It hasn’t been as easy to sell smartwatches as anyone had hoped. Even the Apple Watch hasn’t been a runaway success. Samsung was one of the first large electronics firms to launch smartwatches running Google’s Android Wear (now Wear OS), but it pulled back to focus on its own Tizen-based wearables. Now, long-time leaker Evan Blass says Samsung is switching back to Wear OS on an upcoming Gear watch.
Samsung has gone through a number of smartwatch phases. It started before the launch of Android Wear when the company released the Galaxy Gear. It ran Android but not Google’s version of Android for a watch. Instead, this was a highly customized build (based on the open source code) just for Samsung’s watches. Later, it released the Gear Live as one of the first Android Wear devices. That’s the only involvement Samsung had with Wear, though. It moved on to a Tizen-based smartwatch platform with new Gear watches soon thereafter.
According to Evan Blass, Samsung employees are testing a new Gear watch right now that doesn’t run Tizen. It’s back to Google’s Wear OS, apparently. Some other recent rumors suggested this watch was the Gear S4, an updated version of Samsung’s last flagship Tizen smartwatch. If Samsung does intend to make the switch back to Wear, testing it out with employees at this point would make sense. The internals would be similar (an ARM chip with low RAM and storage), so the watch could switch back to Tizen somewhat late in development.
Tizen is basically Samsung’s backup in case it doesn’t want to use Android at some point in the future. It’s created a handful of phones and other devices running Tizen, but the watches are its most successful consumer Tizen project. While the Tizen wearable UI is a little cluttered, it has better battery life than Wear, and the notification management is fantastic. However, the app support on Tizen is virtually nonexistent. It also lacks an updated voice assistant — it still relies on S Voice, which Samsung retired on phones more than a year ago. Wear OS has vastly better app support, and it runs Google Assistant.
Even if Samsung launches a Wear OS device, it could theoretically continue making some Tizen wearables. Perhaps the “Fit” series with its smaller form factor and fitness focus could remain a Tizen product. The Gear S3 came out more than a year ago, so we’re due for a new Samsung wearable soon.
Samsung Gear S4 features
We don’t currently know anything for certain about the new features the Gear S4 watch will bring, but there are lots of signposts of what we may see.
LTE is set to be a big feature of the watch as we’ve heard Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile are all interested in ranging the Gear S4 when it has launched. We don’t currently know about any networks or carriers for other markets, but if all three of those US providers are interested, it may be Samsung is including a big upgrade in mobile internet tech.
Back in April this year, SamMobile spoke to a source that confirmed S Health would be getting some big upgrades. One of the focuses for Samsung’s improvements will be in-depth sleep tracking, but monitoring your health in general will be one of the main reasons to buy this watch.
Exactly what these upgrades will include, we don’t know. One previous patent suggested the Gear S4 (or perhaps even a future Samsung watch) will come with a built-in blood pressure monitor.
Being able to get this tech right on your wrist is going to be a big ask for Samsung, but a future looking patent suggests the company has an idea on how it can get it working.
One patent spotted by Russian site 3Dnews talks about a camera with an optical zoom, that oddly seems to be built into the middle of the watch face.
The patent also highlights a strap with a screen on it, giving you shortcuts to your apps, rather than having to swipe through the tiny display on the watch face to find them.
One thing we think is very likely in the Gear S4 is the presence of Samsung’s voice assistant Bixby, taking the place of S Voice. Expect to be able to talk to your watch for a lot of the features, but whether you want to do that in public is a different question.
We originally expected Samsung to pack Tizen software onto the Gear S4, but considering the rumored name change to Samsung Galaxy Watch it may be the company will decide to embrace Google’s Wear OS for the first time.
Samsung’s first smartwatch in 2013 toted the name Galaxy Gear as it ran Android Wear software, but the Galaxy moniker was dropped for the second generation in 2014 when the company used Tizen software instead.
If it’s called the Samsung Galaxy Watch, that may mean the company is looking to include Google’s software inside. It’d be a big surprise as Samsung has spent the last four or so years building up the functionality of Tizen, but stranger things have happened and we’ve heard word from a known Samsung leaker called Ice Universe who also has also heard the Galaxy Watch will pack Wear OS smarts.
Other features such as the battery and processor specs are all unclear right now, but hopefully we’ll hear about that in the coming weeks and months.
The Samsung Gear S4 is likely to be one of the most exciting wearables of 2018.
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