Samsung Tizen photo © Samsung
Perhaps unbeknownst to many, what one would have thought was a propriety wearable OS platform by Samsung is actually an open-source collaborative project based on the Linux OS, from the salvaged remnants of the now-defunct Nokia MeeGo. As such, it has potential applications across many products, from TVs to cars, and can be adopted by other manufacturers if they so wish – much like Android Wear.
And Samsung seem to want it that way. It appears that they too have an eye on the platform market with a view to market dominance in the field. Already the Samsung NX300M camera and the Samsung Z smartphone are running on Tizen software.
Using HTML 5 as the development language, it allows for quick creation of well-integrated apps which can be easily built by developers already well versed in the language. This also allows for it to handle standard media and code without the need to install plugins.
But what of the user experience when it comes to the Tizen OS?
The initial feel of the platform is very reminiscent of the TouchWiz that Samsung uses on its Galaxy range of devices. This should give it a familiar feel for many users. It has a drag-down notification bar at the top which accesses an interesting ‘do not disturb’ feature allowing the user to disable all notifications during those key meetings and special occasions.
The main screen is the watchface of which you have a choice of around six – some very ornate, made to look like classical mechanical watches, while others of the more standard smartwatch variety. All the faces have a range of information available at-a-glance, such as the number of unread notifications, weather forecasts and fitness data.
The software allows for power-saving modes, and the face dims when not in use.
There is also a single ‘Home’ button beneath the screen, again in the same vein as the Galaxy devices, and this returns the user to the main watchface screen from any point.
There are a number of built-in apps which come as standard, and these can all be reached from the main screen by using swipes.
From the main screen, swiping up will take you to the scrollable list of the installed apps. These are; phone, contacts, messages, email, calendar, settings, navigator, Samsung’s S-health, Nike+, music player, news, weather, s-voice, alarm, gallery & ‘find my device’.
Touching any of these will fire up the app.
Swiping right from the main screen will give you your notifications, such as information for your health apps (number of steps, distance travelled etc), messages, missed calls etc. Swiping right a further time from here will then take you to the details of each of these notifications, one screen each. Given the large screen the device possesses, there is quite a lot of information available on each, for example entire messages can be read without having to resort to your phone.
Swiping left from the home screen will take you to the widgets, one per screen. The list is customisable, and you are able to add, remove and rearrange them to your heart’s content. You will have a choice of things such as the media player (where you can elect to play media from your phone or straight from the device’s storage), health apps, newsfeeds etc.
S-voice control will allow you to fire up apps, look up contacts, make calls and dictate messages without the need to touch the screen
Samsung describes its S-Health app as “Your Personal Fitness Tracker”
It tracks and helps you manage 4 areas of your health lifestyle – exercise, heart rate, food intake and sleep – all in real time.
In tracking your activity level, it provides information on the number of calories burned, distance covered and number of steps taken.
You can get a snapshot of your heartrate at any time, and you can get a continuous reading during exercising, however this will quickly drain the battery.
The Food Menu feature will calculate the calorific content of the food you have eaten, and can track this for you.
As for the sleep-tracking function, once you have told the app you are about to sleep, it will track how long you slept for, how much you moved during the sleep, and show you a helpful chart in the morning. The value of this information is a little questionable – your partner could probably give you a better breakdown (with the additional parameter of intensity and frequency of snoring levels), but it is there anyway.
Nike have also partnered with Samsung to provide their fitness app for the platform. Where the Gear S will win out is with its GPS and GSM capabilities removing the requirement to cart along your smartphone on a run. The app gives you key running metrics at-a-glance, such as distance, pace, heart rate and time elapsed. It also gives you your “NikeFuel” points earned – in case you’re wondering, this is Nike’s universal measure which takes into account the movement of your whole body in any situation, not just exercise, to give an indication of your general level of activity (so we presume this will also include risky ‘grandad’ moves on the dancefloor).
In addition to this, the app maps your running route, has a built in music player for those power ballads which will rock that run of yours, and even pushes live “cheers” to your wrist, allowing friends, family and fans to ‘virtually’ support your endeavour from anywhere in the world.
Nokia ‘Here’ Maps
An as-yet-little-known, but major behind-the-scenes player in the field of maps and navigation (it claims to be behind 4 out of every 5 factory-fit navigation systems in western cars) Samsung have brought a powerful alternative to Google and Apple to their flagship wearable device.
Boasting features like offline navigation, public transport maps, real-time ETA to destination and mapping for over 40 countries built-in, all with impressive accuracy (take note, Apple) this is a serious contender in the market.
Key 3rd party Apps:
Samsung proclaimed their 1000th Tizen app recently in a fanfare which heralded their intention to be in the wearables market for the long haul, and given that the prevalence of supporting apps can often be the make-or-break of an OS (Nokia and Blackberry being cases in point) this was a very important milestone for them. Here are some of the more popular ones of the bunch.
Travel Translator: A very popular app currently, get instant translations for over 30 languages simply by speaking into your watch (and at the same time trying not to look even more of an idiot abroad than you already do).
Life 360: A very pertinent example of how technology can help us stay safe in the future, this app allows the user to transmit an emergency message to loved ones and the geo-location system also allow parents to keep tabs on the whereabouts of their children.
EasyDo: In some ways an alternative to the Google Now ‘cards’ system on Android Wear, this app will inform you of key pieces of information such as commute times, parcel deliveries and inclement weather alerts to keep you abreast of the day-to-day challenges of life.
Glympse: Along the lines of Life 360, this is a convenient little app to allow (consenting) users to share each other’s locations on a map. No complicated set-up, it works straight off for Gear S users.