Samsung's first Tizen phone has been a unicorn for years. In early 2013 a high-end model was promised for later in the year, but never arrived. Last year a mid-range device was set for release in Russia, but was later postponed without much explanation. It was looking like Samsung's fledgling OS would be confined to smartwatches and TVs for the foreseeable future, until today — the company has both announced and delivered an honest-to-goodness Tizen smartphone. This is the Samsung Z1, and it's on sale today in India.
That's not to say Samsung has delivered on its initial promise, exactly. The Z1 is a much lower-end device than was first mooted — it has a 4-inch WVGA screen, 3G data, a 1.2GHz dual-core processor, 768MB of RAM, a 1500mAh battery, a 3.1-megapixel camera, and 4GB of storage (plus a microSD slot). All of this explains why Samsung can afford to sell the Z1 at just 5700 Indian rupees, or just over $90.
Despite the low specs, Samsung is touting the phone's fast boot time, web performance, and battery efficiency, thanks to what it describes as the "lightweight Tizen platform." The company is also bundling the phone with a selection of free entertainment content to help it stand out. But the real issue is whether Indian customers will value free streaming music and Bollywood movies over a proven software ecosystem. Google's Android One platform is targeting a similar price point in the same market, and will work with the over 1 million Android apps already available.
That's always been a question mark over Tizen, though, and Samsung isn't without reasons to want to break from its reliance on Google. For now, it's simply worth noting that Tizen is — finally — an actual smartphone operating system.