What is Tizen? Is it any good? And what products is Tizen OS available in? Here’s everything you need to know about Samsung’s operating system…
Tizen – or Tizen OS – is Samsung’s very own mobile computing platform. Like iOS and Android, Tizen has (and still is) used to power a range of Samsung products – from its smartwatches to its fridges and HDTVs.
Built on the same Linux base framework as Android, Tizen is completely open-source and is able to run across all different types of devices – from smartwatches and phones to TVs and smart home appliances like fridges.
The developer community around Tizen is pretty small right, with Samsung doing nearly 100% of the consumer-facing development work, but as the company’s product lines grow, more and more attention could be paid to Tizen between now and 2025.
What is Tizen? A Brief History of Samsung’s OS
When you’re the biggest phone company on the planet, not controlling the core aspects of your phones’ functionality must be annoying as hell. Google owns Android and, for this reason, owns 100% of the revenues generated through the platform.
If you buy something via any of Google’s Android apps – from Play to Movies – Google gets paid. And Google also makes money on all of the ads you see in Chrome. No one else gets a taste. Not even Samsung.
Instead, Samsung has to settle for money made on hardware sales and sales done through apps from its Galaxy Store. And this kind of sucks, if you’re Samsung. It is also why, for the last decade, Samsung has flirted with its own operating system, first called Bada and now known as Tizen.
The history of Samsung’s Bada platform goes all the way back to the mid-2000s, way before Samsung became the biggest phone company on the planet. Samsung released a bunch of Bada-powered phones but eventually conceded to market demands and began to focus on Android from 2010 onwards
Samsung did release a bunch of Tizen-powered phones in 2017, the Samsung Z series, but these phones failed to capture much interest from consumers. They didn’t support Google Play, for instance, so apps were pretty thin on the ground and that’s never a good thing for potential users.
For this reason, it isn’t likely we’ll see another dedicated Tizen OS-powered phone from Samsung. Those days are well and truly over. Despite loathing its reliance on Google’s Android OS, Samsung – like Huawei and pretty much everybody else – is stuck with Android for the foreseeable.
Tizen is not dead in the water though. Far from it, in fact! Samsung has just repurposed the operating for use inside its non-phone products – products like its wearable devices, its TVs, and its smart home appliances.
What Samsung Products Use Tizen?
The wearables space is one of the fastest-growing segments in the tech industry. As people become more health conscious, demand for fitness trackers and smartwatches has gone through the roof. And Samsung, next to Apple, is one of the most popular brands when it comes to wearables.
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Samsung makes a range of excellent wearable devices. The most recent of which include:
- Gear Fit2 Pro
- Galaxy Watch
- Galaxy Watch Active
- Galaxy Watch Active 2
And all of these smartwatches are powered by Tizen OS, not Google’s Wear OS. And, as we noted in our Tizen vs Wear OS comparison, Samsung has Google beat in a couple of key areas – notably its fitness app, Samsung Health which is vastly superior to Google Fit.
Samsung is 100% focussed on developing Tizen for its wearable products, and this commitment shows too – Tizen OS is updated far more often than Google’s Wear OS.
Samsung has even renamed the UX for its wearables the same as the UX it uses on its Android phones – ONE UI. This shows just how committed Samsung is to Tizen for its wearable devices and fitness trackers.
In this context, Samsung has a distinct advantage over Google. Samsung’s phones, next to Apple, are the biggest selling mobile phones on the planet, so having a dedicated smartwatch that runs its own, custom software has allowed Samsung to own a large and lucrative slice of the wearables market.
The only area where Tizen OS for wearables needs some improvement is to do with how it links with third-party applications and platforms. But as Tizen grows, at least in the wearables market, more and more developers will start taking note of it and adding in support for the platform.
Is Tizen Better Than Android / Wear OS?
Google’s Wear OS is criminally under-serviced by Google. In fact, I honestly get the impression that Google has kind of given up on the platform. A big update to Wear OS did drop recently, however, so perhaps attitudes are now changing inside Google HQ.
However, Google’s lack of focus on its wearables platform is only to Samsung’s benefit. Samsung is way more committed to its wearables than Google. Tizen OS for wearables is updated regularly. And if you use a Samsung phone, a Tizen-powered smartwatch from Samsung is a great option.
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Samsung’s Health app is better than Google Fit, for instance, but Wear OS does have Samsung’s Tizen OS beat in a few, key areas: Wear OS is better at syncing with Android apps and Android in general. It has better third-party support too, and you have more choice when it comes to Wear OS-powered watches.
Still, if you’re a committed Samsung phone user, like tens of millions of people, a Tizen-powered Samsung smartwatch makes a lot of sense. Samsung has built-in all the syncing functions you need, so you can easily connect your Samsung phone to your Samsung smartwatch. And Tizen is constantly evolving too, so new features are added every quarter.
Samsung wearables that run Tizen do lack things like Google Assistant and Google Pay, though, which is kind of annoying from a user perspective because no one REALLY wants to use Bixby and Samsung Pay if they’re totally honest.
Use In TVs & Smart Home Appliances
You might have already interacted with and used Tizen, but you just didn’t know. If you have a Samsung TV from 2019 or newer, you’ve been using Tizen OS without knowing it. Called Eden UI on most Samsung TVs, the operating system is the same as the one on Samsung’s wearable devices, just tweaked for its TVs.
And because Samsung’s TV business is so big, it has managed to get Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Now TV, YouTube, and Google Play Movies fully supported on its Tizen OS for TVs.
Beyond this, Samsung has also started adding Tizen inside its smart home appliances – appliances like its fridge freezers with built-in displays and internet connectivity.
Mostly, though, you’ll find Tizen OS in Samsung’s wearables and TVs. This seems to be the platform’s new, natural home. Samsung is posting growth in both of these sectors too, so it looks as if the future is pretty rosy for Tizen.
Tizen Limitations & Cons
From a phone perspective, Tizen is essentially dead in the water. Sure, Samsung could release another Tizen-powered phone. But what would be the point? Who would buy a phone that didn’t have Google Play on it?
There might be workarounds, sure. Samsung could try and get the platform certified with Google, so it could run Google services on it. But I don’t see Google doing this. It needs Samsung just as much as Samsung needs it.
For this reason, the idea of Tizen on phones is pretty much a dead-end. However, because of the malleability of the platform, as well as plenty of investment on Samsung’s part, Tizen OS has now found a new lease of life inside Samsung’s wearable products and its ultra-popular TVs.
So while Tizen is never going to replace Android inside phones, the platform could well go on to become the dominant wearable / TV operating system of choice inside the next decade or so, especially if Google doesn’t pick up the pace with its Wear OS and Android TV platforms…
Richard Goodwin has been working as a tech journalist for over 10 years. He is the editor and owner of KnowYourMobile.