Samsung Gear S4: what we want to see

Update: The Gear S4 might borrow some features from the Samsung Gear Sport, but with 2017 almost over it's unclear when the watch will launch.

The Samsung Gear S3 is over a year old yet it’s still number three in our best smartwatch list. That demonstrates both how good it is and how little competition there is, but while the smartwatch market might not be thriving right now we fully expect it to get a boost next year, with the launch of the Samsung Gear S4.

We don’t know much about it yet, but patents point towards several futuristic features that might be included.

You’ll find information on all that and more below, along with a list of the things we most want to see from the Samsung Gear S4.

Cut to the chase

  • What is it? Samsung's next smartwatch
  • When is it out? 2018 probably
  • What will it cost? More than most other wearables

Samsung Gear S4 release date and price

There aren’t any release date rumors yet, but the Samsung Gear S3 was announced in August 2016, and the Samsung Gear S2 was announced in August of the year before that, so an August 2017 announcement for the Samsung Gear S4 seemed likely.

Of course, that didn't happen, as we instead got the Samsung Gear Sport. That might mean we're waiting until August of 2018 for the Samsung Gear S4, though there's a good chance Samsung will launch it before then.

When it does it will probably cost a lot. The Samsung Gear S3 started at $349/£349 (around AU$475) and we’ll likely see a similar price for the new model, especially as it will probably be positioned to compete with the Apple Watch 3.

Samsung Gear S4 news and rumors

There aren’t many Samsung Gear S4 rumors yet, but a few have started to emerge, including a patent spotted by Russian site 3Dnews, which 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.

Samsung has been working on flexible and curved screens for a long time, so it’s not surprising that it would extend the idea to a watch strap, but we wouldn’t count on either of these features being included in the Gear 4 though, as patents very often don’t get beyond the idea stage.

Another patent, this time spotted by Patently Mobile, shows a Samsung watch with a display built into the bezel. The Gear S3 already has a large bezel that can be rotated, so adding a display could be the next step, but again, being nothing more than a patent we wouldn’t count on it.

One thing that’s very likely is the presence of Samsung’s voice assistant Bixby, taking the place of S Voice.

The design might be tweaked too, especially as the Samsung Gear Sport is smaller and lighter than the Gear S3 - don't be surprised if the Gear S4 follows suit.

Samsung Gear S4: what we want to see

The Samsung Gear S4 is likely to be one of the most exciting wearables of 2018, especially if it incorporates some of the following changes.

1. Make it more compact

The Samsung Gear S3 is a well-made and generally good-looking device, but it’s also rather big, chunky and heavy.

So we’d like the Samsung Gear S4 to be smaller and slimmer on the wrist, as well as being lighter. Or for it to come in multiple models, where at least one is more compact. Some people like chunky wearables, but by no means everyone, and there’s a distinct shortage of compact ones.

2. More accurate exercise tracking

The Samsung Gear S3 is packed full of fitness tracking features, including GPS, a heart rate monitor and automatic workout detection.

But while it can tell when you’re working out, it’s hit and miss at accurately tracking the exercises. In our review, we found that squats were accurately counted but that lunges and crunches weren’t for example.

Similarly, when using GPS it’s sometimes almost spot-on, and other times not, making it unreliable, while the heart rate monitor is utterly awful. We want to see improvements to all of these things for the next model.

3. More apps

One of the downsides of Samsung’s decision to use its own Tizen operating system for the Gear range is the lack of available apps.

We doubt the company will switch to Android Wear for the Gear S4, but one way or another the upcoming wearable needs a much, much larger app selection.

Achieving that while sticking with Tizen might require a major investment from Samsung, to make it worthwhile for developers, so it probably won’t happen, but it needs to for the Gear S4 to truly compete with the Apple Watch and Android Wear.

4. Better battery life with Always On Display

The Samsung Gear S3’s battery life is generally quite strong, but not if you make use of the Always On Display.

That’s a feature which, like on the Samsung Galaxy S8 and other handsets, leaves the screen partially lit up at all times so you can always see the time.

It’s vital if the Gear S4 is going to compete with an actual, normal watch, but it’s heavy on the battery, so we’d like to see further optimization done for the Gear S4 to make it use as little battery as possible.

5. A lower price

Although the Gear S3 has now dropped to a reasonable price, it started out as one of the priciest smart timepieces available, rivaling the Apple Watch 2.

There’s a worry that the Samsung Gear S4 will be similarly expensive, but if Samsung wants it to fly off shelves in serious numbers then a lower price would really help.

6. A real selling point

The Samsung Gear S3 has a lot of features, but no real standout USP, especially given what it costs. Most of its features can be found elsewhere, and sometimes either at a lower price or done better. And even if they couldn’t be, they don’t feel truly essential. In fact, arguably no smartwatch does as yet.

That’s a tricky problem to solve, but hopefully the Samsung Gear S4 will be up to the challenge and include some features that convince us it really is worth strapping an expensive smartwatch to our wrists.

7. A better bezel

The bezel is one of the best things about the Samsung Gear S3, as it works as a rotatable dial that you can use to navigate menus.

However, there’s no hardware confirm button, so you have to tap the screen once you’ve reached the option you want, which isn’t ideal, as switching between the display and buttons for simple interactions isn’t intuitive.

So hopefully the Gear S4 will offer more seamless interactions using the bezel. But we’d also like to see the bezel become a little less stiff, so you can comfortably operate it with a single finger.