New details about Samsung’s next-generation smartwatch have appeared in the latest build of the Gear developer kit that reveal how the device will look and—perhaps more importantly—how it will serve as an answer to the Apple Watch.
Unlike current Gear models and the Apple Watch, the next Gear will sport a circular display (hence its codename, “Orbis”) with a metal crown and frame. The crown, however, is not the most interesting part. In a departure from Apple’s crown-based navigation system, the Gear SDK indicates that the watch may actually be controlled by a completely different part of the watch.
According to a report from SamMobile, tech specs and design elements included in the new Gear SDK refer to “the next Gear” as having a round, 1.18-inch, 360*360 px display. That shape is key to the watch’s interface navigation, which is based not on turning the crown, but turning the display bezel.
Several images stored within the developer tools include a diagram of a user twisting the bezel to switch between different views or access different controls. In the image below, for example, it seems to act as a multitasking control that switches between multiple running apps or views.
Other images reveal a bevy of additional functions, such as volume control, zoom on photos, scrolling through a list of contacts, choosing an item from a menu, and even selecting individual characters on a unique circular keyboard. One diagram also seems to show a swipe-to-multitask function, so it’s possible that either the swipe or the rotate gesture controls that, while the other controls something different, but similar.
Rotating bezels are not uncommon in the watch world, especially on high-end models, though the functionality differs significantly. It’s certainly an interesting input device that would set the next-gen Gear apart from Apple’s device while still offering a sense of direct content manipulation using a standard part of the watch.
It’s also nice to see that the Korean company has opted against simply ripping off Apple’s crown control, instead choosing to create a new, more original mechanism.