Opinion

With two weeks to go, Samsung’s Unpacked is already dead on arrival

It’s unfortunate that I’m having to write this again merely six months after raising similar concerns prior to the Unpacked event for the Galaxy Note 10. It just goes to show that Samsung has not taken any concrete steps to address the issue.

Rumors and leaks are a part of the never-ending tech news cycle. It’s also not entirely possible to put a lid on everything given the massive scale of the entire supply chain for these devices. Even if Samsung can ensure that nothing gets out from its facilities or that its employees don’t say a word about an unreleased device, it can do little to control what leaks from its suppliers’ factories, or what carrier executives who are briefed on new devices choose to reveal anonymously.

What it can do is control what multimedia content is sent to partners ahead of a flagship launch. If that were the case, we wouldn’t get to see high-resolution press renders of new devices weeks before they’re supposed to be unveiled at Unpacked. The consequence of this is that the element of surprise is taken away from Samsung. Anything that it shows off for the “first time” during its press event evokes a solid meh from the crowd and those watching at home because they’ve already seen it. This is the age of information. People consume more content online than ever before. Even those who don’t read news blogs will end up seeing a clickbaity YouTube video that rehashes the same stuff in a more entertaining format.

There used to be a time when people were actually excited about these product launch events. You would get to see products that you had only heard conflicting rumors about and hear all of their details straight from the company that made them. That has no longer been the case over the past few years. Not only high-resolution renders, but even entire spec sheets of new flagships have also leaked online weeks before launch. This has already happened for the Galaxy S20, Galaxy S20+, Galaxy 20 Ultra and even the Galaxy Z Flip. What that means is there’s nothing to look forward to at Unpacked.

This was expected for the Galaxy S20 series but not for the new foldable, the Galaxy Z Flip. Remember the level of secrecy surrounding the original Galaxy Fold launch? Not a single render of that device was leaked online and many of the details were kept under wraps as well. That demonstrated that Samsung can indeed put a stop to this if it wanted to. The expectation was that at least the Galaxy Z Flip would get the same treatment. Clearly it didn’t as everything about the new foldable phone was laid bare yesterday.

These leaks stem from the renders and materials that Samsung shares with its partners around the world ahead of the official launch. Once Samsung sends them out, it can’t really do much to control their exposure. It normally takes a few days before these images and details start leaking online. Most of the leaks that appear on Twitter largely originate from the same few sources, meaning that it’s also relatively easy for Samsung to prevent them from leaking in the first place.

This is obviously a business decision on Samsung’s part. It has to equip its partners with all of the materials so that they can begin selling its devices right out the gate. The unintended consequence of that is there’s no excitement for its events anymore. People already get to form their opinions about these devices based on everything that leaks out, thus making it more challenging for Samsung to own the narrative.

There has to be a better way to manage this, one that ensures secrecy while also enabling Samsung to fulfill its commitments to its partners. Until it does that, there will be little reason to look forward to its Unpacked events anymore, which are a tremendous exercise in logistics not just for Samsung but for all media outlets that attend them.

I have attended all Unpacked events ever since I started SamMobile, partly because of work and largely because as a fan it gave me great pleasure to see new devices being unveiled up close. Despite making all travel arrangements weeks in advance, I have now decided to skip the February 11 Unpacked, because with a full two weeks to go the event is already dead on arrival.

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