Samsung's dominance in the smartphone market is well-documented, but the South Korean tech giant can't quite take all the credit for its success. Underneath the company's enormous marketing budget, its extraordinary array of handset hardware, and even its TouchWiz user interface, lies Google's Android OS, which Samsung still relies on for the overwhelming majority of its mobile devices.
As Google begins to exert more influence over Android, for example with its upcoming Silver program, Samsung has been looking towards a mobile future beyond Android. Today, Samsung finally unveiled its first smartphone running its own Tizen OS - a small, but potentially important step towards reducing its dependence on Google.
That device is the Samsung Z, and considering its significance, it is perhaps surprising that the handset is so unremarkable at first glance. It could easily be mistaken for any number of the company's Galaxy handsets, right down to the placement of the hardware buttons, and its spec sheet probably won't get your heart rate up either.
With a quad-core 2.3GHz processor (believed to be an Intel Moorefield unit), 2GB of RAM and 16GB of onboard storage, the Z also features a 4.8-inch 720p Super AMOLED screen, 8MP rear camera, 2.1MP front cam and 4G LTE connectivity. Like the company's flagship Galaxy S5, the Z also includes a heart rate sensor and fingerprint scanner.
As the company aims to compete more aggressively against the likes of Apple, as well as rival Android manufacturers, Samsung appears to taking its first steps towards the kind of vertical integration that has made Apple such a success.
Ian Fogg of consultancy firm IHS told BBC News: "Samsung is seeking to integrate its own components, displays, software and services. Using Android makes the firm dependent on Google, meaning its ability to differentiate its products is less strong than if it had its own operating system." He added that "by going down the Tizen route, the risk is the firm doesn't have enough high quality apps available to make the devices good enough for consumers."
Samsung is not oblivious to that reality, of course. This week, the company will be hosting its Tizen developer conference in San Francisco, at which the Z will see its official launch. Samsung has also promised that "to encourage more developers to join, the Tizen Store will provide a special promotional program to all developers for one year".
Details of that program are expected at the conference, where the company will hopefully also reveal pricing information for the Z. Samsung has said that the device will launch first in Russia in Q3, before rolling out to other markets.
The company gave the world its most recent taste of Tizen back at the Mobile World Congress in February, when it showed off prototypes of its devices running the OS. But while the Z is Samsung's first smartphone featuring Tizen, it is not its first device to break free of Android. Just a few days ago, the company began rolling out an update for its Galaxy Gear watch, which replaced the Android OS with Tizen 2.2.
Source and images: Samsung Tomorrow