The South Korean giant's latest handset stands out not so much for its no-frills specifications but for what lies under the hood - the Tizen operating system Samsung has developed to rival Google Inc's Android platform.

Samsung is hoping the Z1 will catch on in the world's third-largest smartphone market, boosting its flagging global market share and gaining a foothold for Tizen among India's first-time smartphone buyers.

But the initial reaction of analysts and consumers after its Jan. 14 launch suggests the Z1 will struggle to get ahead of a crowded field in a country with about 280 smartphone brands on offer, led by Samsung and closely followed by Indian maker Micromax Informatics Ltd.

"Samsung has been delaying the launch of this Tizen phone for a long time and when they finally did it, it turned out to be an under-powered phone," said Mumbai-based filmmaker Samir Ahmed Sheikh as he shopped for a new phone for his wife.

The 3.15 megapixel primary camera and 300,000 pixel front camera are "like a phone from 2010", he said.

"A simple comparison with any of the Android One phones will tell you how much the Z1 is missing," Sheikh said.

IDC analyst Karan Thakkar said that although the Z1's $92 price tag beat many of the best-known Android phones on cost, it still had plenty of strong competitors in the low-end segment.

"It's not always about the cheapest, customers are looking for specs ... There are already a plethora of devices running on Android that Indian customers can choose from," he said.

In response to the criticism, Samsung said in a statement the Z1's "exclusive benefits" included a simple interface, long battery life and faster page-loading speeds courtesy of Tizen.

Samsung declined to comment on whether it planned to launch the Z1 elsewhere, saying it would focus on India for now.