After plenty of speculation and an abort launch in Russia last year, Samsung has finally managed to release its first phone powered by the Tizen operating system. The Samsung Z1 is coming to India initially, where it is available to buy for 5,700 INR — that’s around $92 — from today.
The Z1 is an affordable device, both in price and specs. It packs a four-inch WVGA PLS screen, and is powered by a 1.2 GHz dual-core processor and 768 MB RAM. There’s a 3.1-megapixel camera on the rear, and a limited VGA camera on the front.
The phone runs version 2.3 of the Tizen operating system, and comes with 4GB of on-device storage which can be expanded by up to 64GB via a micro SD card. It supports dual SIMs, as is commonplace with devices in India.
Samsung is placing a lot of focus on content with this launch. Hyun Chil Hong, President and CEO of Samsung in India, said the device has been built to “meet [the] unique, entertainment-focused needs of local Indian consumers” — that refers to its ‘Joy Box’ package that provides free access to content from Club Samsung, and trial access to Hungama.com, nextGTv and Bot TV.
All that content requires bandwidth, and a joint promotion with operator Airtel gives buyers of the Z1 500MB of 3G data for free for an initial six months.
Tizen has long been touted as Samsung’s attempt to hedge its reliance on Google and Android, although this first incarnation of the operating system will not compete with its high-end devices in any way. Instead it appears complementary to Samsung’s mid-range devices — that now includes the Galaxy A7, which launched this week — and it could have potential in price-sensitive emerging markets.
The Z1 is cheaper than Xiaomi’s entry-level Redmi phones — which retail for around $150, and have been particularly popular in India, where the Chinese firm sold 1 million devices in its first five months of business.
It remains to be seen whether a lack of compatible apps and services will hold it back.
That said, the Z1 will compete with a range of other Android-based phones. It remains to be seen whether a lack of compatible apps and services on the nascent Tizen platform, coupled with the Z1’s modest specs, will hold it back.
Samsung already pledged to put Tizen on its new smart TVs this year. Now that it has its first Tizen smartphone it will be interesting to see what other phones are released, and where else the Z1 is sold beyond India.
Update: We asked Samsung just how many apps are available for Tizen, but the company declined to reveal a figure. Samsung did, however, confirm that reports suggesting that the Z1 could use Android apps were incorrect.
“Both Android and iOS apps must have their codes re-written to run on Tizen devices,” a spokesperson said.
The company has also written a fairly extensive blog post about its plans for Tizen. The gist of its confusing rhetoric seems to be that it will use the platform for ‘internet of things’ devices and to complement its Android devices.
“As you can see, we think Tizen is great. So, does this mean we’re abandoning other operating systems? No,” the company said.
Samsung is promising “a flood” of Tizen-powered devices — many of which will be smart TVs (that’s confirmed) and non-smartphone products — but it’s too early to know its strategy beyond speculation. We’ll have to wait for the new products to roll out.