The Scourge of Unboxing Videos

A personal pet peeve

I knew that it was time to get out of product reviewing when the idiotic “unboxing video” became the standard by which all products are now reviewed (if you can call this reviewing).

What I’m talking about is the commonplace product review that includes and emphasizes the breathless “unboxing,” whereby the product packaging is scrutinized as the reviewer removes the product from the box in which it came.

This idea, which began in 2006 with the unboxing of a Nokia phone, may have began as a gestalt-like mechanism to show that a careful presentation (box) may be an indicator of a quality product.

After 15 years and counting of unboxing videos, I can assure you that this has never been the case.

This concept flies in the face of the old adage “don’t judge a book by its cover.”. I fall into this category, but appreciate a nice package. Unless, it is the encased-in-plastic nightmare package that cannot be opened by any mechanism other than a bolt-cutter.

The way I see it, a product reviewer should not get jacked-up about unboxing unless the product is the box and they’re doing the review for the readers of Modern Packaging Magazine. Otherwise, unboxing is a stalling mechanism for what will be a shallow and useless review where the device (usually a new cell phone) is ogled, turned on, ogled some more, flipped around, the screen shown on camera, ogled some more, and placed on the desk to be further ogled. The specs are then read verbatim by the reviewer.

As the review continues. the reviewer shoots a few photos using the embedded camera and compares them to another phone you’ve never heard of. Some commentary about the photos ensues. The reviewer talks a bit about the Android version on the phone and then decides out-of-the-blue whether the phone is any good and whether it's priced right.

Nothing is actually tested. The power of the radio and whether it has any range is never discussed. Has anyone ever tested a phone’s response time when jumping from tower-to-tower? No, but they will tell you the phone has 4 cores since it is on the spec sheet!

The quality of the sound is never tested. The microphone is not discussed. It’s usefulness as a speaker phone or an MP3 player is not actually tested. Once in a while a they try a random drop test, but even that is rare and inconsistent. Different people are not shown the phone to test how it feels to them. All the effort focuses on the unboxing.

This is the state of all product reviewing today.

By the time the review is over it becomes clear that the unboxing part of the review had the biggest impact on the reviewer’s thoughts about the phone.

These sorts of reviews have got to end. And people that unbox phones (or any product) on YouTube should be condemned. And the box itself should be condemned as an expensive distraction costing the phone buyer more money than they should be paying. -- jcd

April 27,2021