Samsung to launch Tizen phones this year, but Android remains key

Samsung hopes to ship the first two smartphones running the Tizen operating system this year. The company has been one of the key backers of the Linux-based operating system (as is Intel), and the Samsung Gear 2 line of smartwatches already run a version of Tizen. But despite years of development, no company has brought a Tizen phone to market yet.

Now Reuters reports that Samsung will launch a high-end Tizen smartphone toward the end of the second quarter of 2014. A second model will follow, with mid-range specs.

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The news comes from a Reuters interview with Samsung vice president Yoon Han-kil.

Samsung makes and sells more Android smartphones than any other company, and Android is clearly key to the company’s mobile strategy. But Tizen presents an opportunity for Samsung to have more control over its ecosystem… and revenue.

While Samsung has tried loading its own app stores on Android phones and tablets, most users download apps and media from the Google Play Store. A Tizen device with Samsung app and content stores would allow Samsung to take a cut of the sales price of digital goods instead of ceding it to Google.

But plans to launch Tizen phones have been continually delayed as wireless carriers and other partners try to gauge whether there’s any room for yet another smartphone platform in developed markets. The Reuters article suggests Samsung will try to push its Tizen devices in markets that aren’t already saturated with Android and iOS devices.

Smartwatches

Interestingly while Samsung plans to dabble in Tizen smartphones as an alternative to Android, the company seems to be taking a slightly different approach to other devices.

Last year Samsung launched the Galaxy Gear smartwatch which was powered by Android. This year the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo hit the streets with Tizen instead. But according to the report, Samsung plans to release another Android-powered watch later this year.

The company also plans to make it possible for people to pair a Samsung smartwatch with a non-Samsung phone… something that you can kind of do now, but which isn’t officially supported and which offers mixed results.

  • BoloMKXXVIII

    I could be wrong but I believe in the US the Tizen phones will be welcomed about as much as an extended stay of a cranky mother-in-law. I can just see the return rate of these things as people realize they cannot load their favorite apps. It will make the return rate of linux powered netbooks look good in comparison. Samsung is not helping themselves by making the OS look so similar to (skinned) Android.

    • Cal Rankin

      tizen actually has Android app compatibility. I suppose that people probably don’t care about what device or services they use wouldn’t notice the difference. It’s a Samsung. It looks and works like a samsung, so those people who wouldn’t know the difference between iOS and Android wouldn’t think too much about having Samsung services instead of Google services, so long as they can run 2048 or whatever app they want on it.

  • jm2c

    I think Microsoft’s uphill battle proves that without apps it’s tough to sell a phone with a new OS. I read that Tizen will be able to run Android apps, but how well or how compatible I don’t know. Also that did not work well for BlackBerry.

    Without a strong app store I doubt a new OS will go anywhere unless it offers some other innovative feature like that first iPhone did with its capacitive screen. Remember the iPhone didn’t have an app store when it first came out and the apps on it filled 1 screen and that’s all there was?

    I think that the next step in the app store battle is going to be for Google/Microsoft/Amazon to allow manufacturers to create their own app stores where manufacturers can get a cut of the profits. I think that would put a stop to manufacturers seriously looking for another option.

  • JD

    I like choice, so I’m glad Samsung is giving Tizen a run. It’s success
    depends on how cheap the phones are, how well they perform, and what
    apps are available. I think Samsung can handle price and performance,
    but I don’t think they will be able to sufficiently stock the app store.

    Right
    now, the app selection is the most important thing, but as mobile
    browsers get better, this may change in the future. Once mobile
    browsers get closer to PC desktop browsers, most apps will become
    pointless. I mean do you need a dedicated app on your PC to look at
    eBay, Facebook, or YouTube?

    Samsung is not hurting for money or
    market share right now, so they can afford to blow some money on side
    projects. Maybe they see Tizen as an investment that will pay off in
    the future.

    I haven’t read what kind of chips the Tizen phones will be using. It could be a good opportunity for Intel considering its a big backer of Tizen and wanting to expand its mobile chip market share.

    • Cal Rankin

      I agree. Most apps soon will just be web apps. I don’t even use the ebay app anyway.

  • Cal Rankin

    I think Tizen has places to go, but the phone market is already getting congested. In comparison with iOS and Android, plus Windows Phone, Firefox OS, and Ubuntu Touch, Tizen is looking to be just another OS. There really isn’t anything special about it in comparison to the other OSes.
    Apple has a huge media library and tons of apps to boot. Android has the advantage of all of Google’s services built-in, plus most of the apps and media available to iOS. Android also has a lot of other kinds of apps to accomplish many other tasks that iOS can’t do. Windows Phone has better integration with Microsoft’s services, as well as a very unique UI. It also has a very good user experience on low-end hardware as well. Firefox OS is a very simple OS that hangs on the border between smartphones and feature phones, like Nokia Asha. Ubuntu touch has another unique UI as well as the ability to function as a desktop when docked. Tizen is ultimately very similar to Android, and will not have access to Google’s services, and will only have as many Android apps that Samsung can coerce into its app store.
    The new Gear watches made me realize that Samsung could definitely shape Tizen into an OS that runs on other smart devices, like watches, TV’s, and set-top boxes.

    • Maventwo

      You forgot Sailfish OS!
      As many different OS as possible will make a better market for us costumers.
      So the smartphone market will not be as the pc market where the Wintel hegemony
      have dominated the market totally.

      • Cal Rankin

        I did leave out Sailfish. At the time, I forgot that Sailfish has enough distinctive features to make it unique.
        I love what they’re doing (reminds me a lot of webOS). However, I feel that it may not have the same power as the others. I still think it’s deserving of its own niche.