Meet the Samsung Z1, its second attempt at a first Tizen smartphone

Costing less than $100, the Tizen-powered Samsung Z1 has launched in India

Samsung has announced the Z1, its first Tizen powered smartphone. Well, technically it’s the second, but because the Samsung Z never actually went on sale, we suppose it doesn’t really count. The Samsung Z1 is destined for release in India, where it must do battle with Android One hardware, a mounting offensive from Xiaomi, and any number of popular local manufacturers.

Tizen is the primary difference between it and the Android-based competition. Version 2.3 is installed, and Samsung says it’s ready to go in a faster time than other phones, provides a faster web browsing experience, and has a simple user interface. To make the phone stand out, Samsung’s pushing something called the Joy Box, which is a free entertainment pack containing movies, TV, and music. There’s also access to Samsung’s own premium content through Club Samsung.

For the hardware, Samsung has chosen a 4-inch touchscreen with a 480 x 800 pixel resolution, along with a dual-core 1.2GHz processor, and 768MB of RAM. A feeble 4GB of internal memory can thankfully be increased by up to 64GB using a MicroSD card, and there is dual-SIM support too. The 1500mAh battery gets Samsung’s Ultra Power Saving Mode – a feature we like on Samsung’s Galaxy smartphones – and promises to deliver around eight hours of talktime.

The rear camera has 3.1 megapixels and an LED flash, while a basic VGA camera above the screen will churn out some pixelated selfies. There’s 3G connectivity, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, and GPS onboard. It’s all wrapped up in a 9mm thick, 112 gram body available in either white, black, or a rather fetching Wine Red.

The phone will go on sale January 14, and has been priced at around $95. That undercuts Android One hardware, but it’s not clear how many apps are available for Tizen at the moment, and the phone can’t run Android apps to make up for any gaping holes.

Will this be the first in a line of Tizen phones, including one available internationally, or are we in for another long wait before the next example arrives?

CONTINUE TO PAGE TWO TO READ ABOUT THE SAMSUNG Z1’S DIFFICULT START TO LIFE

Tizen fans are used to disappointment, after Samsung and Intel have failed to get a smartphone running the operating system out into the world during 2014. The Z1 failed to arrive on December 10, a date teased in local reports from South Korea, after which a new date in early 2015 was suggested. The phone eventually launched on January 14, but it had a difficult start in life.

Updated on 12-22-2014 by Malarie Gokey: Added leaked specs and pictures from mobile phone retailer, as well as launch date estimate.

It may finally launch on January 18

Samsung has recently switched tactics, according to previous leaks, with Tizen. It’s now targeting India with the competitively priced Z1, that costs less than $100. In September, it was rumored the phone would go on sale during November, but as with everything Tizen-related, that launch date was abandoned, and another in December was supposedly set up.

In a report published by the Wall Street Journal, it’s confirmed Samsung didn’t hold an event anywhere on December 10, which was the last possible release date we’d heard, and the Z1 wasn’t officially announced. The company covered its back by saying it hadn’t circulated any invitations, or confirmed the phone would arrive. Even though there was considerable circumstantial evidence suggesting December 10 would be the day.

However, a leak from a mobile phone retailer in India hints that Samsung may still launch the Z1 imminently. SamMobile discovered a series of tweets, which show pictures of what the leaker claims is a presentation of pre-launch marketing materials for the Z1. Although none of these tweets state a specific release date, they do contain a full spec list and introduce a few of the phone’s features.

Shortly after the tweets leaked, a report from the Korea Economic Daily quoted a Samsung official as saying the company’s Z1 Tizen phone will launch on January 18, 2015 in India. The official reportedly added that the device won’t cost more than 100,000 Korean won, which amounts to about $90. TizenExperts.com noted Samsung imported $1.7 million worth of parts related to the Z1 to India in early December, indicating the company wasn’t quite finished building the handset at that time, which may explain yet another delay.

Low price means average specs

Although Samsung never confirmed the phone, a possible spec list leaked, and as you’d expect from a budget device, it’s relatively basic. A 4-inch, 480 x 800 pixel screen could be used to display the OS, and a 1.2GHz dual-core chip with 512MB of RAM may power the device. The chip could be from Spreadtrum, a Chinese manufacturer that’s not-entirely-coincidentally backed by Intel, Samsung’s partner on the Tizen project. Other specs could include a 3.2-megapixel camera, dual-SIM slots, and 3G connectivity.

A December leak from a mobile carrier in India confirms many of these specifications, but there are a few deviations. Based on the tweeted pictures of pre-launch meeting slides, the Z1 may indeed sport a 4-inch screen with the same WVGA resolution mentioned above. However, a 1.2GHz dual-core processor and 768GB of RAM are said to power the Tizen phone in these slides. Additionally, 4GB internal storage and a MicroSD card slot for expansion are mentioned, as is a 1,500 mAh battery with an ultra power saving mode. The slides show a 3-megapixel back camera with a fixed-focus lens and LED flash, as well as an automatic selfie-taking, VGA resolution front-facing camera. In terms of connectivity, dual SIM card slots, 3G, Wi-Fi b/g/n, Wi-Fi Direct, A-GPS, and FM Radio are mentioned.

The leaker also took pictures of what he claims is the Z1 phone itself. Pictures show a simple, white phone with Samsung’s design language, a home button, back touch key, and menu touch key. In one photo, you can clearly see the Tizen icons on the screen.

India is gradually being inundated with low-cost smartphones. Google signed up three local manufacturers to produce and sell Android One devices there, and Chinese brand Xiaomi is also releasing its well-regarded hardware in the country. Samsung doesn’t want to be left out of this rapidly growing market, but whether Tizen is the operating system to use remains to be seen, particularly because Google hasn’t seen much success with Android One yet.

Article originally published on 12-01-2014

Previous updates:

Updated on 12-11-2014 by Andy Boxall: Added in comments on the Z1’s failure to launch

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