The Gear 2 smartwatch, launched in February this year, confirmed all speculations about Samsung ditching Android in favor of its native Tizen OS. As we wait for the arrival of the first Tizen smartphone, here’s an overview of the new platform’s main properties.
There had been rumors for months now, that Samsung was gradually distancing itself from Google Android. Last month, the company unveiled its new flagship handset – the Samsung Z – which was powered by the new Tizen operating system (developed by Samsung itself). Although the commercial launch of Samsung Z has been delayed, there’s little doubt that Tizen would soon start vying with Android for share in the worldwide smart devices market. In this discourse, we take a look at some key features of Samsung’s home-grown potential rival of Android:
- Tizen is open-source – Samsung has been projecting Tizen OS as a ‘universal operating system’. The OS is based on Linux, and is open-source – just like Android. Software and mobile app development experts can make changes in the UI codes, to make Tizen customized for non-Samsung devices. Several functionalities of MeeGo and Nokia have been blended in Tizen.
- Tizen builds on the features of Bada – Bada was Samsung’s first attempt at creating a standalone operating system. It did not work out – but the company has used Bada as an underlying reference for developing Tizen. Most of the Bada software have been seamlessly integrated in the new platform.
- Tizen is not optimized for smartphones only – This is in stark contrast with what the initial rumors and forum updates indicated. To ensure a wide coverage and device share, Samsung has made Tizen customized for usage in smart televisions, notebook computers and even as vehicle operating system – in addition to, of course, in smartphones and tablets.
- Tizen would offer top-notch personalization – Well, we will have to wait till the release of Samsung Z – but a look through the specs of Tizen suggests that it might be at par with Android in this regard. The ARM x86 processor ensures high device speeds and a relatively glitch-free performance. There are no significant limitations on the type of personalization that can be done on Tizen’s interface. It ranks ahead of iOS at least on this count!
- Tizen has the support of Intel – Samsung has an ally in Intel, for the continuous upgradation of the Tizen OS platform. In fact, MeeGo – from which Tizen generously borrows many of its features – was a property of Intel (it was discontinued in 2011) earlier. If the new Samsung platform becomes a hit, it can very well get the backing of several other big players in the market.
- Tizen is gearing up for the app challenge – Presence of a well-stacked app store is critical to the success of any new mobile platform, and Samsung is aware of the challenge. All Bada apps can be easily ported to the Tizen platform. Both web-based as well as native mobile applications would be present in the store as well. Understandably, the range of Tizen apps is nowhere close to rivaling that of Apple or Google yet – but expect a closer fight over time. Samsung even conducted a well-publicized app challenge for developers (for the Tizen platform) – and handed out $4 million as the prize money to winners.
- Tizen has built-in HTML5 support – Yet another point that has caught the attention of professional app developers worldwide. With HTML5 support, Tizen would offer faster video rendering (from YouTube) on devices, and the need for external plug-ins will be done away with. From the developers’ perspective, the cost of creating mobile apps would be lowered – and the entire development cycle will get shorter.
- Tizen will not be a ‘side project’ for Samsung – J.K. Shin, the head of the mobile department at Samsung, has already gone on record saying that Tizen would be a simpler and more viable alternative to Google Android. This spirit explains why Samsung is not taking any chances with Tizen by going for a premature release. For instance, if it had gone with Tizen for the recently launched Galaxy S5, the move might have backfired. Tizen will come only when the Samsung developers feel it is completely ready.
- Tizen supports all basic touch gestures – Tizen delivers the needful as far as user-interaction with devices is concerned. Right from sliding and flicking, to swiping – all common mobile/tablet touch gestures are supported on it. The screen of a Tizen device will have to be pinched, to zoom the display. There are no touch features on Tizen that Android does not already have – but at least the former is staying with its chief rival.
- Tizen would offer multiple display window options – This one can play a role in bolstering Tizen’s popularity levels over the next few years. According to the previews available from the Tizen developer page, users will be able to work with either a ‘mini window’ or a ‘full window’ on their handsets. If the former option is chosen, a ‘floating browser’ effect would be generated. The Q-Slide will be an interesting addition too (users of LG handsets are probably already familiar with it).
- Tizen’s design seems too similar with that of Android – And that can hurt its prospects, for users might not feel motivated enough to switch from from the Google OS to Tizen. The gray-themed drop-down menus and app bars do not have much difference from the ones present on the Android UI. The notification panel also seems inspired from Google. Thankfully, the home screen of the Tizen OS does not resemble that of Android – and it can be expected that there will be more changes to the initial design overview of Tizen (presented at MWC Barcelona).
- There’s little to choose between TouchWiz and Tizen – This is, in essence, an extension of the previous point. The dynamic boxes present on an Android device with a TouchWiz layer are present on the Tizen interface too. From multitasking and firewall blocking, to power-saving features – Tizen has them all, but they are way too similar to those already present on most Android devices.
- Tizen debuted on a smart camera – Before implementing it in the soon-to-release Samsung Z smartphone, developers had already tested the platform on other devices. The Samsung NX300M camera was the first ever device (launched in the second half of 2013) to be powered by Tizen. Samsung’s Gear 2 smartwatch also uses Tizen instead of Android.
- Tizen has the support of top automotive brands – Only time will tell whether Tizen succeeds in the smartphone and tablet sector, but as an in-car OS, it already has quite a few takers. Chris Coteau, the director of Tizen foundation, has already announced that top vehicle companies like Land Rover, Toyota and Jaguar have expressed their willingness to collaborate with the platform. There’s every chance that Tizen would become a worthy challenger to Apple CarPlay over the next few months.
Konami, Fujitsu and NTT Docomo are some of the other companies that have extended their support for the Tizen OS. At present, it seems much more well-placed than the Firefox OS or the Ubuntu Touch as a proper challenger to Google Android. The wait is now for the launch of Samsung Z – which would give us a first-hand feel of how good (or otherwise) Tizen actually is!
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