Update: Samsung took to the stage at MWC 2018 on February 25 to announce both the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus. There was no announcement for the Gear S4 though, so we'll have to keep waiting for the next smartwatch from Samsung.
We've been anticipating a device called the Gear S4 for over a year and a half now, but instead Samsung introduced us to the Gear Sport at the tail end of 2017 and it's currently uncertain what the next smartwatch from the company will be called.
Both the Gear S3 and Gear Sport have been impressive Tizen-toting watches, but whatever Samsung plans to release next we don't currently know anything certain about it. Several futuristic looking patents point towards features that may be included, but nothing is for certain.
You’ll find information on all of those patents 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? Some point in 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 initially 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.
We even thought we may see it at MWC 2018, but Samsung didn't reveal a new smartwatch alongside its new Galaxy S9 range of phones.
This may also mean the Gear S range has been replaced by the Sport title. There's no official news from Samsung yet whether the Gear Sport sits in a separate range to the Gear S line of smartwatches,
When the next Gear smartwatch launches, 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.
We've also seen a patent for an upcoming Samsung watch that suggests it may include battery tech within the strap.
The diagram provided shows the company wants to include batteries in both parts of the strap and has been experimenting with including the tech inside different materials such as leather, polymer and rubber.
On the topic of straps, 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.
We wouldn’t rely on any of these features being included in the Gear S4 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 final patent also suggests 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 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.
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 and Gear Sport are 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 (especially after the launch of the Gear Sport), 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.
- Into Android Wear? These are the best watches available