Gear S3 to arrive next month as Samsung seeks to rival Apple Watch

The Samsung Gear S2 (left) and S2 classic (right), which came out last year. A follow up, the Gear S3, is expected next month. Image credit: Samsung

Although the Apple Watch is driving the smartwatch market's growth, the Samsung Gear could soon make headway in the sector.

Rumors persist that Samsung could reveal the Samsung Gear S3, a new version of its Gear smartwatch, next month. And with the Gear S3's potential new features, it may be time for mobile developers to take notice.

What could the Gear S3 include?

SamMobile pointed out Samsung's next smartwatch could be called the "Gear S3 Frontier" and include several distinct outdoor features:

The smartwatch is expected to feature an altimeter, a barometer, a speedometer and an integrated GPS. In addition, the device could provide end users with unparalleled outdoor capabilities by allowing them to check the atmospheric pressure outdoors, calculate and log outdoor activity time and more.

End users also should expect the Gear S3 to include a rotating bezel, i.e. a circular ring that surrounds the watch and enables users to zoom in and out of pictures, navigate lists and perform other smartwatch actions. The rotating bezel was included in the Gear S2, which was introduced last year.

The Gear S3 may feature an updated user interface as well. However, many smartwatch experts anticipate the smartwatch will continue to run on Samsung's Tizen operating system.

Developers may not have to wait too much longer to get their first glimpse at the Gear S3, either, and the smartwatch could be unveiled at next month's IFA consumer electronics trade show in Berlin.  

Samsung and the smartwatch market

Apple currently controls the smartwatch market and shows no signs of giving up its top spot in this sector any time soon.

Technology research firm International Data Corp (IDC) reported Apple shipped 1.6 million Apple Watch smartwatches in the second quarter of this year. Also, IDC noted Apple ranked first among global vendors in smartwatch shipments and "remains far and away the market leader in smartwatches."

Comparatively, Samsung ranked second in smartwatch shipments in Q2 2016 and distributed approximately 600,000 smartwatches globally during the quarter, according to IDC.

As such, Samsung likely has plenty of work ahead if it hopes to generate widespread interest in its Gear devices among both end users and developers.

Are developers interested in Gear development?

Daniel Matte, analyst at market research firm Canalys, told FierceDeveloper that he believes Samsung will "continue to be Apple's biggest smartwatch competitor."

Conversely, he pointed out Samsung may need to revamp its smartwatch software and user interface if it hopes to gain ground on Apple.

Image credit: Apple
"I think Samsung needs to focus more on polishing its software and improving the intuitiveness and ease of use of its user interface, in order to better compete with watchOS and Android Wear," Matte stated.

Matte also noted Samsung needs to show developers that it can provide a viable smartwatch platform, or the company risks alienating them entirely.  

"Samsung does have to prove to developers that it can create a lucrative platform for them," he said. "It has reasonable sales volume with the Gear line, but it is a difficult proposition to entice developers to make apps for Tizen, since its API and SDK are very rudimentary."

How can Samsung build trust with developers?

The Gear S3 could help Samsung foster long-lasting partnerships with developers.

In fact, Ramon Llamas, IDC's research manager of wearables and mobile phones, told FierceDeveloper that the implementation of new Gear S3 features could signal Samsung's commitment to the smartwatch space and show developers that the company is confident in its device's capabilities.  

Llamas stated Samsung outpaces Android Wear in the smartwatch market, and the Gear S3 could help the company cement itself as a leader in this sector, too.

"Samsung – like all other vendors – needs to concentrate on the fundamentals: Create smartwatches that look and feel like watches, push the envelope in terms of applications and experiences, leverage cellular connectivity beyond voice and connect watches to other IoT devices and systems," he said.

For many developers, a wait-and-see approach still remains ideal, particularly when it comes to the smartwatch market as a whole.

"Developers want to see that the Gear S3 and other Samsung smartwatches have a broad base of users to tap into. That’s a little harder to do right now given the early stages of the market and not everybody has one," Llamas noted.

Meanwhile, an open approach to smartwatch development could pay substantial dividends for both Samsung and mobile developers.

Jitesh Ubrani, IDC's senior research analyst of worldwide mobile device trackers, stated Samsung previously used a "staggered approach" with its Gear S2 and worked with only a few developers before it promoted Gear S2 development to the entire development community.

And if Samsung takes the same approach with its Gear S3, the company may struggle to generate interest among developers worldwide.

"Going forward, [Samsung has] to be open to working with everyone right from the start so that they don't alienate anyone from the developer community and are able to provide numerous app experiences that consumers have come to expect from their devices," Ubrani told FierceDeveloper.

Moreover, the smartwatch market remains relatively new. But with each new smartwatch release, Samsung is showing developers that it is committed to making it easier for them to create and deploy innovative smartwatch apps.

Samsung has been doing this for nearly 4+ years and has shown clear maturity with each new release should get the attention of developers, and the market at large," Llamas said.