An Unofficial History of The Unboxing

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Gadget pron, gadget porn, unboxing, unpacking, uncrate, it’s been called many things, but it’s The Unboxing. Why is it that we love to unbox our gadgets, what is it that excites us so much about unboxing a new gadget or any tech related toy?

My take on it is that it’s sort of like Christmas all over again when we were kids, the mystery, and the satisfaction of holding some new wonderful toy in our hands. Even though we know what’s in the box usually, it’s still exciting and thrilling to unbox it. You can see the ads, read the reviews, see other people unbox something but it’s just not the same as getting your own hands on it and seeing for yourself what’s in the box.

What is an unboxing exactly?

The analogy could almost be made to that of undressing a woman (or man, whatever the case may be).  We take our time with it, examining it on the outside, caressing the box, taking a closer look at it, seeing all there is to see on the outside. Then comes the time to open it, slowly and carefully undoing the flaps on the box to reveal the prize that awaits us inside, what we’ve been waiting for with breathless anticipation. As we open the flaps our pulse quickens with sweet excitement. Once open we stop to take a deep look at what we see, examining everything, every part, taking it all in, the lines, the patterns we see.

Then comes to time to fully unbox our prize, slowly we peel away the inner layers to reveal what’s beneath, what we’ve been waiting for, is it worth it? Is it going to be all that we expected? Once we get the covering aside we get to see our prize in all its glory, we lay it out, stand back so we can take it all in. Then comes the time to actually get our hands on it, we gently caress it, fondling it with our hands,  our fingers caressing the lines, curves and grooves of the surface, even taking the time to take in the aroma of it. Finally comes the time to really get to work…. was it climatic, or anti-climactic, was it what you expected?

From my experience with unboxings, unboxing products that is, it’s usually always rather anti-climactic. The product never seems to live up to the hype that surrounded it in the advertising. Some do leave you with a nice feeling, but most are blah.

The unboxing has sort of become an unspoken competition between sites on the internet to see who gets it first. Let’s face it, if you’re the first one to get the product, you’ll get the most traffic and hits. We all want to be the first, it’s nice being number one especially when it comes to new tech. When those sites get the product first they’re usually hyped about by other sites and linked from many more, but it comes down to who you know or who your contacts are in the industry.

So When Did it All Start?

The thrill of the unboxing has been around for quite some time I’m sure, way before the internet and videos of people unboxing things. I can imagine back several decades ago when the first telephone arrived to a guy like you or me.  He sat there excited when it arrived, thinking he was one of the first to ever get his hands on one. He took his time with it, unboxed it, and explored all there was to see…

We could probably even go back farther than that, let’s say back to ancient Greece, with the abacus, or actually farther that that as the first abacus dates back to Sumeria circa 2700BC or so. Can you picture the first guy to receive an abacus fondling it with delight?

Unboxings are primarily a guys thing, but I’m sure there are girls out there that enjoy it as much as we do, especially if we look at it from the view of the analogy above ;)

The idea of this article was to present you, the reader, with a history of the unboxing, but that’s hard to do. It’s very hard to pinpoint the very first unboxing ever done. People claim that one of the first unboxing videos was of the PS3 by CheapyD. It’s been viewed more than 800,000 times so far, but it’s hard to believe that’s the first one, maybe one of the first very popular unboxing videos, but not the first.

If we look up the definition of unboxing we find at the ‘Urban Dictionary’

The Internet trend of showing photos or video from the unpacking of a retail box of some desirable product, such as the latest laptop or portable music player.

The oldest unboxing video I found on YouTube was from 3 years ago of the Nokia E61, but still there has to be older ones than that out there, doesn’t there? We’ve been unboxing stuff for centuries really, there has to be older than three years ago out there somewhere.

Let’s Talk With Someone Who Does it for a Living?

Unboxing.com, which is actually Gear Live just turned 5 years old, but I don’t think the actual unboxing part of their site is that old..

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I caught up with Andru Edwards, the CEO of Gear Live and asked him a few questions about this unboxing stuffs:

technogog: So, why do it, unboxings I mean?

