Samsung, which has become the global leader in smartphone and mobile phone sales of devices running Google's Android, has introduced the first commercially available smartphone running Tizen, an open-source mobile platform that Samsung has played a role in developing.
Samsung introduced the Samsung Z June 2, the opening day of the Tizen Developer Conference in San Francisco. However, the phone likely won't see distribution in U.S. markets. It will arrive in Russia during the third quarter of this year before expanding to "other markets," said Samsung.
Samsung is widely expected to use Tizen to lessen its reliance on Android.
In February, it introduced a refresh of its Galaxy Gear smartwatch, alongside an alternative (camera-free) version and a fitness band, all three of which run Tizen.
While Samsung has backed away from major declarations about Tizen, its language about the OS is telling.
The Samsung Z "integrates the power and adaptability of the Tizen platform, enabling users to browse the Web faster and utilize applications more efficiently," Samsung said in a June 2 statement (not adding faster and more efficiently than what, exactly).
The Tizen-running Galaxy Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo are "enhanced" and offer "unparalleled smart freedom," JK Shin, present of Samsung's Mobile division, said in a statement at their Feb. 23 introduction. While the Android-based Gear paired with just one Samsung device, the Tizen-based Gear 2 and Neo can pair with "more than dozens" of Galaxy devices at launch, said Samsung.
Morgan Gillis, announcing the beta release of Tizen source code and SDK in a February 2012 statement, also referred to not just openness but freedom. Tizen, he said, "seeks to give device vendors freedom to differentiate and to assist operators in all regions," he said.
Ahead of the Samsung Z's introduction, Strategy Analytics analyst Ken Hyers told eWEEK that while Samsung has stopped actively promoting Tizen as a possible Android replacement, it's certainly in Samsung's interest to build out an ecosystem of Tizen devices, as it has begun to with its smartwatches.
An ecosystem of Tizen devices, "outside of the direct control of Google," would give Samsung "more control over the information created and collected by Tizen devices and over the direction that the ecosystem evolves in," said Hyers.
The Samsung Z
Samsung says its Tizen-powered Z is "built on top of unparalleled quality" and the technology of Samsung's latest premium smartphone (the Galaxy S5).
The Z features a 4.8-inch HD Super AMOLED (1,280 by 720) display; a 2.3GHz quad-core processor; LTE (category 4), GPS and Bluetooth technologies; and 2GB of RAM , 16GB of internal memory and a microSD slot for up to 64GB of additional memory. The front camera is 2.1 megapixels while the rear camera is 8 megapixels. Other features include a fingerprint reader, heart-rate scanner, and accelerometer and proximity sensor, among other sensors.
Samsung has given it sharper edges, instead of the rounded corners on its flagship Galaxy line, and a back cover material that—with stitching and a leather journal look—is more in line with the Galaxy Note 3 than the Galaxy S5.
Samsung also notes that the Tizen-backed devices offer "a faster start-up time" (again not stating faster that what alternative) and "immediate multi-tasking capabilities."
"Samsung is committed to enhancing the mobile experience of consumers with innovation that is both personal and unique to their needs," DJ Lee, president and global head of sales and marketing, said in a June 2 statement.