Samsung's first Tizen smartphone is finally here -- well kinda.
The Korean electronics giant said late Sunday that it will launch its first smartphone powered by the open-source software in the third quarter in Russia. The phone, called the Samsung Z, will ship in other markets at a later date, Samsung said.
Samsung is the world's biggest Android device maker by a wide margin, but it has been developing Tizen as an alternative to Google's operating system for nearly three years. Tizen, which is already running on Samsung's Galaxy Gear watches, gives Samsung more control over its own future, allowing it to rely less on Google and more on its homegrown software. That becomes increasingly important as Google works to support other Android vendors and as Samsung tries to set itself apart from all the other handset makers in the market.
The phone comes with a 4.9-inch HD Super AMOLED display and a 2.3 GHz quad-core processor and fully supports 2D and 3D graphics. It also sports an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera and a 2.1-megapixel front-facing camera and includes a fingerprint sensor and the ultra power saving mode that first appeared in Samsung's Galaxy S5 flagship Android phone. The Samsung Z will be available in black and gold and features a slim, angular design that sets the device apart from Samsung's Galaxy S line of phones.
Samsung said the use of Tizen on the phone allows for a faster start-up time, immediate multitasking capabilities, and faster Web browsing. The Samsung Z features a "distinctive home and application layout for easy access to favorite features and apps." The operating system also includes a "dynamic box" and color themes settings to let users tailor the device to their tastes.
Samsung will show off the phone at the Tizen Developer Conference, being held this week in San Francisco.
The Korean electronics giant has been working on Tizen-based smartphones for months, but its first phone has faced numerous delays. Samsung not only had troubles with hardware and getting the software itself ready, but it also has struggled with carrier support, apps, and other features essential for a successful launch. The Samsung Z will hit the market about a year later than Samsung had planned.
Launching the phone in Russia is easier for Samsung than introducing it someplace like the US or Japan. The Russian market isn't as carrier dependent as more mature phone markets. Many wireless companies -- such as Sprint, Orange, and Vodafone -- are part of the Tizen Association, but there also have been some high-profile setbacks. Sprint joined the Tizen Association, quit, but later rejoined. Other carriers, such as Telefonica, have quit and never returned, and even more have expressed concerns about Tizen's progress.
NTT DoCoMo, Japan's largest carrier and an early proponent of Tizen, in January scuttled its immediate plans to launch a Tizen-based smartphone. The company, which said it continues to support Tizen, made the move because of the lack of consumer demand beyond Android or Apple's iOS.
Rather than release a phone as its first major global device running Tizen, Samsung earlier this year launched the second version of its smartwatch, the Gear 2, with the operating system. The company also has been working to building up the Tizen app store and get developers behind the operating system. The company has offered millions of dollars in prizes and funding to get developers to make apps for Tizen.
Samsung said Sunday that the Tizen Store will provide a special promotional program to all developers for one year to encourage more app makers to support the operating system. Samsung also plans to host local Tizen app challenges in Russia and other countries to boost the Tizen ecosystem.