After a year of delays, Samsung finally released a smartphone running its Tizen operating system. The Z1 runs the Tizen 2.3 OS, supports two SIM cards and features a 1.2 GHz dual-core processor, 3.1-megapixel camera and 4 GB of on-board memory, and will sell for $92 in India.
The gadget is intended to compete against other low-cost smartphones from the likes of Xiaomi, Lenovo and others in India. Interestingly, it will also compete against Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) own Android One initiative, recently launched in India, which is geared toward selling low-cost Android phones that retain Google's user interface and services, like maps, mail and search but are sold in emerging markets. Samsung's Tizen is widely seen as a hedge by Samsung against its reliance on Google's Android operating system for smartphones.
To push its new Z1, Samsung said it will pack the relatively low-end device with a range of content options including free access to some movies and TV shows through Samsung's "Joy Box," free access to premium content on Club Samsung, free access to some streaming music from Hungama.com, and free streaming TV from nexGTv and Box TV. (Samsung said some of those free services would only be free for a limited amount of time.) Notably, Samsung said Z1 users will also get up to 500 MB of 3G data free every month over a six-month period from Reliance Communications and Aircel.
Such content and service offers are likely intended to help the Z1 pass the "app gap" since the Tizen operating system offers a tiny range of apps compared with Google's Android ecosystem or Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) App Store. Samsung confirmed that Tizen would not run Android apps--countering rumors to the contrary--and the Wall Street Journal noted the phone would run Web versions of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube since those sites do not offer Tizen-specific apps. Samsung has pledged to improve the app options on Tizen by working with developers.
The release of the Z1 marks the end of a long road for Samsung, which during the course of last year had attempted to launch a Tizen phone in Russia, Japan and elsewhere.
But Samsung in a post to its corporate blog said that the Z1 was just part of the company's wider Tizen ambitions. Samsung explained that Tizen is "lighter" than other operating systems, meaning that it requires less processing power, memory and battery power. The company noted that it has already used Tizen to power a Samsung smart watch and camera, and said "these devices are just the tip of the iceberg." The company specifically noted wearables, vacuum cleaners and washing machines as possible Tizen devices.
"Tizen constitutes a large and important part of our Internet of Things (IoT) strategy that encompasses all device categories across the company," Samsung said. "BK Yoon, the company's CEO, announced last week at the 2015 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) that all Samsung devices will be IoT-ready in five years. Many of these devices will be running Tizen."
Importantly, though, Samsung noted that it will continue to use other operating systems as well, voicing its support for "open platforms." And, likely in reference to Google and its Android platform, Samsung wrote that "we also value the relationships we have built with our partners, as these relationships have helped us discover more ways to improve the user experience of our devices, ultimately creating more value for consumers."
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