Samsung unveils its first Tizen phone

Samsung unveils its first Tizen phone

Summary: Better late than never? Samsung has finally taken the wraps off its first Tizen smartphone, which it's calling a premium device.

The Samsung Z, the company's first Tizen phone
The Samsung Z, the company's first Tizen phone. Image: Samsung

Samsung has taken the wraps off its first Tizen smartphone, the Samsung Z, which goes on sale in Russia later this year.

The world's largest smartphone maker has already used the Tizen OS, its alternative to Android, in its Gear line of smartwatches and some cameras, but its road to using Tizen for smartphones has proved somewhat rockier.

Despite confident claims from Samsung execs that a high-end Tizen smartphone would launch in 2013, the device never arrived, failing to get support from carriers that participated in the development of the OS' ecosystem.

Samsung is calling the Samsung Z a "premium" smartphone but, while it borrows some ideas from the Galaxy S5, it doesn't quite match up to its Android flagship when it comes to specs.

The Samsung Z has a 4.8-inch HD Super AMOLED display at 1280x720 pixels and will arrive with Tizen 2.2.1. As a 'premium' phone, it will come with LTE support, a 2.3GHz quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM, 16GB onboard storage and a microSD slot. The device has an eight megapixel rear-facing camera and 2.1-megapixel front-facing equivalent compared with the S5's 16-megapixel and two-megapixel camera pair.

Like the S5, it's got a heart rate sensor, fingerprint scanner, ultra power-saving mode and download booster, which combines wi-fi and LTE connectivity to speed up downloads. Being a little smaller than its Android flagship, the Samsung Z also lighter at 136g and comes with a 2,600 mAh capacity battery. However, one premium feature from the S5 that didn't make it to the Samsung Z is water and dustproofing.

Besides lacking access to one million Android apps, what can Samsung Z owners expect from the device? According to Samsung, the Tizen offers the device "fast, optimal performance with improved memory management", which means faster startup times and "immediate multitasking".

The smartphone will also support "superb" 2D and 3D graphics and will apparently offer smoother scrolling and improved rendering performance when browsing the web.

The physical design of Samsung Z departs from the rounded frame of Samsung Galaxy line, and instead features a squarer frame not entirely unlike Sony's Xperia smartphones, but with Samsung's signature faux leather backplate.

The device will on show at the Tizen Developer Conference, San Francisco from 3 June and, when it goes on sale in Russia in the third quarter of this year, will be available in black and gold.

While the user interface doesn't look dramatically different from Android's, Samsung is touting it as a distinctive home and application layout, which offers Dynamic Box and Colour Theme settings that can be used to customise the UI.

Given the lack of Google apps on the Tizen smartphone and the fact it will kick off sales in Russia first, the device is also carrying a different default search engine in the form of Russia's answer to Google, Yandex.

Samsung of course will face the same app shortage challenge as all would-be alternatives to Android. To build up the app count in the fledgling Tizen Store, Samsung will be launching special promotional program to all developers for one year.

In a similar fashion to Mozilla’s Firefox OS developer day efforts, Samsung will also be hosting Tizen "local app challenges" in Russia and CIS countries at the launch of the device.

Read more on Tizen

Topics: Mobility, Samsung, Smartphones

Liam Tung

About Liam Tung

Liam Tung is an Australian business technology journalist living a few too many Swedish miles north of Stockholm for his liking. He gained a bachelors degree in economics and arts (cultural studies) at Sydney's Macquarie University, but hacked (without Norse or malicious code for that matter) his way into a career as an enterprise tech, security and telecommunications journalist with ZDNet Australia. These days Liam is a full time freelance technology journalist who writes for several publications.

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  • Premium

    Premium = "There are no apps for it, yet, so we've got to come up with some other reason for you to buy it."
    • It will support Android apps too

      Tizen can run Android apps with third party software installed. They are not emulated and run natively I believe.
      • Samsung's Slow and low quality software

        Makes this phone worse than a Windows phone. Tizen simply isn't an option for anything serious.

        I'll be suggesting everyone I advice to drop Samsung and look at real Android alternatives.
  • this should be good (sarcasm)

    Samsung the worst software company in the world has their own os? I hope they stop making android phones so that their software abomination (touchwiz) never ruins android again.
    • Really?

      As far as I know Tizen OS is a Linux Foundation project, and there are a lot a companies involved in its development. It might be the next standard in mobile computing (not only smartphones) in few years.
      Francisco Javier Guijarro Martínez
      • Something else

        By the way, porting andrioid applications to tizen would be a trivial issue, due to the similarities between these two OS, and their open software nature.
        Francisco Javier Guijarro Martínez
        • Don't need it

          If Samsung is involved they will ruin it. Anyway android is linux. Why do we need another?
          • To get away from the Dalvik engine?

            It is a slow and resource heavy dog.
  • Samsung in front of the pack

    It is the biggest announcement to be made by any company in the mobile phone this year.

    Samsung is the ONLY manufacturer to build a smartphone from A to Z. All the parts and all the software.

    It will integrate all the advantage of the touchwiz, like: boosted download, power saving mode, multitasking, etc. Those software evolution are missing so badly in Android and iOS.

    Samsung is really more than a year in front of the pack now.
    • Memories

      I remember when NextStep and BeOS were (more than) a year ahead of everybody else.
      • Histories

        Look where they are today.
        Great examples lol
  • I love the look of the phone. Too bad it's Tizen.

    Really cool looking, modern phone.

    Too bad you have to give up access to an actual ecosystem, and depart from an OS you are actually familiar with, to get there.

    "It'll RUN Android apps, if you install this Rube-Goldberg third party plugin contraption, and side-load all your apps..."

    Sure - because that's exactly how I want to run my new phone.

    I think Samsung is too late on this one...
    If I wanted to buy a phone that would be "theoretically" great, "if only it had a real ecosystem", I have an endless choice of Blackberry and Windows Phones to pick from.
  • It's good to be there

    But sales will be very small.