Samsung is one of the pioneers of modern Android smartphone-compatible smartwatches. While devices like its own S9110 Watch Phone and the Sony Ericsson LiveView can be considered smartwatches, it wasn't until fall 2013, when the first Galaxy Gear launched, that the current smartwatch craze (fad?) took off.
As a proof-of-concept as to what a smartwatch could do, the Gear was a success, but it ran a custom version of Android that didn't work too well, and it had poor battery life. The first Gear was also initially only compatible with one phone, the Galaxy Note 3.
Since then, according to Samsung, there have been five more generations of Gears, which we assume means it is counting each model as a generation, even if they launched at the same time. There has been the Gear 2, Gear 2 Neo, Gear Fit, Gear Live and Gear S.
Starting with 2014's Gear 2, Samsung switched to its own lightweight OS (Tizen), which does perform much better on a smartwatch platform than the full version of Android. Then Samsung released the Gear Live, which ran Android Wear, which has now become the de facto standard for all Android-compatible smartwatches. However, Samsung's last smartwatch, last fall's Gear S, went back to Tizen. The S is a standalone device that can make calls and doesn't need to be paired with a smartphone.
Since the Gear S came out almost six months ago, we are about due for a new Gear smartwatch, and while no announcement has been made yet, today Samsung sent out a press release about the SDK for the "Next Generation Gear."
While in itself this means that a new Gear must be imminent, it was the image below that was the most interesting part of it. Round smartwatches seem to be in vogue now (at least they were until the Apple Watch went on sale). Motorola has the 360, LG has the G Watch R and the Watch Urbane, and even Huawei showed off a round watch at MWC, so it's been rumored for a while that Samsung's next Gear would be round, too. It looks like the pictures of the UI in this image confirm it.
Along with confirming the shape of the new Gear, Samsung also confirmed some of the partners already working on applications for it, such as CNN, Yelp, Baidu, FidMe and Apposter. While there is no indication of what OS the new Gear will be running, it's most likely to be Tizen. The current Samsung wearables SDK is Tizen, and Samsung has a vested interest in promoting its own OS on its wearables, rather than producing a new Android Wear device. Further, if Samsung plans to make another standalone watch like the Gear S, it can't use Wear because Google's wearable OS doesn't support this feature.
The SDK for the new Gear will be available to developers before the watch launches, and they "can become a member of the community by submitting an application at the Samsung Developer’s website at http://developer.samsung.com/wearable (opens in new tab)." Seeing as this was announced today, we doubt that it will be out for at least a month, if not longer. Developers will still need to spend some amount of time with the SDK to produce applications that are ready for the new Gear's launch.