After repeated delays and rumors of the project’s death, today Samsung finally introduced the first smartphone running Tizen. So, is the Samsung Z a threat to Android or is it too little, too late?
The Samsung Z packs decent specifications and a Galaxy-inspired design, but, of course, what really matters is the phone’s operating system. Long in development, Tizen is a Linux-based operating system created by Samsung and Intel, in collaboration with an alliance of various other manufacturers, carriers, and software developers. Tizen is designed to provide a consistent experience across platforms, including smartphones, tablets, TVs, wearables, and even vehicles. Samsung has so far introduced a smart camera running the operating system, but the best known Tizen device so far has been the Samsung Gear 2 smartwatch.
The Samsung Z is a road opener and a demonstration of Samsung’s commitment to a project that, at one point in 2013, was rumored to be cancelled. As with any new platform, it’s vital for Tizen to attract developers, and the belated release of the Z gives developers a little more confidence that they are investing in a viable platform.
Back to the actual device, the Samsung Z comes with a 4.8-inch HD (1280 x 720) AMOLED display (306 ppi), that seems to be similar to the display of the 2012 Galaxy S3. There’s a 2.3GHz quad-core processor (Samsung did not offer more details), 2GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage and a microSD card slot that allows the addition of another 64GB. The rear shooter is an 8MP model, while the battery is a respectable 2,600 mAh unit. Here are the full specs:
Somehow surprising is the presence of a fingerprint sensor and heart rate monitor, both features that have been so far exclusive to the Galaxy S5.
Overall, the Samsung Z looks like a decent mid-ranger for 2014, and in line with what we’d expect from a device that Samsung will use to test the waters in a handful of developing markets.
Design-wise, we’re looking at a “slim, angular design with sophisticated lines, providing a differentiated look and feel while maintaining Samsung’s overall design identity.” This is a Samsung-phone through and through, with the typical button arrangement and the distinctive faux leather texture (complete with faux stitching) that the Note 3 made popular.
Moving on Tizen, the user interface was styled to resemble Samsung’s TouchWiz, with the round icons serving as a differentiator. Samsung has not released a lot of details about the OS, but it promises optimization, fast startup times, and “immediate multi-tasking capabilities.” It’s not just the look of the launcher that Samsung borrowed from TouchWiz – there’s a bunch of features that were previously only found on Android, such as Download Booster and Ultra Power Saving Mode (both introduced with the Galaxy S5), S Health 3.0, and a variety of camera features.
The Samsung Z will launch in Russia in Q3 2014, and Samsung says it plans to bring it to other parts of the world after that. We don’t expect the Korean giant to throw its full weight behind it; again, the Z is probably just a way for Samsung to test the waters and to encourage developers to create apps for Tizen. The choice of initial market launch is telling – Russia favors its homegrown cloud services over Google’s, so Samsung could find it easier to launch a new platform that lacks Google’s apps.
Is the Samsung Z a threat to Android? No. For now, it’s just an experiment. If the device gets some decent traction, we may see Samsung pushing it, but it’s hard to say for now if users will find it attractive.