Market Insight

Samsung's first Tizen smartphone is the first step to an Android divorce

June 13, 2014

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By Rory Nash

At the Tizen Developer Conference in San Francisco, the Korean electronics giant announced the Samsung Z, revealing it will launch in Russia in Q3, with the company claiming it will ship to other markets at a later date. Samsung chose not to announce a price.

Samsung Z features include:

  • 4.9” HD Super AMOLED display
  • 2.3GHz quad core processor
  • 2GB RAM
  • 16GB storage
  • 8MP rear-facing camera
  • Fingerprint sensor
  • Full support for 2D and 3D graphics

Our analysis

Samsung is being cautious with the release of their new mobile OS, initially releasing the Samsung Z in Russia only. The company will want to gauge consumer reactions to the device, without damaging their reputation.

Samsung is choosing to release Tizen slowly, to allow developers to grow the currently non-existent ecosystem the OS has to offer. Russia has strong local content and services players such as Yandex which makes it easier for Samsung to build local momentum. The company will hope to build up demand for the phone, while keeping the majority of the global market waiting.

The decision to use the same TouchWiz interface on Tizen - which already exists on Samsung’s Android range - is a logical one. Samsung wants to bridge the gap between the Tizen and Android operating systems carefully. The company wants existing Android users to seemlessly convert to Tizen. This shows Samsung isn’t so much interested in gaining new customers out of the software, instead it wants current Android users to switch.

Importantly, the device doesn’t directly yet rival Android alternatives, meaning Samsung must continue to promote sales of all of its smartphone devices. This shows that the Tizen development is still in its early stages, as the firm does not yet want to make a full transition from Android.

Samsung has been developing the Tizen software for three years since stepping in when Nokia pulled out of Tizen's forerunner, MeeGo, to switch to Windows Phone. While Samsung is the world’s biggest Android device maker, it wants to be able to rely less on Google’s software because it wishes to innovate independently and differentiate its products. Tizen provides a safety net for Samsung in case future Android releases limit its ability to offer its own services. The mere presence of this safety net for the single largest Android manufacturer acts a major deterrent against doing that for Google.

Samsung has been keen to promote advantages in performance of its new OS, claiming Tizen improves start-up time and multitasking capabilities. This, coupled with the quad core processor in the Samsung Z, indicates the company is pushing the device as a smartphone for demanding consumers who may not be able to afford one of Samsung's flagships such as the Galaxy S5 or Note 3.

This isn’t the first instance of Samsung trying to break free of the Android platform. It failed with its previous OS, Bada, which has now been rolled into Tizen. This is a quiet revolution, with Samsung recently announcing Tizen smart TVs and the Galaxy Gear 2. It is at its most crucial stage now, however, because as the smartphone market is central to Samsung’s recent success. If Tizen is not a success with the Samsung Z smartphone, then Tizen may never take off as an Android alternative. Long term, this will make it harder for Samsung to maintain its smartphone profitability if hardware becomes commoditised and margins shift to software, content and services.

For the moment, Tizen is not a threat to Google’s Android OS, simply because the ecosystem hasn’t yet been established. But the launch of the first Tizen smartphone is significant because this is Samsung’s most considerable step to date in attempting to detach itself from dependency on Android.

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