Samsung finally launches a smartphone running its Tizen OS

After several false starts, Samsung has launched a phone running its Tizen OS. The Z1 goes on sale Wednesday in India.

The Z1 is on a low-spec device sold at budget prices — it’s not meant to compete against the iPhone or Samsung’s high-end Galaxy Note and Galaxy S lines. It will cost 5,700 Indian Rupees, or about $92.

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As was leaked in December, the Z1 has a 4-inch, 800 x 480 screen, an unspecified 1.2 GHz dual-core processor, 768MB of RAM, and a 3.1-megapixel rear camera. The Z1 supports Bluetooth 4.1, but it’s a 3G handset and it won’t work on LTE networks.

Some Android One handsets available in India are arguably a better deal — they have basically the same hardware for a similar price, and can take advantage of a better selection of software thanks to the Android platform. So Samsung will rely on bundled content to sway Indian consumers into trying the nascent operating system. Samsung points out that several “important apps” are already available for Tizen, including WhatsApp, which is key for the Indian market.

The Samsung Z1 will be bundled with entertainment apps and services, in a package called “Joy Box.” It includes free three-month subscriptions to services that stream Bollywood songs and movies.

Ultimately, Tizen’s future might not be on handsets. It appears that Tizen is better suited for Samsung’s internet of things efforts — it’s already the operating system for Samsung’s line of Smart TVs and some of its smartwatches.

At the same time [company]Samsung[/company] announced the Z1 on its website, it also published a blog post titled “Tizen in the Big Picture” on its corporate blog. After a casual mention of the Z1 in the first paragraph, the post does not mention smartphones again and instead focuses on Tizen’s advantages for the IoT in devices like wearables, vacuum cleaners, and washing machines.

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Samsung is adding Slingbox-like features to its new smart TVs

This is interesting: Samsung is adding what amounts to a kind of Slingbox to all of its new smart TVs, allowing consumers to watch a show on TV, and then continue to watch it on their mobile device, even if the TV is turned off. The new feature, which will at launch only work with current-generation Samsung handsets, transcodes any signal — be it cable programming, online streams or even broadcast TV received with an antenna — and relays it within the home network to mobile devices.

Current-generation Samsung handsets can mirror content to Samsung's new TVs, as well as grab content from TVs.

Current-generation Samsung handsets can mirror content to Samsung’s new TVs, as well as grab content from TVs.

This kind of device-shifting isn’t new — Slingboxes have been offering this for years, and cable boxes increasingly also offer in-home streaming — but it’s interesting to see it added to a TV set, and it speaks to the increasing role mobile devices play when it comes to entertainment in the living room.

It’s worth noting that [company]Samsung[/company]’s take on the Slingbox doesn’t quite compare to the features offered by a dedicated place-shifting device. Consumers won’t be able to change channels from the mobile device, and streams can only be watched within the home. Any programming mirrored from the TV to the mobile is sent via Wi-Fi Direct, which also means that you can only watch it on one mobile device at a time. But it’s still a neat feature, and I could see people use it to take their living room programming with them to the kitchen, or any other room with a TV in it.

Samsung's new Tizen TVs feature a kind of personal dashboard that gets triggered by an alarm set on your phone.

Samsung’s new Tizen TVs feature a kind of personal dashboard that gets triggered by an alarm set on your phone.

Samsung showed off the new mirroring capability at a press preview event at CES in Las Vegas Sunday evening, where it also showed mirroring content from the phone to the TV, as well as an interesting new feature that someone decided to name “Briefing on TV:” When users set a wake-up alarm on their phone, it automatically turns on the TV as well, displaying the time, weather and a user’s Google Calendar. It’s a little bit like Samsung’s take on Chromecast’s Backdrop functionality, with an added alarm functionality. Content mirroring as well as Briefing on TV are all based on new multiscreen technology that uses Bluetooth Low Energy for device discovery.

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Samsung’s Tizen TVs look a lot like LG’s 2014 webOS TVs.

 

Samsung also used the preview event to give press a first look at its new Tizen-based smart TVs, which looked suspiciously similar to the webOS-based TV sets LG first showed off at CES last year. Tizen-based TVs use a horizontal navigation bar as well as a pointer-based remote control, both elements also used by LG. However, Samsung has thrown in a bit of neat eye-candy: Its programming guide and other translucent overlays are shaded based on the background. If you watch an underwater scene, they automatically use a blue color palette. Switch to a show about deserts, and the menus share red.

Samsung's new Tizen Tvs have menu overlays that automatically change their color based on the content consumers are watching.

Samsung’s new Tizen TVs have menu overlays that automatically change their color based on the content consumers are watching.

Samsung didn’t actually give press an opportunity to explore its Tizen TVs firsthand, or even open up different apps on the platform — we were promised to be shown more when the show officially starts on Tuesday. However, a spokesperson said that the new Tizen TVs will feature more than 700 apps.

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A Samsung Tizen developer’s conference in Russia has no Tizen hardware

The Samsung Z, which will be the first smartphone to run Samsung’s homegrown Tizen operating system, has suffered another setback. The device was supposed to be launched first in Russia in conjunction, with a Tizen developer’s conference taking place in Moscow. However, no device has been launched, and Samsung told the Wall Street Journal that “the smartphone will appear on the Russian market later, when we can offer our users a [sic] fullest portfolio of applications.” Earlier this year, a device running Tizen was supposed be released in Japan, but the launch was canned after carriers pulled out.

Samsung adds the Galaxy moniker to its app store, making space for Tizen

On July 1st, you might notice some changes on your Samsung Galaxy device. The Korean company is renaming its app store from the — somewhat unoriginal — Samsung Apps name it currently uses to Samsung Galaxy Apps. It’s a minor change, but another sign that Samsung’s simplifying its branding, and using Galaxy as its term for its Android(s goog) hardware and software. The move gives Samsung a way to distinguish between the app store it hopes springs up for its homegrown Tizen operating system and the app store it installs on Android devices. Samsung has already removed the Galaxy moniker from its Tizen-based smartwatch, the Gear 2.