Samsung announced its newest offering, the Samsung Z smartphone, this week. It’s a mid-range, full-featured device that draws on the company’s Galaxy hardware and is slated for release in Russia during the third quarter of 2014, according to Fierce Wireless. In other words, nothing special—except that the device maker is tossing out Android in favor of its proprietary operating system, Tizen. Why the switch?

Don’t Call Us

In addition to the new Samsung Z smartphone model, Know Your Mobile notes that Samsung is also replacing Android on all its first-generation Galaxy Gear; second-gen models all shipped with Tizen installed. The OS is something Samsung and Intel have been developing for years, and which they describe as “standards-based and open-source.” The new Z will run Tizen 2.2.1, and while details of the phone’s physical features were easy to come by—it has a 4.8 inch 720p screen, 2.3 Ghz quad-core processor, and 8 megapixel main camera—OS information is scarce. There’s the promise of a Tizen app store, but no hard data on how many apps will be available or if the phone will support any kind of cross-OS functionality. Perhaps more worrisome is the lack of any information about core apps like e-mail, messaging, and browser navigation. Samsung claims the device has “fast, optimal performance with improved memory management,” but doesn’t expand on the details.

Skip the Hellstew

This is a bold move by Samsung, since the bulk of mobile device users worldwide still rely on Android, and one of the company’s best-selling products, the Galaxy, runs Google’s OS. Moving old Gear, new Gear, and new smartphones to Tizen shows the manufacturer is confident about its OS and sees it as a viable alternative to Android. This sentiment is gaining ground—The Register reports that Tim Cook took potshots at Google during his keynote speech at Apple’s WorldWide Developers Conference (WWDC). Cook not only claimed that less than 10 percent of Android users run the latest version, KitKat, but also referred to a ZDNet article that described Android OS fragmentation as “turning devices into a toxic hellstew of vulnerabilities.” Showing the quote on-screen, Apple’s CEO added animated flames for effect.

So perhaps the market is going soft on Android; but is the Tizen move a good idea? Windows- and Blackberry-based phones have trouble enough gaining a foothold—is there really room for a fifth big OS? Tizen phones almost made it to launch in Japan, while in the U.S., Sprint initially threw its support behind the system and then never mentioned it again. As a result, it’s not surprising to see Samsung target a Russian launch: they need a market with some flexibility if Tizen is going to find a foothold.

What do you think of Samsung’s shift from Android to Tizen?

Image courtesy of Flickr




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