Unpacking Galaxy Unpacked 2021: Producing the Virtual Galaxy S21 Launch Event in the Midst of a Pandemic Was No Small Feat
There is a certain thrill to getting the first glimpse of next-generation mobile technology. For over a decade, Samsung has been providing that rush through its Unpacked events, where it unveils cutting-edge innovations to eager audiences of tech lovers, journalists and Galaxy fans. But Unpacked is about much more than showcasing the specs of new devices.
“Each Unpacked is a milestone in Samsung’s year,” said Stephanie Choi, Senior Vice President and Head of Marketing Team of Mobile Communications Business at Samsung Electronics. “As a leading pioneer of new mobile experiences, we’re always excited to unveil the groundbreaking innovations that will set the standard for what our devices can do in our mobile-first world. Unpacked is our opportunity to share our vision for the future with millions of people around the globe.”
Unpacked’s Meaningful Heritage
In the weeks leading up to Unpacked, media coverage and social platforms are always abuzz with anticipation as people speculate about what will be announced.
Unpacked is more than a press conference or flashy showcase of new technology. Each one is the culmination and meaningful celebration of the hard work of thousands of people at Samsung Mobile. It brings Samsung employees, fans, partners and key members of the tech industry together and allows us to demonstrate new experiences in relatable and engaging ways that cannot be replicated by rumors and speculation.
And while each Unpacked is unique, they are all built on the heritage of what the event means to all those involved. Planning and successfully executing each one is a massive undertaking that is many months in the making.
Samsung is well-versed in pulling off sensational moments to launch its products, but the pandemic posed a host of new and unusual challenges to the making of Galaxy Unpacked 2021. Mary Lee has led the production of Unpacked events for the last five years — since the launch of Galaxy S7 — and she shared some behind-the-scenes details on how she and her team brought the 2021 event to life, in spite of the hurdles along the way.
“Unpacked is the first time we show off everyone’s hard work, so I consider it to be a great privilege, honor and responsibility to oversee these launch events,” Lee said. “With the 2021 event, communication was key to maintaining collaboration and keeping workstreams moving forward — we had an amazing team that helped push things along.”
The January 2021 event saw the return of Unpacked’s famous giant, cube-shaped symbol. The iconic emblem has represented Unpacked since the first event in 2009 but has been noticeably absent the last few years. As a nod to the legacy of Unpacked, and to generate excitement for the show, this year Samsung brought the well-known 3-D symbol back to the stage for the unveiling of the Galaxy S21 series.
Pandemic Production Challenges
The familiar icon may have returned, but the format of this year’s event was a vast departure from the 2009 Unpacked where it first debuted. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic required the show to be virtual and made the production process complex. There were limits on the number of people allowed inside during filming and all participants had to wear latex gloves and face shields on top of their face masks. Stringent social distancing practices were also enforced, including a mandate that all meals be taken in isolation. Though these protocols presented logistical challenges, Lee credits the careful measures with ensuring everyone remained healthy throughout production.
“COVID-19 restrictions varied enormously around the world, so creating the Galaxy S21 Unpacked required a huge team effort across many countries and time zones,” she said. “Despite the challenges, we worked hard to deliver the best possible unveiling experiences for our audience. We brought the Galaxy ecosystem to life with engaging visuals and product demonstrations and we recreated the hands-on moments of a live event with hands-on videos that examined the devices in detail.”
The Upside of Going Digital
Going virtual and shooting in advance also helped transcend some of the typical limitations of a physical event. It afforded the event’s speakers, some of whom were Samsung employees stepping outside of their comfort zone when talking on stage, the benefit of multiple takes. Presenters were able to practice and work through their nerves, so they could have a more natural presence on camera.
Galaxy Unpacked 2021 debuted a slew of new products and experiences designed to make everyday life epic and, although it just wrapped, Lee and her team are already masterminding Samsung’s next event.
“We’re always looking at new and exciting ways to evolve Unpacked going forward,” she said. “Right now, we’re gathering feedback and lessons learned, so we can begin planning our next launch.”
2021 is just getting started and more exciting Samsung innovation lies ahead. Stay tuned — the next epic unveiling may be happening sooner than you think.
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