Samsung's Galaxy S9 launch sprinkled 'AR magic' into my hands

For a final several hours, my Samsung media badge was, well, a plain media badge: a rectilinear block of card with dull edges connected to a cosmetic shave and lanyard that hung around my neck, like so many press certification I’ve collected over a years.

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A digital digest of a Galaxy S9, pleasantness of my media badge.


Roger Cheng/CNET

Its clearly solitary value was a ability to get me into Samsung’s launch of a Galaxy S9, reason Sunday on a eve of a Mobile World Congress 2018 trade uncover in Barcelona.

But with a float of my iPhone X’s camera over it, a badge unexpected remade into a digital digest of a Galaxy S9 — and a primary instance of a record called protracted reality, that overlays digital images over a genuine world. In this case, on a arrangement of my possess phone was Samsung’s latest flagship device. we could pierce it side to side, or lift it for a closeup. When we flipped a badge around, we got a digest of a behind of a phone.

It’s a latest pretence from Samsung’s climax playbook, that over a years has put engaging spins on a undisturbed and formulaic tech product launch with a “Unpacked” events. Given that many of a Galaxy S9 sum leaked forward of time, and that a launch of Apple’s iPhone X is still uninformed in many people’s minds, Samsung indispensable to make a clever impression.

“I indeed suspicion they did utterly good as distant as energy, deliberation how many of it was already known,” pronounced Carolina Milanesi, an researcher during Creative Strategies.

That a many noted attempt concerned protracted existence underscores Samsung large pierce in this area, quite with a AR emojis found in a new phones. The allure of AR has swept adult some of a largest players in tech, including Microsoft, Google and Apple.

The eventuality also noted a lapse to Barcelona for Samsung, that has traditionally used MWC as a height for a tellurian launch of a newest members of a successful Galaxy S franchise. Last year, Samsung opted to reason a apart eventuality in New York after a conference, permitting other phones to take a MWC spotlight — particularly a nostalgia-tapping Nokia 3310, a BlackBerry KeyOne and a LG G6.

This time around, a Galaxy S9′s participation led to many companies saving their best phones for later.

Early bird

Unpredictability is a common trait when it comes to large product launches like these, so we lined adult during a gates of a Fira Montjuic gathering gymnasium in executive Barcelona 3 hours early. Yes, 3 hours. Already forward of me were 10 people, including a unruly organisation of unfamiliar bloggers who frequently shouted a countdown as if a gates were opening, usually to have confidence guards behind a steel barriers shake their heads. The attempt was humorous a initial time they did it. 

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The media badge for a Galaxy S9 launch event. 


Roger Cheng/CNET

After they began vouchsafing us in, my colleagues and we done a beeline for a categorical gymnasium along a trail flanked by dual rows of waitresses with hors d’oeuvres and drinks. Near a behind of a outward area was a quarrel of Samsung employees with white jackets and black pants combining a tellurian separator safeguarding a light-up daffodil sculpture.

We gave all that frequency a peek as we entered a hall, a enormous hangar setup with rows of chairs combining an octagon-like ring around a block black stage. Hanging above a theatre were 4 large black displays, any confronting a opposite side, ensuring there would be no bad seats.

Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus

Periodically, a Samsung deputy would come on to a theatre and remind us to download a Unpacked 2018 app, that would be required to “experience a sorcery of protracted reality.”

I scoffed during a stale buzzword “magic.”

But we was blissful a app was on my phone when Justin Denison, comparison clamp boss of product plan and selling for Samsung’s US unit, told us to open it and indicate my phone’s camera during a badge.

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DJ Koh, a conduct of Samsung’s mobile business, kicks off a arrangement with an introduction. 


Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

“There we have it folks, your initial personal hide preview of a Galaxy S9,” Denison pronounced amid a few oohs and aahs from a crowd. 

It’s one approach to chuck a bone to a some-more desirous members of a audience. 

“That was a lovable approach to indeed get closer to a phone,” Milanesi said.

The arrangement wrapped adult with those white-jacketed Samsung-paid reps marching adult on theatre and dancing to Aston Merrygold’s “Get Stupid,” before walking down toward a product showcase area. 

Like aged times

In some ways, a Galaxy S9 launch felt identical to a recover of 2016′s Galaxy S7 — a final time Samsung reason a large phone recover in Barcelona.


The eventuality featured a identical blueprint with a executive theatre surrounded by mixed rows of chairs. That year’s turn concerned practical existence — we put on a Gear VR headset to believe partial of a presentation. But a biggest startle came when we carried a headsets off, usually to find Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had strode onto a theatre though a knowledge.  

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A wall of Samsung employees kept us from going too distant erroneous during a Samsung Galaxy S9 launch event. 


Roger Cheng/CNET

Last year’s Unpacked events ran a gamut. There was an MWC uncover many noted for a unexpected revisit by Greenpeace protestors. (There were some forgettable tablets, too.)  Then came a some-more candid launch of a Galaxy S8, that took place in New York’s Lincoln Center. The association was perplexing to rehabilitate a repute and move a hum behind to a name after a Galaxy Note 7, that had an unhealthy bent to overheat and locate fire. There were fewer gimmicks during a presentation, in that a association played it protected and kept a concentration on a phone’s new edge-to-edge “Infinity Display.” It did offer a overwhelming video arrangement that flowed from a behind of a theatre toward a ceiling, formulating a wraparound visible effect. 

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The whole stage, from a building to a shade behind it, worked together as a large screen. 


Sarah Tew/CNET

But by August, a aged Samsung was behind with a thespian aptitude during a Galaxy Note 8 launch in New York’s Park Avenue Armory. The association interconnected dual hulk backdrop displays with special building tiles embedded with little LEDs, permitting it to emanate a single, seamless picture of Manhattan, with a Hudson River issuing onto a theatre building and right to a track risers. It was a singular apparition that had attendees as meddlesome in a building as in a new phone.

This year’s arrangement lacked that visible pizazz, though enclosed some-more interactive elements like a counter set run by YouTube stars The Slow Mo Guys to prominence a phone’s “Super Slow-Mo” capability, that captures video during 960 frames per second, compared with a iPhone’s 240 frames per second. 

“The believe has to be something opposite than what we can get online,” pronounced Maribel Lopez, an researcher during Lopez Research. “Samsung delivered a few that done it value being there.”

So while Sunday’s eventuality didn’t have me walking on water, it did, for a brief moment, let me reason a digital Galaxy S9 in my hands. In some ways, it was some-more engaging than a genuine thing.

Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus: Hands-on with Samsung’s iPhone X fighters.

MWC 2018: All of CNET’s coverage from a biggest phone uncover of a year.

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