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    Samsung Galaxy Unpacked in Korea was just perfect, let me tell you why?

    Opinion
    By 

    Last updated: August 2nd, 2023 at 09:20 UTC+02:00

    Early this year, I wrote a scathing opinion over Samsung’s decision to once again hold the Unpacked event in San Francisco, a city that’s far from Europe and very far from Samsung’s home country of South Korea. I wanted Samsung to switch things up a bit as it has been years since Samsung chose a new venue for Unpacked. Now I’m not saying that it was my column that led to this decision, but I was very pleasantly surprised when the invitation came to attend Samsung’s first-ever Unpacked event in Seoul, South Korea.

    Since this would have been the first time for us here at SamMobile to visit South Korea, we happily accepted Samsung’s decision to come over and booked our flights to Seoul. There was a lot of excitement in the team for this event, particularly to see firsthand how South Korea represents the pinnacle of technology.

    Here’s what we learned from our first experiences with Korean culture, and seeing Samsung’s vision of the future up close!

    Everyone’s heard about Korean food. The cuisine’s global popularity has reached a fever pitch in recent years and while there’s no shortage of great Korean restaurants across the globe, you can’t beat meandering through the alleyways in Seoul’s bustling Myeong-dong district, hopping from one street food cart to the next. You’re never far from a great Korean BBQ restaurant in the city and we certainly had our fill, suffice to say, we’re quite big on Korean food now!

    The following day we went through the media briefings to prepare our Galaxy Z Flip 5 and Galaxy Z Fold 5 launch content which you’ve undoubtedly read on SamMobile and see on our YouTube channel. In what was understandably a very busy time for Samsung, we were delighted to be invited to Samsung Digital City on the day of the Unpacked event. This is one of Samsung’s main R&D facilities in Suwon, just outside Seoul.

    There’s a historical significance to this place as well. This is where Samsung Electronics was founded. The Research & Development Center that sits here today has been in a state of constant evolution since the early 2000s. Covering an area of 1.72 million square meters with some 130 buildings and a remarkable 37,000 employees, it’s a city in the true sense of the word. Seeing this mammoth facility in person is a remarkable experience. There’s really no other way to quantify the scale at which Samsung is operating here. Fun fact: More than 500 buses drive 100 routes every single day to bring employees from adjoining areas to Samsung Digital City.

    Our day kicked off with a visit to the Samsung Innovation Museum (SIM). This is South Korea’s largest museum dedicated to the history of its electronics industry. Opened in 2014, SIM is dedicated to the country’s achievements in technology, highlighting some of the major technological breakthroughs that we use everyday. Some notable innovations that we saw here include the very first phone. SIM also does a great job of explaining Samsung’s history. The journey is broken down into key themes that include the History of Samsung, Era of Creation, and Era of Corporate Innovation.

    We were also shown Samsung’s C-Lab projects and its vision for the future of the smart home powered by SmartThings. We were also invited to enjoy lunch with Samsung employees in one of the 13 dedicated cafeterias on campus. It’s not everyday you get to experience something like this, and we were delighted to be given this opportunity.

    Personally, I remain in awe of Samsung Digital City. It’s really, really impressive. Words simply can’t do it justice. I’ve had the opportunity to visit other campuses of major tech companies, including Google’s in California, but the scale at which things are done here and the vision behind what Samsung hopes to achieve is on another level. The infrastructure that we saw, the history we lived, and the employees we interacted with elevated Samsung’s impression for us even further.

    After returning back to our hotel from this wonderful trip, we got ready for Samsung Unpacked, which was due to begin later in the day. Fortunately, the commute wasn’t a problem, since the conference center was located next to our hotel, so it was just a leisurely one-minute stroll to the venue. We were surprised to see a massive line outside the venue, which felt unusual, and upon closer inspection, we found out that it was for Lee Know, one of South Korea’s most famous actors! There was also a buzz in the air for the expected appearance of BTS superstar Suga.

    As the crowd cheered in jubilation, my colleague spotted Stray Kids’ Lee Know, though initially he thought that perhaps this was another member of BTS, such was the crowd’s response. Unfortunately, we were mistaken in the heat of this very exciting moment, so we apologize to both of their fans and will make sure to pay closer attention to these superstars in the future!

    During Unpacked, Samsung asked a few influencers and celebrities about their opinion of the new devices. They were very thrilled about the new devices, no surprises there, and we tend to agree. Sadly, we just felt a bit let down after Unpacked. We always love to see a “one more thing,” moment, where Samsung gives a teaser of something amazing to come in the future. We hope to have one of these moments at the next Unpacked.

