Samsung unveils its first Tizen phone

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.

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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.

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