Samsung is finally launching a smartphone powered by its homemade operating system, Tizen. Samsung is launching the Z1 exclusively in India. Unusually for an OS launch product, the Z1 does not feature high-end hardware to show off the new software. Instead the Z1’s specifications are very modest; it features a 4 inch WVGA display, a Spreadtrum dual core processor, a 3MP camera, 768MB of RAM, 4GB of storage and does not support 4G.
As a result the Z1 is priced at just 5700INR (approximately $92 or €78). Samsung has partnered with operators Reliance Communications and Aircel to provide Z1 users with up to 500MB of free data each month for six months.
Tizen has a long and troubled history. Tizen has its roots in Samsung’s previous homebrew OS, Bada as well as the Linux based LiMo, and Meego - Nokia and Intel’s doomed mobile OS venture. While Bada achieved a modest amount of success, it was quickly eclipsed by the soaring sales of Samsung’s Galaxy range which are powered by Android.
Even since the amalgamation of these various software efforts into Tizen, it has seen a rocky road to being released in a smartphone. The first Tizen device, a smart TV was released in 2013. A Tizen powered flagship that was expected to launch in 2014 never appeared. These delays coupled with the relatively low-key launch of the Z1 point to a distinct lack of commitment to Tizen from Samsung.
This is not surprising as Tizen’s chances at achieving commercial success are practically zero. Tizen lacks the developed app ecosystem of Android or even Windows Phone. It also lacks clear differentiation from Android, and does not given users any unique selling points over Android. As a result, Google will not be worried that Samsung is going to suddenly shift its smartphone portfolio to Tizen.
Instead Tizen likely plays the role of Samsung’s contingency plan if Google attempts to gain complete control over Android and also plays a key role in Samsung’s wearables strategy. The Samsung Gear 2 and Gear S smartwatches are also powered by Tizen. However with the recent launch of Android Wear for wearables, Tizen’s future will be unveiled at Mobile World Congress where Samsung will likely unveil its next generation of wearables.