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Broadway done badly: the Samsung Galaxy S 4 event and its cast of crazies

Samsung S4 show

Okay, you have all seen the new Samsung Galaxy S 4. It’s pretty snazzy and big and all kinds of shiny and I bet if you try really hard, you might even find a unicorn hidden underneath its super sleek, super thin and exceptionally pretty casing.

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Announcing the new device, Samsung Head of mobile JK Shin said the South Korean electronics giant listened to people all over the world and created a device they wanted. I wish it had listened to the people regarding the kind of show they wanted. If, like me, this stuff really matters to you, you cast aside time zones or make the trek to Radio City (if you can score a ticket) and you watch it all live.

I don’t really want to talk about the device right now (you can read all about it here), more about Samsung’s need to prove the GS 4 is so good that it ended up making it look bad.

It’s cool to explain each new feature with real world events, show the audience and the users they need this new feature in their lives and how it is going to change everything. That is fine. When you’re at Radio City the challenge and temptation to go theatrical is quite daunting, and watching the GS 4 live event was like watching a Broadway musical with really cheesy pre-recorded music and really bad actors.

The scene changes were dizzying, from New York, to Shanghai to Paris and Miami back to New York and wherever else we ended up last night. It was beyond bizarre. I wasn’t sure if I should be embarrassed for Samsung or laugh. I couldn’t decide if all this was cool in an ironic way or just really really bad.

It’s a tough life being in Apple’s shadow apparently, because the below video is what happens when one begins to crack. I don’t understand why though: the South Korean giant has a great product and first impressions say it is a real contender and better than the iPhone 5.

According to Jan Dawson, chief telecom analyst at Ovum, some of the features Samsung unpacked last night show that the company is trying to “kill the competition”.

“The improvements to eye tracking and the additions of S Translator and the hover feature and so on are good steps in this direction, but they can be seen as gimmicks rather than game changers. At this point, Samsung appears to be trying to kill the competition with sheer volume of new features — there should be something here for everyone, even if most of these new features won’t be used by most users,” says Dawson.

So why go through all the over-budgeted, over-staged and under-performed theatrics? Because, soda pop, the coolness factor is much coveted. Samsung needs to make its technology and innovation look cool, it has to emphasize its usefulness in not so mundane settings but still utterly believable. Take the skit in Shanghai… I think this is the one that undid everyone. Some actor is trying to get directions, asks an old Chinese guy, and the guy can’t speak English. Our MC for night, Broadway actor Will Chase, explains to the audience: “The old guy doesn’t speak English!” Later Chase points out: “Then the old guy answered in Chinese and the S 4 typed it out in English!” No, really?

As Los Angeles Times’ Chris O’Brien tweeted:

Okay Samsung, here is a pro tip for you. If the journalists are trying to escape from an event where you’re giving them free stuff, there is something very wrong.

And so it carried on for 45 very long minutes, some dance numbers happened, some Miami housewives or real estate agents showed up on stage with wine and music playing from their phones.

I can imagine the mobile phone manufacturer will pull out all the stops when it comes to marketing the thing.

“For now, Samsung can likely rely on its vastly superior marketing budget and the relatively weak efforts of its competitors in software to keep it ahead. But competitors will catch up (as Samsung has caught up in many ways with Apple) and Samsung will need to continue to stretch,” adds Dawson.

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