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Samsung today launched its first ever Tizen smartphone, the Z1 in India for a price of Rs 5,700. Previously, we’ve seen Samsung launch a watch running Tizen (Samsung Gear S which was launched last year) and the 2015 smart-television series will be running on Tizen as well, as was seen at the annual Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month.

For starters, Tizen is Samsung’s own Linux-based OS. Initially it was conceptualised by Tizen community in 2012 as an on-going project within the Linux Foundation, under the Tizen Association. Tizen is an open source, standards based software platform aimed towards various mobile operators and technology manufacturers. Tizen’s utility is beyond just mobile devices, and it has been developed for automobile systems and televisions as well.

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So what’s Samsung Z1 like and can it be a worthy challenger to the Android throne? As far as specs go,Samsung Z1 has a 4-inch WVGA PLS screen, 4 GB storage space expandable to 32 GB via microSD card, 768 MB RAM, 1.2 GHz dual-core processor, a 3.1 megapixel camera and a VGA front camera.

We got to spend some time with the device at the launch and here’s our first impression.

Design, Build and Screen: Let’s face it, when you look at this phone it looks a lot like the Galaxy Ace or Galaxy Star series. There’s nothing radically new about the design or the build though it does have metallic-finish on the side. It really doesn’t look so different from the countless Android phones that Samsung has offered in the past. Perhaps that is what Samsung was going for, but seriously we feel that the design doesn’t help the Z1 stand out.

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onversely, one can say that Z1 one looks like every other Samsung phone, which might appeal to some users who want the Samsung brand but not Android.

The screen is 4-inches with WVGA resolution (800×480) and for the price range it’s fairly sharp and quite bright, at least in the light settings in the demo zone. However we did notice that smudges on the screen make it harder to read, especially if you’re viewing it from some slanted angles. The good thing is that the screen isn’t too big and won’t overwhelm those users who are picking up their first smartphone.

Camera, Speed and Storage: The camera is 3.1 megapixels which will disappoint many, at least those first-time smartphone buyers who have been looking forward to take pictures with their phone. It doesn’t give the sharpest of images, though under sufficient light, the camera is not bad.

The front camera is VGA and again it will ensure that first-time smartphone users are not left out of the selfie-bandwagon. It also has an auto face-detect feature for better selfies, and some features for beautification. We’re guessing though that selfies will be hard to take in low-light with this resolution.

In a world where Android and therefore Google have come to dominate smartphones and tablets, Samsung is hoping that Tizen will be an effective Android alternative. It should be noted that Samsung’s previous outing in the mobile software space – the Bada OS – wasn’t much of a success and was eventually discontinued.

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As far as storage is concerned, it’s only 4GB. Although there is an option of the microSD card with 32 GB as the limit. The RAM is only 768 MB and the phone has a dual-core processor. We tried out the smartphone for quite sometime and it’s fairly smooth. We didn’t notice any lag while opening apps like say Facebook, WhatsApp, or even browsing the web.

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This is a dual-SIM phone with 3G, WiFi, Bluetooth so all the basic connectivity options are covered.

Battery: Samsung has given this device a 1,500 mAh battery and according to the company it will offer 8 hours of talk-time and 7 hours of non-stop video. There’s also the Ultra Power Saving Mode, which Samsung says will let the phone function even in minimal battery levels.

Another feature is ‘All Day 10%’ which will put the phone in standby mode once the battery hits ten percent. Again, for now the battery doesn’t sound like too much, but then this phone is also in the entry-level range. We’ll probably have more to say about this once we test the device.

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The Tizen OS: As far as the Tizen OS is concerned, we couldn’t help but notice the similarity to Android, at least where the look of the icons is concerned. There’s also a drop-down menu for notifications, Wi-fi, other settings. There’s also the Favourites app feature which will show you the 8 most-used apps in two rows.

You can either stick to these or swipe further down to get to the other apps. There’s a Tizen app store and it’s not clear when or if Samsung will bring other apps stores to the OS. The smartphone will run Android apps thanks to integrated Android app support for Tizen OS. While Facebook, WhatsApp, Google haven’t created any apps for this OS, Samsung has created its own apps for these which are available in Tizen OS and thus users can access them.

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It should be noted that the lack of apps has delayed the Tizen launch for Samsung in other countries earlier on. For instance as this Wall Street Journal report notes, Samsung’s attempt to launch a Tizen phone in “Japan, France, Russia” all backfired as “the South Korean company or its partners balked at the last minute, citing a lack of support from the market—from carriers and from app developers.”

Now, Samsung is trying to get past that by creating its own apps. Given that this is a phone that some first time smartphone buyers might buy, not too many of them will be happy if the lack of apps isn’t fixed soon enough. Samsung will need to bring the latest games, apps, etc., to Tizen by convincing developers, else the Tizen brand is unlikely to grow much in India or elsewhere.

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Samsung has also loaded the Z1 with Club Samsung which has over 270,000 songs and 80 live stream channels. It has also partnered with Hungama to let users stream and download Bollywood music free for three months, after which there is a paid subscription. Given that this is a low-budget phone, we’re not sure if too many people will sign up for paid subscriptions and content.

Conclusion: Will Z1 be a game changer for Samsung? It’s hard to say yes, because you can’t help but compare it to what is available in the market. Some Android devices which are in the same price range, offer better specs. For instance, Redmi 1S is priced only Rs 5,999 (Rs 299 more than the Z1) and has a better camera (8 megapixels); the Asus Zenfone 4 has more storage space 8GB, 5 megapixel camera and is priced at Rs 5,299. So yes, there are cheaper, more feature-rich alternatives to the Z1 which might appeal to many.

Z1 and Tizen is Samsung’s alternative to the dominance of Google. And yet you feel that by keeping this as a budget phone with bare minimum specs, Samsung hasn’t really given the Z1 the backing it needs. There’s no doubt that it’s a pretty zippy OS given how smoothly it functioned for us in the demo zone, but the lack of apps and features on the phone don’t really do it much justice.

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