Samsung Galaxy Unpacked was a total snooze — here’s why

galaxy unpacked 2023 with galaxy z fold 5
(Image credit: JUNG YEON-JE/AFP via Getty Image)

When introducing the Galaxy Watch 6 during this week's Galaxy Unpacked event, Dr. Han Pak, vice president and head of digital health, singled out one of the smartwatch's digital health features. "This year," Pak said, "we're focused on sleep."

Really, you could say the same thing about the entirety of Galaxy Unpacked. As tech events go, this one was a snore.

That's no reflection on the phones, watches and tablets Samsung showed off Wednesday (July 26). Even incremental improvements are improvements, and the products we saw could very well end up earning our enthusiastic recommendation.

But enthusiasm about the announcements themselves? That's a pretty tall order. Samsung had our undivided attention for Unpacked, and this is what the company opted to emphasize:

  • The Galaxy Z Fold 5 has a new hinge that makes the foldable phone thinner, and it's got a better chipset.
  • The Galaxy Z Flip 5 has those same changes, plus its outer screen is bigger now.
  • The Galaxy Watch 6 has smaller bezels with more screen space, and there are some new health tracking features. The rotating bezel, a feature from two watches ago, returns to the Galaxy Watch 6 Classic
  • The Galaxy Tab S9 series now features an OLED panel in its entry-level model and there are better chipsets all around.

Have you ever sat in a meeting and thought ‘Wow, this all could have been handled in an email?’ This week's Unpacked was the tech event equivalent of that feeling.

Again, no one's going to turn up their nose at these improvements, which doubtlessly make Samsung's gear better than it was before Unpacked. But have you ever sat in a meeting and thought "Wow, this all could have been handled in an email?" This week' Unpacked was the tech event equivalent of that feeling.

You got the sense that Unpacked was going to be this way when Samsung announced the time for this edition of its product launch. With the acknowledgement that the electronics giant sells lots of products in places that aren't the U.S., scheduling your big event at a time when most people in North America are just getting up or headed to work is to concede that you're not really hoping for a wide audience.

an image from Galaxy Unpacked 2023

(Image credit: Future)

In my neck of the woods, the sun had yet to even rise at the moment when Samsung's TM Roh took to the Unpacked stage. So I spent the event itself tucked into bed, thankful that I have colleagues in more coverage-friendly time zones. (I watched Unpacked later on replay, after experience some rather interesting audio issues with the YouTube stream on Apple TV.)

Samsung's free to announce whatever it wants, of course, but this particular edition of Galaxy Unpacked felt like a missed opportunity, especially when it comes to the foldable phone announcements. This was the first update to the Galaxy Z Fold and Z Flip to come as Samsung's facing stepped-up competition from the likes of Google and Motorola. The Pixel Fold and Motorola Razr+ are both impressive phones — some might even argue they're better than Samsung's current offerings. So how would the phone maker respond?

If you had "modest tweaks," collect your winnings at the window, I guess. Samsung couldn't even be tempted to lower the cost of the Galaxy Z Fold 5, after Google failed to beat the Fold's lofty $1,799 price tag with its own foldable.

Suga holds a Galaxy Z Fold 5

(Image credit: Samsung/YouTube)

To me the most emblematic moment of what a damp squid of an event this was came during a segment featuring K-Pop star Suga, apparently invited to pump some sort of star power into Unpacked. Suga quizzed Samsung on just why people would want a foldable phone like the Galaxy Z Fold, and while some of the responses related to the Z Fold 5's new features, Samsung instead talked up the phone's expansive display and multitasking features — things you could have said about the previous four generations of the device.

Ultimately, whether or not Unpacked captivated our attention won't matter so long as the products Samsung announced deliver on what was promised. So far my colleagues who've had hands-on time with everything from the Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra to the Galaxy Watch 6 seem impressed by what they've seen, with some reservations. (You're limited as to what apps will work on the Galaxy Z Flip 5's larger cover screen? Really?)

Still, first impressions matter, both for consumers and competitors. If Samsung doesn't put on a compelling show, there's always that risk we turn our attention to someone who does.

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Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.