Samsung’s existing galaxy of Galaxy products. Or, maybe the “Galaxy Watch” name is referring to a separate Google Wear OS version of the watch that would coexist alongside the Gear S4.

Samsung watches could make calls years before the Apple Watch.

Sarah Tew/CNET

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.

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. Perhaps it could measure blood pressure: Samsung’s latest Galaxy S9 phoneshave an experimental blood-pressure-measuring sensor on the back that’s been in trials over the last few months.

Samsung Gear Sport
Last year’s Samsung Gear Sport was fitness-focused, with added water resistance for swimming.

Sarah Tew/CNET

…What about Bixby?

Well, what about it? Samsung’s onboard AI on its phones and a growing halo of products seems inevitable on the Gear S4, especially since Gear watches run Samsung’s own software ecosystem. Bixby would be a step up from S-Voice, but Google Assistant would be nicer.

Could it run Google’s Wear OS software?

One set of reports say Samsung’s next watch will run Google’s Wear OS, instead of Samsung’s Tizen-based software. That would be a surprising shift, but not impossible. 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 made one of the first Android Wear watches, Gear Live. Another possibility: Samsung has a Gear S4 that runs Tizen, and another variant of the watch designed for Wear OS. 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 will likely use Samsung-made Exynos processors like previous models.

Will it arrive alongside the Note 9? Maybe. But either way, it’s coming soon

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 IFAnot at Samsung’s upcoming August 9 event in New York. But we don’t know yet. However, it might make sense for Samsung to discuss it alongside a new phone if new onboard health features tie into S Health feature on phones.


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