gear s3 bixby update

Rumors are swirling about a new Samsung smartwatch, and perhaps the most interesting aspect of these rumors is that Samsung might be considering adopting Google’s Wear OS for the device. In the time since the first rumors surfaced, there’s been a lot of back and forth with what Samsung has planned. Let’s try to make some sense of it all…

Samsung has delivered some of the best smartwatches and wearables for Android to date with its Gear lineup. Over the years, the company has really made that brand a player to be reckoned with, and it’s at least partly thanks to Samsung’s full control over the hardware and the software. The company has truly set the lineup apart, and many would argue that it has in most ways surpassed watches built on Google’s OS.

With all this said, let’s take a quick look at what we think we know — or, more likely, don’t know — so far about this next smartwatch…

‘Galaxy Watch’ vs Gear S4

The biggest question mark here comes in the form of the name. Samsung has been using the “Gear” brand for a few years with its wearable, only bringing the well-known “Galaxy” name to one device so far – the Galaxy Gear.

A “Galaxy” device typically refers to a smartphone, specifically one that runs on top of Android. Looking at Samsung’s Tizen smartphones, none carry the Galaxy brand because they don’t run Google’s operating system. The same seems to apply to smartwatches with the exception of the Gear Live, which was Samsung’s only watch running on top of Android Wear.

Now, though, it appears the Galaxy name will be arriving on another smartwatch. Recently a logo hit the web from the Korean Intellectual Property office. That logo clearly spells out the “Galaxy Watch” branding we’ve been seeing surrounding Samsung’s next watch for a while.

That branding combined with the reports and other rumors about Samsung adopting Wear OS seemingly point to the company setting Tizen to bed and going all in with Google. However, there are still plenty of reports that conflict with this.

In other areas, we’re still seeing the Gear S4 name being used, including in a report in early July from SamMobile that claims Bixby will be on board the device. If Wear OS is on board, this one seems unlikely given history. Google held Android Wear tight when it launched, not allowing any customization from OEMs. With that in mind, installing Bixby in the place of or even as a “compliment” of Assistant seems to kill the idea that Samsung would be using anything other than Tizen.

However, there are some arguments against this. It could be that Google is letting Samsung bring Bixby to Wear OS, and part of Wear OS going forward will be a platform that is more open. After all, Android itself allows users to replace Assistant with another assist app, why not Wear OS? Maybe Google has changed its philosophy.

Interestingly, Samsung refuted a report from Fast Company back in 2016 that the company was abandoning Wear OS, leaving that possibility open.

We disagree with Fast Company’s interpretation. Samsung has not made any announcement concerning Android Wear and we have not changed our commitment to any of our platforms.

Maybe both?

With all this in view, the question has to be asked, what does Samsung have planned here? We don’t know for sure, but there are a couple of options here. One potential answer is simply that Samsung has two smartwatches in the pipeline, one running Tizen under the Gear S4 name, the other Wear OS as the Galaxy Watch. We don’t yet have any solid evidence that there’s two different watches, though.

Having a Gear S4 to continue on Samsung’s ambitions and commitment to Tizen and now Bixby gives the company the flexibility it has always had. It can provide an experience that integrates well with its smartphones and allows it to be different from the crowd. Meanwhile, a Galaxy Watch running Wear OS delivers a watch that has better software support and appeals to another set of customers.

While this might make sense to some extent, there’s not much to support it. We’ve seen filings and plenty of other leaks that reveal information about whatever Samsung has in store, and there’s not much that really proves two devices are in development. The specs we’ve seen under both names are identical too. And one leakster even says directly that the Gear S4 will “probably” be called the Galaxy Watch.

At this point, we just don’t know. Samsung could also have something else in mind entirely for this “Galaxy Watch” product. Or, Samsung could just be switching brands and nothing else. It would be funny if after all this speculation about Wear OS, Samsung simply launches the Gear S4 under a new, Galaxy-inclusive brand name,.

Luckily, we don’t have long to wait. Samsung is probably going to be revealing the Gear S4 and/pr Galaxy Watch sometime in the not too distant future. We’ll likely learn more as Samsung prepares to the launch the Galaxy Note 9 next month, or perhaps a bit later with IFA 2018 right around the corner.

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About the Author

Ben Schoon

Ben is a writer and video producer for 9to5Google.

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