After not getting wearables right for a while — see the original Galaxy Gear for evidence — Samsung really improved things with the Gear S2 and Gear S3, combining great design with a simple interface and that cool rotating bezel. Inevitably, rumors are gathering about a Gear S4 smartwatch, ready to replace the 2016 Gear S3. Here’s what we think we know about it.
While we’ve yet to see any leaked images or design hints about the Gear S4 (who knows, maybe it will be a pocket watch), Samsung may have been concentrating its efforts on that big wearable pain point: better battery life. A patent filing in the United States suggests Samsung will use a special case to recharge a smartwatch, or other wireless charging device, on the move, simply by putting the two together. Extending battery life without using a larger battery or reducing features.
The patent describes a case, which looks like a regular folio case, with a wireless charging system inside and a USB Type-C connector that links it to the phone. Concentrating on the applications with the watch, it appears the two must be in contact with each other to activate charging. It may not happen over a distance, and so the watch, when on your wrist, won’t charge from a phone in your pocket. That’s a shame, but it results from a restriction of inductive wireless charging systems. For real short-range wireless charging, we’ll have to wait until systems like Energous are perfected.
Battery cases are often bulky, and it’s not clear whether the system uses the phone’s battery or one in the new case. The latter would be best, as it could charge up your phone, too. If you buy a smartwatch, you’ll want to make use of it, which you can’t do if it’s out of battery. The use of GPS is also becoming more common on smartwatches, and is notoriously power hungry. Topping up the battery without the need to carry around another charger, or find a power outlet, after a run or other sporting event would be a definite benefit.
However, before we get too excited, it’s worth remembering that patents are filed all the time, and not all of them end up becoming final products. This one doesn’t specifically mention the Gear S4, but the timing may be more than coincidental. It also doesn’t provide solid detail about how the technology will work. It does sound viable though, and isn’t too futuristic. After all, the Gear S3 uses wireless charging now, through its own dock.
What else do we know about the Gear S4? Not much, but we can speculate that the Tizen operating system will make a return, and we can estimate when we’ll get to see the device. The Samsung Gear S3 launched at the end of August 2016, but didn’t go on sale before November. If Samsung stays with tradition, it may announce the Gear S4 at the IFA technology show in Berlin this September. We’ll keep you updated with all the rumors right here.