One of the big stories of MWC 2013 is phones that don't run Android or Windows Phone — we've seen a handful of new, upstart operating systems pop up to challenge the big players in the industry, including the Samsung- and Intel-backed Tizen. The company had a party last night at a gorgeous hotel on a steep hill in Barcelona to celebrate its absorption of Samsung's Bada OS, and we got a chance to test out version 2.0 of the new OS before Tizen-powered smartphones come out later this year.
Tizen 2.0 feels a lot like Android 2.2 (or even 2.1), with some of the design sensibility of webOS. From the sliding lock screen to the pull-down windowshade and settings menu to the grid of icons, the paradigm is basically unchanged from Android — the shutter button in the camera app appears to have been lifted untouched from an Android device. The round icons, gray backgrounds, and slightly cartoonish aesthetic brought back memories of the Pre and Pixi, though. It's a nice-looking operating system, though there's little about its interface or appearance that would qualify as unique.
Tizen needs some polishing — but so did Android
We used the OS on a Samsung-made reference design, a 720p phone that looked a bit like a Galaxy S II. Performance was hit or miss — it stuttered on things as basic as pulling down the windowshade, but when we got a sneak peek at Anomaly KR, a fairly intensive strategy game, it worked perfectly. Tizen seems to need some polishing, but the foundation of the OS is clearly strong.
Aping Android's experience might be a smart idea for Tizen — people clearly like Google's OS, and Tizen devices could offer a similar experience without some of the added licensing costs. Anomaly KR's developer also told us it took just two hours to port the app to Tizen, which means its app store could fill quickly. Samsung has committed to launching multiple Tizen devices this year — we'll find out quickly if there's room for yet another OS in the mobile market.