Possibly one of the most anticipated gadget launches of the year, the unveiling of the Samsung Galaxy S4 this week has certainly raised the bar for smartphone manufacturers. The device under the spotlight, features an unprecedented 13 MP / 2 MP camera combo with stunning smooth graphics powered by its 1.9GHz processor and displayed on its 5.0″ screen with 441 pixels per inch. However, putting the impressive hardware aside, one can’t help but drool over the software capabilities that the S4 boasts. In the current Android-dominated smartphone market, it simply isn’t enough to produce a high end device capable of running the Android platform. Granted, other manufacturers like HTC have attempted to customise the software, but none have made as much progress as Samsung. As if the touchwiz interface isn’t enough to draw your attention to the device, Samsung offers it’s own well designed suite of applications. Samsung devices offer the Readers Hub, Music Hub, Social Hub, Samsung Apps/Samsung Hub, Learning Hub, Swype Keyboard, Kies Cast, S-Voice, ChatON and a feature rich camera application amongst others. The S4 goes on to introduce S-Translate which translates text as you type or as you receive messages and emails. It introduces new features to SmartStay which allow you to control certain actions on your device by your eyes. It introduces amazing app and media sharing capabilities, a great deal of feature enhancements to its camera app, the ability to interact with content by hovering your hand over the screen and more.
That brings me to an important point. Samsung’s latest smartphone was unveiled with absolutely no mention of features or abilities provided by its underlying Android 4.2 Jellybean operating system. No mention of Google Maps, Google Voice or Google Now. The fact is that the selling points of Samsung’s latest flagship device are now somewhat independent of the core Android operating system its built upon. Behind the scenes, Samsung have been working to develop the Linux mobile platform, Tizen. Samsung paid $500 000 to become a platinum member of the Linux Foundation and have ever since been rigorously involved in developing the next big thing in the mobile software market. Some may remember bada, Samsung’s first self-developed smartphone OS which it recently retired. Bada proved successful in terms of its abilities as an operating system, but failed to draw much attention. One could argue that Samsung never pushed its bada devices out to the public, but inevitably, bada had its limitations. The biggest constraint was not being able to draw as big a pool of app developers as Android. However, Tizen unlike bada, involves a number of different major stakeholders like Intel who have an interest in pushing development for the platform. Tizen boasts the ability to run HTML5 apps, native Tizen apps, all bada apps and even an easy port for existing Android apps. What’s more, Samsung’s own app store already has a large developer base which can be used as a starting ground for sourcing app developers for Tizen. Consider the first Tizen device powered by the same impressive hardware as the S4, featuring ALL of Samsung’s Hub apps and software features including touchwiz and sporting a fully stocked app store. I think Samsung has a winner. It will be difficult for the common user to recognise that the core operating system on an S4 differs from the core OS on the first Tizen device.
Samsung is planning the launch of the first Tizen device later this year (2013). Why Samsung is taking on Google in the OS race could be due to numerous factors, but the two most obvious are that the Tech giant wants to be entirely self-reliant and completely in control of its devices’ abilities and the obvious fact that Google has bought Samsung-rival Motorola Mobile. So if you think the S4 is an impressive device, wait until the launch of the first Tizen device and the subsequent counter-launch from Google, the LG Nexus 5. Those devices are set to shake the smartphone market!