Samsung has made plenty of smartwatches already, but it has yet to introduce a stylish round one like the Moto 360 or the LG G Watch R. Samsung has filed scores of patents for round-faced smartwatches, but we’ve not seen hide nor hair of these watches in real life.
Recently, reports from dedicated fan blog SamMobile have begun to hint that Samsung may finally launch a round smartwatch, called the Gear A, this year. Samsung finally confirmed that it will launch a round smartwatch soon, though it didn’t divulge any details beyond an Tizen-based developer kit for app makers.
Updated on 08-11-2015 by Malarie Gokey: Added news that the Gear A may come in multiple models, which could mean varying sizes or connectivity options.
Here’s everything we know so far:
Multiple versions spotted
Samsung’s Gear A could come in a couple of different models, based on a report from SamMobile. The publication spotted several different model numbers for the round smartwatch. Apparently, the Gear A could come in at least three variants — SM-R720, SM-R730, and SM-R732. The publication says that the SM-R732 is “internally known as the Orbis Classic.” Although the source didn’t reveal what differentiates one model from the next, it’s possible that the model numbers represent different sizes, styles, color options, or types of connectivity.
Earlier rumors pointed at a 3G model, so it’s possible that one version of the Gear A will be a standalone device. the other two models are a mystery, though. The internal moniker “Classic” could point to a special style and color option for one of the variants. Of course, that’s just speculation — for now.
Samsung reveals the software for its round watch
Samsung isn’t holding back much information about the Gear A at this point. The company confirmed that its next Tizen smartwatch will have a circular screen with a rotating bezel and even detailed how it will work. Samsung previously hinted at the possibilities, but now they’ve essentially been confirmed. SamMobile reported the news via Twitter during the latest Tizen developer conference.
Samsung stated that the rotating bezel will be used to navigate the smartwatch’s interface, pan and zoom, and that it will work with games. Samsung told developers how to make apps that take advantage of the fully round screen.
The company also showed off several elegant renders of what the Gear A could look like. SamMobile snapped a pic of a slide, which shows a fully round smartwtach with a nice silver bezel, a crown, and a slim lug on either side. It looks sleek and less masculine than the LG Watch Urbane. It’s unclear if this is the final design, though.
— SamMobile (@SamMobiles) July 30, 2015
Samsung teased a circular design in marketing materials that accompany the release of a new SDK for a Tizen smartwatch. The updated development kit, which Samsung says targets its “next generation of the Gear device,” hints at the company’s ambitions for a round smartwatch. In a first for Samsung, it was released ahead of any official product announcement.
In May, Samsung outlined the interface for its round smartwatch in the SDK, which it opened to developers. The face of the watch will reportedly feature a rotating bezel that you can use to control the device. The rotating bezel will be used to zoom, pan, and navigate through the watch’s interface. You can flip through different pictures, apps, and menus with the bezel, too. You might even be able to set an alarm with it. Theoretically, developers could create apps that use Samsung’s rotating bezel.
In addition to the rotating bezel, Samsung’s round smartwatch will supposedly have a crown — just like the Apple Watch. Samsung’s crown won’t help you use the watch, though. All it does is turn the device on and off, and launch S Voice controls and emergency messages. The crown-shaped power button will presumably rest on one side of the watch and be used infrequently. It’s main purpose seems to be aesthetics, but SamMobile says it may have other functions in the future.
Samsung reportedly undecided on August 13 launch
Most early rumors said that Samsung’s first round smartwatch would arrive with the Galaxy S6 smartphone, but that didn’t turn out to be the case. It was then logical to speculate it may launch alongside the Galaxy Note 5 and S6 Edge Plus. A report from SamMobile also hinted it would arrive in September at IFA in Berlin. After this, a report from Reuters via a Korean newspaper stated the round smartwatch would arrive in “the second half of the year,” a date that aligns with those predictions.
