Samsung is adding a new Tizen-powered smartphone to its arsenal of devices with the launch of the Samsung Z4.
Tizen, the open-source “Android-alternative” operating system, is a major product for Samsung given that it powers the company’s smartwatches, TVs, and its growing push into the Internet of Things (IoT), but the OS has yet to really take off in the smartphone realm in any meaningful way. The dominance of Android and iOS is one reason Tizen won’t be threatening the “big two” anytime soon, but nonetheless Samsung is continuing to chip away in emerging markets, introducing Tizen devices at a rate of roughly two per year.
However, the Z4 is only the fourth smartphone to sport Tizen, after the Z1 that launched in India back in early 2015 and which went on to sell more than one million units; the Z3, which followed nine months later; and the first 4G Tizen phone, the Z2, which arrived on the market last August.
The Z4 also promises 4G connectivity, though other specs — such as the 4.5-inch WVGA (480×800) screen, 1GB RAM, quad core 1.5 GHz processor, and 5MP front- and rear-shooters — are unlikely to cause many people to spill their latte. But Samsung has revealed that the Z4 is the first in the series to feature 2.5D curved glass, similar to that on many modern flagships, while it’s targeting selfie-lovers with an LED flash on the front-facing camera.
Samsung hasn’t revealed Z4 pricing, but using the Z2’s $68 price tag as a guide, the new Tizen incarnation is likely to come in under $100.
“The Samsung Z4 brings a simplified mobile experience to first time smartphone users and represents our ongoing commitment to expanding the Tizen ecosystem,” noted DJ Koh, president of Samsung’s mobile communications business.
The Samsung Z4 will be launching only in a handful of markets, starting this month in India, though the company said that it plans to “showcase” the device at the Tizen Developer Conference in San Francisco next week (May 16 – 17).
The future of Tizen
Though some reports have suggested that a Tizen flagship phone was in the cards, this is unlikely to materialize given that Samsung is evidently adopting a developing market approach with the operating system. Indeed, in an interview with GamesBeat last year, Mihai Pohontu, vice president of emerging platforms at Samsung, said that the company would be rolling out Tizen phones in new markets but that Android would remain its OS of choice for high-end devices.
One obstacle facing Tizen — or any alternative mobile operating system, for that matter — is the lack of compatible apps. To counter this, Samsung announced a competition last year to boost Tizen mobile app inventory by offering developers $10,000 cash prizes.
Arguably an even bigger barrier to growth is the perception that Tizen is a less-secure OS. A recent report found that there are 40 previously unknown zero-day vulnerabilities in Tizen, potentially allowing hackers to remotely access millions of Samsung smart TVs, watches and, of course, smartphones. But the Z4 sports the new version of the OS, Tizen 3.0, which hopefully should go some way toward remedying these security holes.