Samsung to release high-end Tizen phone

Samsung Electronics plans to release at least two Tizen-based smartphones in the months ahead, even though it is banking heavily on strong sales from its flagship Android Galaxy S5 smartphone, according to a Samsung executive.

In an interview with Reuters, Yoon Han-kil, senior vice president of Samsung's product strategy team, said the world's largest smartphone maker by volume will release a high-end Tizen phone in the second quarter, and then later will release a mid-range Tizen device aimed driving larger volumes.

A spokesman for Samsung, asked to confirm the remarks, told the Wall Street Journal that Samsung would launch a Tizen phone this year, but said that "the exact timing of the launch and the number of devices will vary depending on market conditions."

Samsung has repeatedly delayed the release of Tizen smartphones. The open-source Tizen platform could give Samsung an opportunity to get more revenue from third-party applications and services, but it is also an incredibly small ecosystem compared to Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) Android platform.

In January, Google and Samsung struck a wide-ranging, patent-licensing deal that covers the companies' existing patent portfolios and all patents they will each file over the next 10 years. The deal was seen by some as an indication that Samsung and Google had ironed out differences between them and that Samsung was not looking to hedge as much against Android. Shortly thereafter, Google agreed to sell its Motorola Mobility unit to Lenovo for $2.91 billion, getting Google out of the smartphone hardware business.

Yoon said that although Android "still needs to be our main business," Tizen or Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) Windows Phone would be used for markets that Android can't address.

"We had tried to launch (Tizen) with DoCoMo and Orange ... but couldn't because of poor market conditions. We have changed our strategy and will release the phones in a few countries where we can do well," he said. Yoon also said he thought Tizen would have to account for up to 15 percent of Samsung's total smartphone shipments to become a successful platform.

Samsung is using Tizen, and not Android, for the second version of its Galaxy Gear smart watch and other new wearables. However, Yoon said Samsung will introduce a smart watch running Google's Android Wear later this year.

As for Samsung's flagship Android smartphone, the Galaxy S5, the company said it doubled the number of initial launch countries to 125 compared with its launch of the Galax S4. The S5 has received a mostly positive if tepid reception among reviewers. Although the gadget features a wide range of high-end specifications, some see the device as a relatively minor upgrade to last year's Galaxy S4. Yoon said Samsung is seeing strong sales.

"(The S5) is selling faster than the S4 so far, though it's difficult to share specific numbers as we're still at early stages," he said. "S5 sales should be much better than the S4."

Samsung did not offer any sales target for the S5, but the company sold more than 10 million S4 units in the first month of the phone's launch in 2013. Yoon said the S5 should do significantly better than that, according to Reuters.

For more:
- see this Reuters article
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see this The Verge article

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