In late July, Samsung sent out invitations to an Unpacked launch event to take place in New York on August 13, where it’s expected to show the Galaxy Note 5 and the Galaxy S6 Edge Plus — earlier than its traditional IFA September launch. Will the Gear A smartwatch also be revealed? It’s possible, but a Wall Street Journal says Samsung hasn’t made a final decision yet. It’s also possible Samsung will hold it back for September’s IFA show.
Typical smartwatch specs amped up with 3G calling
Samsung sent out an SDK for its next smartwatch in mid-May, which revealed many of the Gear A’s possible specs. Those, in conjunction with a July report from SamMobile, paint a fairly complete picture: the Orbis will feature a 1.65-inch Super AMOLED screen with a resolution of 360 x 360 pixels, an Exynos 3472 dual-core processor, and 768MB of RAM. The smartwatch reportedly packs 4GB of internal storage and a 250mAh battery, and will include many sensors for fitness tracking, including GPS, a heart rate monitor, gyro sensor, accelerometer, barometer, and a magnetic sensor.
Samsung is known for its crazy standalone smartwatches that can make calls and run on their own steam sans smartphone, and it seems that the Gear A will also have those powers. Samsung’s SDK mentions 2G connectivity.
Meanwhile, an earlier report from SamMobile posits that the round Gear A will come in two variants: One that relies on a Bluetooth connection to your phone, and one that has 3G and calling support. Supposedly, both versions of the device will have Wi-Fi support.
The 3G model will be available at several carriers or unlocked, the publication’s sources say. It’s unclear what the pricing will be for the Gear A, but no doubt the 3G model will be as expensive as most other standalone smartwatches with a cellular data connection.
Samsung Pay support for the watch
So far, mobile payments have yet to come to any smartwatches — save the Apple Watch — but now it looks like that’s about to change. Reuters cited a report from South Korea’s Electronic Times, which states that the Samsung Pay mobile payments feature will be available on the company’s next smartwatch. The watch will reportedly have NFC technology onboard to facilitate mobile payments.
In a Wall Street Journal report in late July, it’s said the Gear A watch will have a “limited form of Samsung’s payment software,” and be used for contactless payments on some public transport lines, although it’s not clear where this will be possible.
It will charge without wires
Samsung’s early smartwatches all have annoying, proprietary charging cables, which can make charging the device each night a real hassle. However, SamMobile reports that the round Orbis smartwatch will feature wireless charging, just like the Moto 360. If the watch does support wireless charging, Samsung will most likely sell a charging pad along with the watch itself.
It’s unclear how long the battery of the round smartwatch will last, but if it’s like most Android wear devices on the market, the Orbis will probably last a day or two at most on a charge.
We’ll continue to update this post as more information becomes available, so check back often.
Updated on 07-30-2015 by Malarie Gokey: Added news from Samsung Tizen developer conference that confirms rotating bezel and a few potential uses for it.
Updated on 07-28-2015 by Andy Boxall: Added speculation Samsung hasn’t decided whether to launch the device on August 13 or not.
Updated on 07-15-2015 by Kyle Wiggers: Added new information about the smartwatch’s specifications, including screen resolution, RAM, storage, battery, sensors, and more.
Updated on 06-08-2015 by Malarie Gokey: Added news of Samsung Pay mobile payment support on the watch and a possible launch date in the second half of the year.
Updated on 05-12-2015 by Malarie Gokey: Added news of Gear A specs and interface.
Updated on 05-07-2015 by Malarie Gokey: Added news of possible launch date for the Gear A.
Updated on 04-23-2015 by Kyle Wiggers: Added news of a preview SDK for round smartwatch.
Updated on 04-07-2015 by Malarie Gokey: Added news that the round smartwatch may be called the Gear A, and support 3G connectivity as well as calling.
Updated on 01-19-2015 by Malarie Gokey: Added news that the round smartwatch may support wireless charging.
Article originally published on 01-15-2015