Andru Edwards: Readers and viewers like to see what is in the box, and we are able to give advice on what else you might want to buy, especially if it isn’t included with an item, like an HDMI cable.

technogog: What was your first unboxing video? (link to it?)

Andru Edwards:The first video was the Logitech Harmony 720 universal remote control, back in 2006:

http://unboxing.gearlive.com/unbox/article/unboxing-live-001-logitech-harmony-720-814511/

technogog: How did it feel when you did your first unboxing?

Andru Edwards:There wasn’t any special feeling or anything. I just felt like I was doing my job, which is to inform our readers and viewers!

technogog:Why do you think people like to see unboxings?

Andru Edwards:Because they are able to live vicariously through the videos and take part in the launch or release of a product. Others like them because they are informational, and are actually good to watch when considering a purchase.

technogog: How many do you personally average per month? How many does the site have posted now?

Andru Edwards:We have over 50 unboxing videos, and over 100 unboxing photo galleries. We typically do 2-4 per month.

technogog:Are there any particular types of products that you like to unbox specifically or is everything treated the same?

Andru Edwards:We treat everything the same from a journalistic perspective, but I personally prefer unboxing items that are unique, and have great presentation. Apple products usually fall into this category, as do game consoles, and more recently, the Beats by Dr. Dre headphone line.

technogog: What is your favorite unboxing of all? (link to it to use in the post)

Andru Edwards:Probably the one where we unboxed the iPhone 3G live, in the Apple Store, at launch:

http://unboxing.gearlive.com/unbox/article/q208-unboxing-live-038-the-apple-iphone-3g-white-and-black/

technogog: Do you think unboxings add value to reviews?

Andru Edwards:Definitely. They give you a close look at the product, and again, you get to see everything that is included in the box, so you know what else you may need to pick up while you are at the store.

technogog: Do you like to watch unboxing videos? and why?

Andru Edwards:Not necessarily, but only because I get my hands on items typically before they hit stores. So I’ve already seen them.

technogog:Any idea where the phenomenon of the unboxing came from or started?

Andru Edwards:No idea, but we were one of the first – we’ve been doing it for over 3 years.

technogog: Tell me a bit about Gear Live Unboxing…

Andru Edwards:Well, Gear Live in general is a consumer electronics news blog, and we do video reviews of products, as well as unboxing videos. We record in high definition in a studio, and definitely try to highlight the product, and give an expert opinion alongside the unboxing visuals. You can find it at unboxing.gearlive.com.

technogog: I see if you type unboxing.com into the address bar of a browser it automatically directs to unboxing.gearlive.com, is there any story behind that? The acquisition of the domain name.

Andru Edwards:It was just part of a decision to move all our domains under the Gear Live banner. We moved all our domains to subdomains of Gear Live. We acquired the domain because we needed a place to house the unboxing videos we were doing.

…and I’d like to thank Andru for talking with us.

What About Other Sites?

Unbox.it used to be an unboxing site but it’s not longer there, it’s a parked page with ads on it, so don’t go there.

Sites like Engadget and Gizmodo are also known for their unboxing videos and pictorial unboxings, and they seem to always get the stuff first before anyone else does, so theirs are always very popular.

Speaking of Engadget  I found a rather old unboxing over there as well.

The iPod with Video pictorial unboxing from October 2005: http://www.engadget.com/2005/10/18/unpacking-the-ipod-with-video/

ipod

and I also found a Pictorial unboxing of the Macmini from almost 5 years ago over at Uneasy Silence: http://uneasysilence.com/archive/2005/01/2009/

macmini

Over at flickr, in the Unboxing pool there is surprisingly only a little over 2,000 photos, I would have thought there’d be a lot more really. (Maybe I need to join and add a few more thousand…)

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Way Back When!

I can remember back in my Commodore64 and Vic-20 days getting the magazines, there they had product reviews with basic unboxings in them, while not as exciting as a video, they fulfilled our needs at the time until we got our hands on the real thing.

So for the history of the unboxing, well it started out most likely shortly after the camera was invented, with people taking pictures of things they received and were excited about.

