Let’s get this out of the way first: Samsung is almost certainly not going to stop making Android smartphones, at least in the near future. Now, on to what Samsung is doing. After working on its in house Tizen OS for quite some time, the company has finally announced a consumer smartphone that will run the Linux-based OS. Not only that, unlike the recently announced Firefox OS Flame, the Tizen-based Samsung Z has the specifications to rival many high-end Android devices in addition to a new software platform.
In the hardware department, the Samsung Z includes a 2.3GHz quad-core Snapdragon processor, 2GB of RAM, a 4.9-inch 720p AMOLED display, 8MP rear and 2MP front cameras, and a 2600mAh battery. The Z also includes 16GB of storage and a microSD slot, a feature no longer found on many Android smartphones, as well as 4G connectivity, NFC, and a fingerprint sensor and heartbeat monitor just like the S5.
Though the Z trails Samsung’s flagship S5 in a few categories, most notably the display resolution, the hardware is still quite impressive for what many would consider a side or backup OS launch. In fact, the industrial design is even very similar to the latest Galaxy devices, as the Z even includes the faux leather backing found on the Galaxy Note 3. By all indications, then, Samsung fully intends to push Tizen on higher-end hardware, not just budget offerings and low-powered accessories like the Galaxy Gear 2.
Currently, there are at least two things that are worth noting about the first Tizen smartphone. The first is that Tizen is, naturally, styled almost exactly like Samsung’s TouchWiz UI for Android. Sure, Samsung may just have consistent design in mind, but it doesn’t seem far fetched to think that Samsung’s heavy customization of Android against Google’s wishes was all part of the plan. The way Tizen currently looks, I don’t doubt that many average consumers would mistake the Samsung Z for an Android-based Samsung smartphone.
Of course, the apps are what would give away the difference, and this is the second noteworthy thing about Tizen. Like Firefox OS, Tizen emphasizes HTML5 applications. However, in addition to web apps, Samsung includes many of its own “S” branded apps including things like S Voice and S Translate, which are also found on Android. Naturally, the rest of the Tizen app selection is thin, but that could change relatively quickly.
Most consumers won’t be able to check out Tizen just yet, as the Samsung Z will actually first be available in Russia, accompanied by a push for increased Tizen development. The price, even in Russia, also hasn’t been released, so there’s no knowing whether Samsung is trying to undercut the competition or truly push the Z as a flagship. Either way, it will be interesting to see how the Q3 release progresses, and whether or not the Samsung Z makes its way to wider markets.
For now, Samsung will make many more Android devices, and the partnership has been profitable for both Google and Samsung. With Tizen, though, Samsung appears to be taking a step toward potential software independence. Once again, I doubt that Samsung wants to stop making Android hardware at least at this point, but with Tizen as the backup, suddenly Samsung no longer has to worry quite so much about angering Google with things like Android customization.
It is still very early, of course, but the launch of the Samsung Z seems to be a move by Samsung to let everyone know that Tizen is a serious pursuit and cannot be overlooked anymore. From the looks of things, they may soon be right.[Forbes]