What’s the Difference Between One UI and Tizen?

If you use Samsung products, especially the company’s smartwatches, two names you’ve probably seen are “Tizen” and “One UI”. Together they are responsible for the Galaxy Smartwatch software, but what’s the difference? And why does your watch need both?

Diving into the ‘About Watch’ section of your Galaxy Watch’s Settings menu will reveal the version numbers for One UI and Tizen. Each of these software layers plays an important role. Let’s take a look at what each is doing.

What is Tizen?

Tizen is similar to Android in that it is an open source Linux-based operating system. The first version of Tizen was released in 2012, but it wasn’t available on a real consumer device until the Samsung Gear 2 smartwatch in 2014.

There are many similarities between Android and Tizen. Both operating systems receive firmware updates, can be used on a multitude of different device types, and are free for developers to create apps and experiences.

Tizen 2.2 Beta
Tizen on a smartphone Wikipedia

Since Tizen is an open-source operating system, any manufacturer can use it for their devices. However, unlike Android, which is on devices from dozens of manufacturers, Tizen is mostly used by one: Samsung.

Samsung originally planned to use Tizen on smartphones and tablets. The company launched a handful of Tizen phones, but over time that plan was scrapped and the operating system (OS) is almost exclusively used for Samsung’s portable devices and smart TVs.

Tizen Smart TV
Tizen on a Smart TV Samsung

As an operating system, Tizen is only partially as useful as the applications it can run. On a Samsung device with Tizen, apps can be downloaded from the Galaxy Apps store. Applications must be designed specifically for Tizen to be available on Tizen devices.

What is a user interface?

A user interface is the overlay of Samsung which is responsible for the real look software. On a Samsung Galaxy smartphone, One UI lives on Android, and on a Galaxy smartwatch, One UI lives on Tizen.

A smartphone UI
A user interface on the Galaxy S20 Wikipedia

If we think of Tizen or Android as canvas, you can think of One UI as painting. The operating system is responsible for basic functionality, while the overlay personalizes its appearance. The operating system can exist without an overlay, but the overlay cannot exist without an operating system.

One UI is Samsung’s third major software overlay. Early Samsung Android devices included a software overlay called “TouchWiz”, which was later revamped and referred to simply as “Samsung Experience”. In 2019 it was redesigned again and the name changed to “One UI”.

tizen vs user interface
Tizen before One UI (left) / Tizen with One UI (right) Samsung

One of the differences between One UI and previous overlays is that it is available on smartwatches. The first Samsung smartwatches used pure Tizen without any layering. In 2019, Samsung also added One UI to smartwatches.

How do Tizen and One UI work together?

As mentioned earlier, a user interface can only exist on top of an operating system. This operating system is either Android (phones and tablets) or Tizen (smartwatches).

Take the example of Samsung Galaxy smartwatches. When a notification appears on your watch, Tizen is what enables this communication between your phone and your watch. A user interface is responsible for the appearance of the notification.

Tizen and One UI exist together on Galaxy smartwatches, but they are also separate. Each software layer can be updated independently of the other. If you look in the “About Watch” section of the software, you will see that each has its own version number.

a user interface and information from tizen

Tizen updates are generally larger and will include major features, while One UI updates make smaller visual adjustments and improvements (there are a few exceptions to this rule). Although they can be updated separately, it is common for updates to Tizen and One UI to be bundled together.

Ultimately, Tizen and One UI have a lot of features, but bringing them together is what creates a great software experience.

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