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Z1: ‘Frosty’ reception for Samsung’s first Tizen-powered phone

Samsung’s hopes of a dream start for its Tizen-powered Z1 phone could be turning into a bit of a nightmare for the Korean company, if a report this week is anything to go by.

The phone, Samsung’s first released handset to run on its home-made Tizen operating system, launched in India just last week, but the early signs are that consumers there are showing little interest.

A Mumbai-based Reuters reporter said Tuesday that the new phone, which Samsung is hoping will help improve its market share in the enormous country as well as globally, has received something of a “frosty” welcome, with reviewers and consumers castigating it for its “low-resolution cameras and dearth of software applications.”

Considering the device only costs $95, the fact that it comes with a feeble 3.1-megapixel rear camera and a simple VGA front shooter shouldn’t surprise too many people, though it’s easy to understand why a lack of apps could be an issue.

Samsung has reportedly said Tizen currently offers more than 1,000 apps, which is of course a dismal figure when you compare it to the million or so available for Android handsets. Admittedly, it’s early days for Samsung’s platform, but try telling that to a consumer on the hunt for their very first smartphone.

Attractive alternatives

IDC analyst Karan Thakkar told Reuters that although the Z1 is priced very competitively compared to many of its Android alternatives – some of which are also made by Samsung – there are still lots of attractive options at the budget end of India’s mobile market.

Samsung will, however, be reassured to know that not all reviews have been critical. In a hands-on ‘early impressions’ piece in the widely read India Today, reviewer Javed Anwer said the phone had a “reassuringly good build quality” and functioned as smoothly as an Android device. He described his initial feelings toward the handset as “positive,” though suggested that as the OS was new, interested consumers should wait for more in-depth reviews.

Related: Google botches Android One launch in India

With only 10 percent of Indians owning a smartphone and more than half of sales coming from devices costing under $100, Samsung is desperate for its first Tizen handset to be a hit. Success in the fast-growing Indian market with the Z1 would pave the way for greater investment in Tizen by the Korean tech giant, allowing it to rely less heavily on Google and its Android mobile OS. But the early signs suggest the company has some work to do to convince consumers of the benefits of the phone and its operating system.