I did find a pictorial unboxing of the iSight from August 2003 here: http://homepage.mac.com/iblog/PhotoAlbum6.html

Actual unboxings started with product reviews in magazines, then with the coming of the internet and video sites like YouTube and Viddler, and others, people really had a chance to show off their unboxings. At first I think they were product reviewers experimenting with a new way to show their readers just what you get in the box. Then as the popularity picked up, every day people started sharing their new products through unboxing videos as well, to share with friends and whoever else cared to watch.

Other Types of Unboxings:

There’s a new trend in unboxings though, finding old products new and unboxing them like the guys over at AlfredTV did with a 20th Anniversary MAC.

As with any popular thing out there, there is going to be people making fun of it and doing parodies. Microsoft did a parody video unboxing for Internet Explorer 8, and even created a fictitious character named Roland Wacker to do the unboxing and he even has his own Facebook page.

Probably the most awesome unboxing parody is for the Samsung Omnia i900, it’s more of an advertisement, but it’s still very well done. They’ve taken the unboxing to a whole new level, it’s hard to explain, just watch the video.

Unboxings have evolved a life of their own really, at their height there were sites just dedicated to unboxings, but they’ve since come and gone apparently, with Unboxing.com becoming unboxing.gearlive.com.

Then of course we have Amazon who, trying to partially cash in on the unboxing phenomenon I’m sure, named their video download service/  on demand service, ‘Unbox’.

Doing a search for ‘Unboxing’ on Google or Bing doesn’t really come up with much of a history of it all, just, as expected, many links to sites containing videos of unboxings.

Unboxings though don’t just have to be videos, some sites have sections for pictorial unboxings, which isn’t quite the same thing in my book. Maybe if it was a video and still pictures to accompany it, then that might work.

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I think the primary allure of the unboxing is that it shows us what’s in the box, even if it’s vicariously through the screen, we still get to feel the creators excitement as he unboxes the product for the first time. The other attraction is of course the fact that the videos show people what exactly they’ll be getting before they buy something, it’s always nice to know what’s in the box. That’s one of the primary reasons I like product reviews, when I’m looking to buy something, I like to search for a review, to know the opinions of the product, but also to see what else comes with it.

Here’s one of our  unboxings, of the Synology DS209+II NAS Box:

There are products that actually I don’t do video unboxings of because I’m actually a bit excited and just want to see what’s inside. An example would be that I just received the DoubleSight 7” LCD for review, it was one of those products that I was a bit excited about to be getting for review. I just had to get it open to check it out, and it was worth it as it is a very nice product.

The unboxing is something that non-techies don’t quite get. They understand to a point in that it shows the product and what comes in the box, but they don’t understand the thrill of it all. Understanding the idea behind the unboxing and the thrill of it might be hard for some people, but us enthusiasts understand it very well, it’s just one of those things that we love. One of the best parts of being a reviewer I think is the unboxing, be it on video or just still pictures, there’s always a thrill when getting a new product, especially one that isn’t on the market yet.

While the origin of the unboxing has eluded being found, it’s there, in all of us really, it’s been around for a long time and will remain a popular pastime of geeks and non-geeks alike.

You can find all of our unboxing videos on Viddler HERE, along with game videos and other product related movies.

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  • Henria O.

    This totally makes me laugh! I completely know what you mean. I get excited just hearing you talk about unboxing as if it were me doing the unboxing! Crazy, I know. When I see an unboxing, I just want to “Woo, Hoo!” you know?! Well, adults aren’t the only ones who get this thrill. Whenever I get a package in the mail, my 4-year old daughter is right by my side jumping with excitment! LOL! I think it’s just in our nature!

  • http://twitter.com/bdpowell81 Brad

    how does one get involved with unboxing, as I highly interested in this…

    • http://1singur.wordpress.com/ 1singur

      one buys things, thet unboxes them. you’d have to do this with many things, though, to feel like you’re an unboxer, not once in a few weeks. more like a few times a week. and so you’ll get involved with unboxing stuff.

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