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Samsung Z1 Tizen-based phone mimics Android, cuts costs (hands-on)

Powered by Tizen, not Android, Samsung's Z1 smartphone comes with a bargain-basement price and is heading for developing countries.

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BARCELONA -- Samsung's Z1 smartphone is aimed squarely at developing countries and so comes with an extremely low price -- about $90 (roughly £60 or AU$115).

In order to limbo under that very low bar, Samsung has ditched the Android software it usually uses on its smartphones, instead opting for Tizen, an operating system created by Samsung and various other companies -- it also uses it on its new smart TVs.

Tizen is an open-source operating system and as such, has been taken and moulded by various manufacturers to fit a range of products. It's not just for phones -- Tizen can be found on watches (including Samsung's own Gear S), cameras, car entertainment systems and connected home appliances.

The Tizen software on the Z1 is unapologetically Samsung's. It's not far removed from Android at all, with multiple home screens showing things like the weather, apps and other widgets. Eight apps remain along the bottom for quick access and a swipe up from below brings an app tray, full of all downloaded apps.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

There's even a pull-down notification panel, with the same quick-access settings for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and so on that you'll see on Samsung Galaxy phones. Even the menu, home button and back navigation keys along the bottom of the phone are the same. Android apps are easily ported to Tizen too, so everyday essentials like Facebook and Twitter are already available.

The phone itself is extremely reminiscent of Samsung's earlier Android Galaxy phones. It has an all-plastic design, with a familiar chrome-effect banding around the edge, with the shiny speaker grille and home button-edging that we've seen many times before. I saw it in a red and gold colour, however, that I think looks pretty good -- certainly more interesting than the plain white model, which looked and felt very cheap.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Specs-wise, it's low-end all the way. A 1.2GHz dual-core processor provides the power, the 4-inch display has an 800x480-pixel resolution, a 3.8-megapixel camera sits on the back and there's a 0.3-megapixel camera on the front. It's like a timid house cat to the Galaxy S6 's magnificent roaring lion.

But then this phone does cost a hell of a lot less. It's on sale already in India for the equivalent of $90 (about £60 or AU$115) and will soon go on sale in Bangladesh for a similar price. By comparison, the S6 is set to cost somewhere around the $700 mark.

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