Samsung's first Tizen-based smartphone has been a long time coming. The phone's launch was nixed last summer in Russia and, before that, in late 2013 in Japan. The phone runs Samsung's homegrown operating system and will be sold in India. Samsung hopes the device will help it recapture lost sales there and in other emerging markets where low-cost phones are the norm.
The Samsung Z1 runs Tizen 2.3, which is based on Linux and other open standards. If you don't remember Tizen 1.0 through 2.2, don't worry. According to Samsung, the latest iteration of Tizen delivers fast boot times, fast access to apps, and a speedy browser thanks to server-side compression. Samsung describes Tizen as "lightweight" -- making it ideal for first-time smartphone users.
In order to make the device appealing to people in the Indian market, Samsung partnered with some local content suppliers. For example, Z1 owners will have access to Bollywood content though Hungama.com, which has more than 2 million songs. Box TV and nexGTv will supply video content, and a coming service called Joy Box will offer even more music, TV, and movies.
[Want more on Samsung's strategy? See Samsung Ponders Move To Windows Phone.]
Samsung is showing concern for the safety and security of Z1 owners. Each device is equipped with an SOS alert that can be activated by pressing the power button four times in rapid succession. The alert notifies predetermined contacts with a "Help!" message and provides real-time location tracking to aid law enforcement. Samsung created a version of its Private Mode for the Z1, which sequesters photos and other files into a secure folder that is only accessible via password. The phone also offers malware protection, but it's hard to imagine ne'er-do-wells bothering with Tizen just yet.
Since the Z1 is aiming low in the market, the specs are unimpressive by today's flagship standards. The screen measures 4 inches and has 800 x 480 pixels. The Z1 is run by a 1.2 GHz dual-core processor with 768 MB of RAM and just 4 GB of internal storage space. The phone supports user-swappable memory cards up to 64 GB in size.
The phone will ship in single- and dual-SIM variants and has a 1,500 mAh battery that Samsung says is good for seven hours of video playback or eight hours of call time. If you're worried about battery life, the phone carries over Samsung's Ultra Power Saving Mode to help maximize uptime. The phone has a 3.1 megapixel main camera and a VGA user-facing camera with a face-detection feature for better selfies.
The phone is available in India for approximately $92. It comes in black, white, and red. Samsung has not said if the device will be sold anywhere outside of India, but don't expect to ever see it in the US. IT managers needn't worry about the Samsung Z1 suddenly showing up in their BYOD programs.
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