Samsung is in the final stages of launching its first Tizen phone, an entry-level 4-inch model with 512 MB RAM, within two weeks, according to sources in the know.
Samsung has conducted extensive demos to partners and developers, according to one person.
The Samsung Tizen phones, which are not based on Android, are meant for emerging markets like India, and are targeted, at least initially, at the low and mid range market.
At present, Samsung is virtually absent in the low-end market, which in India is dominated by players like Micromax, Karbonn and Spice.
The first model to be launched is likely to be priced below Rs 10,000, which will make it among the cheapest 4-inch phones Samsung has ever launched in India. (Note – picture given here is for representative purpose only.)
While there are other 4-inch phones from Samsung in the market priced below the 10k mark, these are mostly old models which have depreciated in value over time. Many of them come with Android 4.1 or 4.2, and not the latest Android 4.4.
The new Tizen phones will run the Lite version of the Linux-based operating system and will come with dual SIM support and 3.2 MegaPixel camera and FM radio.
Built-in memory will be 4 GB, which can be expanded to 32 GB.
Samsung has been facing a global slowdown in its handset business and has seen its profits decline due slowing numbers.
In India, the company’s phones are priced at around double the price — spec for spec — compared to those of its local competitors like Micromax and even Chinese players like Lenovo, Huawei and ZTE. Of late, Panasonic too has launched phones such as the P55, priced at Rs 10,000, which offers more value than even the offerings of Indian brands.
In addition, Xiaomi, which takes only part of the handset price from customers and tries to recover part of it through content partnerships, has also disrupted the Indian market by offering cut-throat competition to Samsung.
Models with similar specs as Xiaomi’s Mi3, which was priced at Rs 13,999, would cost around Rs 30,000 from Samsung.
At the same time, Samsung cannot simply drop the price of one or two of its models as it would impact its brand value across the chain and create pricing pressures at the higher end, where the Korean company makes most of its profits.
The Tizen strategy is meant to give Samsung a way to address the dilemma of capturing some share of the lower half of the market, where people go largely by specifications, while sufficiently maintaining differentiation for its higher end Android-based offerings.
Much, however, will depend on just how much the first Tizen phone, will be priced at. If the price is around Rs 6,000, the phone will definitely be a huge hit due to the brand value enjoyed by Samsung. However, if the price is Rs 10,000, the company is likely to find it challenging to promote the phone.
It may be noted that at the lower end, consumers in India do not show much loyalty to the platform or operating system.
In other words, a Rs 7,000-smartphone-buyer looks primarily at the hardware – the display quality, availability of 3G, memory, RAM etc, and does not care much whether it comes with Android or Windows Phone or Tizen as long as it runs key apps like WhatsApp.
They, however, are often willing to pay slightly higher for a good brand such as Nokia or Samsung.
This has already proven a blessing for Nokia as its 4-inch Lumia 530 sales have shown. The phone, priced Rs 5,500, is one of the most successful in India despite the fact that it does not come with Android. A large chunk of the buyers at this price range don’t even know what the difference between WP and Android is, but they can easily tell a phone’s display quality by looking at it.
It is also not known whether Samsung will launch a 2G-only, lower priced version of its Tizen phone or have only one product.