Technology

Why are we so obsessed with unboxing tech devices on YouTube?

Why are we so obsessed with unboxing tech devices on YouTube?
piers.scott@sociable.co'

Something curious is happening on YouTube accounts across the world. An increasing number of users are recording themselves doing something surprisingly ordinary (no not that) and those videos are getting thousands of views.

What are they doing?

They’re unboxing technology products.  From iPhone 5s, to Nexus 4s and 10s, to iPad Minis (Wii U’s are the latest trend in unboxings), users just seem to be obsessed to recording themselves unpacking products from FedEx boxes.  And the rest of us can’t seem to but watch them.  These videos have appeared on YouTube like the digital version of birthing videos recorded by doting, over-excited, fathers-to-be in the maternity ward.

According to Google Trends, this unboxing craze reached record levels in November this year.  This is not surprising since Google, Microsoft, Apple, Nintendo and Amazon all had products released this month. But still, do we need to see other people opening boxes of things most of us are capable of owning?

To be honest, probably. I’ll admit to watching more than one Nexus 4 unboxing (a product that is firmly on my Christmas list this year).  It doesn’t add anything to my understanding of the product – I’ve read the official stats, I know how long the battery will last, I know how good the camera is and I know it has no support for LTE (even though it has a chip) yet I still watch these videos.

Google searches for unboxing

According to Google trends, unboxing became a thing in 2007 and has skyrocketed ever since.  December, for obvious reasons, is the prime month for unboxings, so expect YouTube this December to be drowning in unboxings.

Perhaps it’s just the geek equivalent of vicarious living; I’m living my ownership of the device through my fellow geeks who placed their pre-orders before me; perhaps I want to discover something about the device that would put me off;  perhaps I trust these early adopters to give more honest first impressions than experienced tech blog hacks; perhaps, even, I’m just expecting a surprise, like a Jack-in-the-Box to appear from the depths of an iPad Mini soy-printed rectangle of cardboard.

Perhaps, I just want to see something go horribly wrong

That tragedy aside, not all unboxings are as basic as just unboxing a product.  Some, like the ever brilliant Chris Pirillo, bring a solid helping of entertainment and context to what they’re removing from its box.

While other are more subjective

But Pirillo is largely the exception, the majority of YouTube’d unboxings are just what they appear – regular users taking things out of boxes.

And this trend doesn’t appear to show any signs of stopping – unboxing has even entered other languages as the seemingly official terms for the practice

So, do these videos make you yearn for a product more (can a bad unboxing put you off) or are they just a side effect the hype machine that has been developed by device makers?

Who knows? But either way, have fun unboxing whatever it is you get this Christmas…and don’t forget to share it on YouTube.

View Comments (2)

2 Comments

  1. patphelan

    November 19, 2012 at 10:50 PM

    @pdscott it’s been a trend since we did the iPhone 1 unboxings :-)

    • pdscott

      November 19, 2012 at 10:53 PM

      @patphelan Yeah, it seems to be 2007 when they took off – seen so many in the past week for so many devices, ’tis the season for #unboxing

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Technology
piers.scott@sociable.co'
@pdscott

Piers Dillon-Scott is co-editor of The Sociable and writes about stuff he finds. He likes technology, media, and using the Oxford comma (because it just makes sense).

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