    Fortunately, our mood would improve significantly soon after when we were given an opportunity to get a quick picture with TM Roh, the head of Samsung’s mobile division! He’s a very busy man, understandably, so we were very grateful. As if we weren’t star struck already, we ended up meeting both DJ Koh and Lee Young-hee at the rooftop bar of our hotel later that evening. What a night this turned out to be!

    The following morning had more cultural experiences in store for us. We learned about the ancient history of South Korea during a visit to the Gyeongbokgung Palace followed by a walk through the charming Bukchon Hanok Village.

    What I was particularly looking forward to was the planned media session with TM Roh. It was a roundtable session where media representatives could ask Roh questions. We asked why Samsung seems to be avoiding significant spec bumps for its new flagships since the past couple of years. Roh explained that consistent hardware optimization is what Samsung’s focused on. He also highlighted Samsung’s use of multiple advanced algorithms and AI-based optimization to further improve the One UI user experience on Galaxy devices.

    This session was an eye-opener on how TM Roh sees the future of Samsung’s mobile division unfolding. I understand this vision but as I’ve pointed out in many of my opinions before, it might be a bit difficult trying to get this across to the tech fans. Those fans generally prefer major spec bumps over optimizations. They want big-ticket items with every generation, and while arguments can be made both for and against this, that’s a discussion for another time.

    Once the session ended, media representatives once again had the opportunity to take a photo with TM Roh, which as you can probably tell by now, I took full advantage of. I’ve been building up a nice collection of photos with Samsung’s mobile bosses ever since I started SamMobile, haha!

    I then attended a session about Samsung’s eco-system. This is one area where Samsung has been lacking in the past compared to its biggest rival, Apple. Samsung has now been focusing on enhancing its ecosystem and we heard it talk about the ecosystem a lot more during Unpacked. Through this session, Samsung explained just how important building a cohesive and seamless ecosystem is to the company, and was inspiring to see how the company intends on expanding it in the future.

    This trip struck the perfect balance between work and exploration. The following day, we went to Gumi. You might be wondering, what’s so special about Gumi? It’s where Samsung phones are made, at least one of those places, as Samsung has a smartphone factory here. We were very excited to see the factory so we took the bus bright and early at 6 AM in the morning to get there by 09:30 AM.

    Our tour started in the museum where we saw everything from the earliest Samsung phones to its smartphones. I even saw my beloved SGH-D900, the device that started my love affair with Samsung. What followed was a detailed presentation on how a smartphone is produced. It was fascinating to see how a capable gadget is forged from raw materials and ultra-thin glass.

    After launch, the second part of our Gumi trip began. The presentation walked us through how multiple molds are used by Samsung to finalize the design of its devices. It was interesting to see how different patterns for the front and back are selected through this process of elimination. What was most remarkable is that it’s next to impossible to see the difference between an open or closed spot in the mold, witnessing precision at such extremes is beyond words.

    Then came the part that I was most looking forward to: the assembly line. Never in my life had I thought this would be so captivating to see. We were shown the fully automatic assembly line for the Galaxy S23 Ultra. Everything is done by advanced machines. Samsung employees are there in case there’s an error with a machine but that rarely happens. The devices in production seamlessly move from one automated station to the next where the work is cross-checked. Fully automated hardware and software tests are carried out at these stations on components including but not limited to the battery and cameras, to ensure the optimal quality that Samsung is known for.

    Samsung is also manufacturing the Galaxy Z Fold 5 and Galaxy Z Flip 5 models that will ship in local markets at Gumi but that production line isn’t fully automated yet, but Samsung is working on it and it won’t be long before machines alone are able to put together some of the most advanced foldables on the market. To end our trip with a visit to the assembly line was like a cherry on top of a great tip. It was amazing to see this symphony of technology. I could have watched it play out for hours.

    Samsung has long been considered one of the best employers to work for in South Korea. Here’s another cool fact: The average age of employees at Gumi is 34 years old, and over 70% of the employees at this Factory are female! Most Samsung employees have been working at Gumi for over 16 years, showcasing how stability is key for both productivity and employee morale.

    And so comes the final day and with it the time to make a conclusion about this once-in-a-lifetime trip. This was Samsung’s first Unpacked event in South Korea, its home base, and the company really did a great job of making it memorable for us all. I was particularly surprised with the level of access it provided the media. The Unpacked event itself was a great affair, as it always is, but the tour of Samsung Digital City and the Gumi visit were undoubtedly the highlight of this trip. For me, personally, the media session with TM Roh was one of the best activities we had on this trip.

    I can honestly say that inviting everyone to South Korea was the best way for Samsung to interact with the media and give us a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes, and it rightly did that with a lot of pride. So thank you, Samsung, for having us in Seoul! Thank you for the great introduction to Korean culture and the incredible insights into the company that we’ve been loyal fans of for more than a decade! It goes without saying that this was one of the best Samsung Unpacked events that we’ve ever been to.

    Opinion