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I went to Samsung HQ for Galaxy Unpacked: Here's what I saw
This week, we saw the launch of a slew of new Samsung products at the summer iteration of Galaxy Unpacked 2023. Obviously, there were some new foldable phones with the Galaxy Z Fold 5 and Galaxy Z Flip 5. Alongside those, we got the latest Galaxy Watch 6 series and Galaxy Tab S9 series. In a first, Samsung chose to launch these devices in Seoul, South Korea, a stone’s throw away from the global Samsung HQ.
This must have been no small decision on Samsung’s part because it involved flying hundreds of people to Korea — an enormous expense. I was one of the lucky folks who got to go (though Samsung had no say in our editorial content). Since there were so many tech journalists in Seoul, Samsung treated us to several events surrounding Galaxy Unpacked. Thankfully, the company didn’t have a problem with me taking photos and sharing my experience, so here’s everything I saw!
First day: Samsung HQ tour at Digital City
There are actually two main hubs for Samsung in South Korea. The first is the creatively named Samsung Town, which is where its corporate matters are headquartered. You’ll find this collection of buildings in the Seocho-gu district of Seoul. The second headquarters is called Digital City, which is a short drive out of Seoul into the city of Suwon.
The main difference between these two places is that Digital City is where the “magic” happens. It houses several R&D facilities and is where the company has designed almost all of its major consumer products, including Samsung phones, TVs, computer monitors, etc. In fact, Samsung built Digital City over the same spot in which it designed and manufactured its first hit electronic gadget: a black and white television, which it started selling in 1970.
Samsung's Digital City is where the 'magic' happens.
Since then, Digital City has become not only the hub for Samsung’s innovations but also a place for tourists and native Koreans to see behind the curtain of the country’s most successful business (Samsung’s revenue accounts for over 20% of South Korea’s entire GDP).
The first stop we made in the Digital City area was explicitly designed for tourists: the Samsung Innovation Museum (SIM).
Samsung Innovation Museum
As its name suggests, the Samsung Innovation Museum is where the company shows off its notable devices and technology advancements. It features an extensive collection of antique electronic devices both from Samsung and major competitors.
After watching a brief video about the brand’s vision, we stepped into a gallery of Samsung products. This area had everything from that aforementioned black and white television to some original laundry machines, refrigerators, laptops, camcorders, and more. Our guide said a lot of the “artifacts” on display were donated, and a wall of donors commemorated each of these people.
One of the coolest displays in this area was a glass case filled with Olympic torches and the official smartphone connected with that year’s event. Samsung has long been a sponsor of the Olympics, so there were a dozen phones to see, from 1998’s N206 to 2021’s Galaxy S21. It was like seeing Samsung’s smartphone progression over 25 years happen in just a few seconds.
It was pretty cool to see an original Galaxy S phone again. It's way smaller than I remember!
Elsewhere, the museum discussed the evolution of Samsung HQ, gave demonstrations of the first iterations of certain technologies (electricity, batteries, telecommunication, radio, etc.), and ended with a wall of notable phones from history. It was pretty cool to see an original Galaxy S phone in the flesh for the first time in over a decade. It’s way smaller than I remember!
Samsung HQ: Digital City tour
After the museum, we went to the “eXperience Home Suwon” demo house that shows how Samsung’s (and some of its partners’) tech can transform a home into a fully automated smart home. We saw various demos including wake-up routines, watching movies, listening to music, gaming, and even cooking dinner.
After this, we toured Digital City by bus to get an idea of just how big it is. More than 130 buildings on the campus cover over 1.72 million square meters. Every day, it takes over 500 buses taking 100 routes just to get employees to work.
We got to check out the building where, since 2013, Samsung has designed every Galaxy product.
Our bus stopped at building R5, where Samsung’s mobile division does all its work. It was pretty cool to be in the same building where, since 2013, Samsung has designed all the major Galaxy devices we’ve covered at Android Authority.
Unfortunately, Samsung did not let us explore the entire building. The first floor, exterior parks, and employee amenity areas under and around the building are open to the public, but everything from the second floor up is off-limits. I asked to see what the new Galaxy S24 series would look like, but my request was denied. Can’t say I didn’t try!
We ended our tour with a visit to C-Lab, Samsung’s in-house incubator program. It’s used to promote employee ideas that could become new products or even whole new companies down the line.
With C-Lab, Samsung holds a biannual idea contest where any employee can submit their ideas. Of the hundreds of submissions, 30 to 40 are chosen. If an employee’s idea is selected, they’re absolved from any and all assigned work for a full year to focus 100% of their energy on the development of this new project.
Over that year, the employees select team members, prototype their ideas, and eventually get them examined by high-ranking executives. From there, the idea reaches one of three endings: transferred to an in-house Samsung product development team, spun off into a full-fledged Samsung-backed startup, or completed.
So far, 1,600 Samsung employees have participated in C-Lab, and 391 projects have been completed. Some notable spin-off brands are Mopic (3D light displays), Toonsquare (a content creation platform), Welt (smart waist belts), and Linkflow (a wearable 360 camera neckband). Meanwhile, Relumino was a C-Lab development. This accessibility feature helps people with vision impairments see images more clearly. It appears in newer televisions from the company and received a lot of attention during Samsung’s CES 2023 event.
Second day: Galaxy Unpacked
After getting up early, I navigated the Korean subway to get to Gangnam Station where you can find the largest Samsung store in the world. I already shared my impressions of my visit to Samsung’s flagship shop, so be sure to check that out if you want a full rundown.
In the afternoon, I headed to the COEX convention center, where Galaxy Unpacked was set to happen. The venue was positively packed — pun intended — with hundreds of media reps like myself, influencers, industry folks, and even some celebrities. A huge group of “normal” spectators, sectioned off with stanchions and security guards, were also there to watch the spectacle unfold and possibly get a glimpse of the celebrities. It was unlike any product launch I’ve ever been to.
Of course, you already know by now what happened at Unpacked. Samsung officially unveiled the Galaxy Z Fold 5, Galaxy Z Flip 5, Galaxy Tab S9 series, and Galaxy Watch 6 series. There were also appearances by Suga of K-Pop superstar group BTS and American actress Sydney Sweeney.
Third day: Cultural tour
With the craziness of Unpacked behind us, Samsung planned a fun excursion around Korea for us. We first hit Insa-dong, a cultural and artistic area in Seoul that has become a big tourist attraction. You walk through tiny streets watching candy vendors create treats or peruse the shops selling souvenirs, art, clothing, and more.
Then we made our way to an automobile-free area called Ikseon-dong with many trendy restaurants and shops hidden away in a confusing labyrinth of alleys.
We couldn’t miss the city’s most prominent landmark: N Seoul Tower, which you can see prominently in Samsung’s logo for the summer iteration of Galaxy Unpacked 2023. We rode the Namsan cable car up to the top to take in some of the breathtaking views of Seoul.
Our long day of touristing ended with a 15-course traditional Korean fest dinner, with many of the dishes being completely foreign to the group of journalists (including myself). Samsung handed everyone some Z Flip 5 phone cases and Z Fold 5 S Pen cases to take home.
Discovering Samsung’s HQ and South Korea was a real treat, and it’s hard to believe it’s taken 13 years for the company to hold an Unpacked even on its home turf. I doubt Samsung will make this a regular occurrence considering the exorbitant expense of flying everyone to Seoul, but it was a fun experience and I’d go again in a second!