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Apple Gets the Importance of Packaging; Why Doesn't Google? 639

Hugh Pickens writes "Rebecca Greenfield writes that Google's Nexus tablet with its taped sides and fussy plastic takes effort to open, eliciting what some would call 'wrap rage,' the linguist-approved word for the anger associated with opening a factory sealed product, and as a montage of frustrated Google Nexus 7 owners struggling to open their new tablets' packaging proves there is at least one thing Apple gets that Google does not: boxes. In comparison to the minutes-long process that it takes to get to Google's well-reviewed tablet, opening an iPad takes a simple slide of a cover — a lid that 'comes off easily, but not too easily,' as Random Tech's Anthony Kay puts it. Apple boxes aren't beloved by accident. The company thinks about the way a box informs a product and takes boxing seriously for a reason. 'Not only does the box give people warm and fuzzy associations with the product from the get-go, but also, people form emotional attachments to the actual pieces of cardboard. Instead of tossing them like the trash that they are, people have been known to keep their iBoxes,' writes Greenfield. 'Instead of forgotten in a dump or recycling facility, the boxes sit on shelves serving as a constant reminder of the beauty within.'"
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Apple Gets the Importance of Packaging; Why Doesn't Google?

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  • Ouch (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bhagwad ( 1426855 ) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @10:24AM (#40698203) Homepage
    I think I'm gonna be sick.

    I mean I know people worship Apple and all. But...come on guys.
  • Re:Because (Score:5, Insightful)

    by alen ( 225700 ) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @10:24AM (#40698207)

    yes, because my iCrap is going to be worth something in a few years and selling my used iCrap with the original box in good condition will increase its value

  • by Angst Badger ( 8636 ) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @10:25AM (#40698219)

    Seriously? There was nothing more important or interesting going on than some nebbish mumbling about the importance of packaging? Even for Apple fanboyism, this reaches new depths. "The boxes sit on shelves serving as a constant reminder of the beauty within." I wish there was a more appropriate and genteel response to that than, "Get a life!", but there you are.

  • Re:Wrap rage...? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HarrySquatter ( 1698416 ) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @10:30AM (#40698299)

    People keep the packaging for returns and because selling your mint condition iDevice with mint condition packaging means you get higher resell value on eBay.

  • Re:Wrap rage...? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jeffmeden ( 135043 ) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @10:31AM (#40698305) Homepage Journal

    Well, of all the things that qualify as first world problems...

    And really? People keep i* packaging? That's kinda weird and squirrelly.

    Exactly... The story about "packaging fetishists" is just as much about doing something wrong as it is about doing it right. Why not just make packaging that is easy to open and recycle, and let the consumer enjoy just the product instead of worrying about the box? Or, at least, make the box in a form factor that is easy to actually reuse instead of inspiring Apple fans to collect shelves and shelves of meaningless cardboard. I mean, at least pewter figurines or tea sets or pictures of old people has some prolonged sentimental value. With an iPad, are you really going to give two shits about it after you get the next generation version?

    Thanks, Apple, for putting time into thinking about how to get me to hang on to MORE shit I don't need.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @10:31AM (#40698313) Journal

    Given that Google has been treading the path of relative minimalism in the packaging for their assorted flagships, I see three basic possibilities:

    1. Cargo-cult: Google's cardboard box guru is smart enough to know that Apple makes good cardboard boxes, and has successfully emulated certain elements of them(lack of tacky carrier branding, minimalist design, though usually on a black field rather than a white one, and so forth); but has failed to understand the entire set of variables that go into making a good package, resulting in a close visual reproduction without the functional qualities.

    2. Somebody fucked up in production. The design that, indeed, worked perfectly in CAD and in low-volume mockups turned out to have somewhat sloppy tolerances that erred on the side of 'too tight' when X thousand of them showed up in the containers from the pacific rim, at which point it was a bit late to do anything about it. This happens regardless of 'understanding' of the importance of packaging. The acrylic crazing/cracking problems of the old G4 cube, for example, were not caused by the fact that somebody half-assed the aesthetics of the unit; but by inadequate production techniques.

    3.(Related to 2) At $200, Google isn't exactly making gigantic margins here, which curtails their ability to do costly things in order to achieve superior results. Preventing #2 type problems can, to a degree, be achieved by throwing more money, scrutiny, and willingness to send it back and have them do it right this time. If one lacks the luxury of money and time, though, one has to accept more limited control and the necessity of sometimes shipping 'good enough' in order to meet deadline. Since irksome packaging isn't a major issue by the standards of what can go wrong with complex electronics, it isn't an unlikely thing to suffer if corners need cutting...

  • by nashv ( 1479253 ) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @10:31AM (#40698325) Homepage

    Packaging can be weird to understand. Some of the simplest-looking boxes are often hard to manufacture and use to package a product on a assembly line.

    Remember that customer experience while unpacking is perhaps the most transient, short-lived event in the life of a product. Other factors such as safety while transport, shelf-appearance and the quality of the product itself is far far more important. And lets not get started about environmental costs of packaging.

    It is easy to get all of it if you have a profit margin like Apple does - about 50% [techspot.com]. The Nexus has a profit margin of barely 5-7% [cnet.com]. So yes, they may cut corners on the box.

    But something tells me people who want a Nexus get that the packaging is irrelevant enough as to be worthless within 2 minutes of the customer having finished it. Unboxing is where the function of packaging finishes.

  • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Korin43 ( 881732 ) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @10:31AM (#40698327) Homepage

    Yeah this story confuses me.

    Step 1: Push box out of sleeve
    Step 2: Cut two pieces of tape
    Step 3: Open box
    Step 4: Profit

    There's not even a ??? step. Is cutting tape really that difficult?

  • by JohnnyMindcrime ( 2487092 ) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @10:36AM (#40698419)

    ...my Google Android phone gets the importance of standard connectors [ninemsn.com.au].

  • by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @10:48AM (#40698607)

    I agree that the gushing is... weird. But the Apple packaging is nice, and people do notice it when they purchase Apple products. It's all part of their branding, which is very well managed. Other companies with crappy or hard-to-open packaging risk their branding just a tiny bit.

  • Re:Wrap rage...? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MisterSquid ( 231834 ) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @10:49AM (#40698615)

    The story about "packaging fetishists" is just as much about doing something wrong as it is about doing it right. Why not just make packaging that is easy to open and recycle, and let the consumer enjoy just the product instead of worrying about the box? Or, at least, make the box in a form factor that is easy to actually reuse instead of inspiring Apple fans to collect shelves and shelves of meaningless cardboard.

    Many people don't understand packaging is very important and your post, unfortunately, is no exception.

    In the case of tablets and phones, packaging is the first personal encounter with what is intended to be a personal device. Getting this step right is crucial to shaping how a consumer perceives the product and too many companies neglect this simple but ineluctable point.

    It's not fetishism to want a consumer's experience of "getting at the device" to be quick, obvious, and easy. Furthermore, packaging that is easily opened and which is not damaged upon opening makes that packaging reusable.

    Apple's packaging of phones and tables is exemplary in this regard. The only thing that must be permanently damaged in the unboxing process is the shrink wrap, and even that can be preserved so that it can be reused. This means that when I upgrade my tablet I can sell the old device on eBay in its original packaging and allow my buyers to have a very-close-to-new out-of-box experience. I've sold quite a few phones, tablets, and laptops on eBay and people really appreciate the out-of-box experience, so much so that I mention that the item has all the original packaging intact.

    Style, simplicity, and reusability are not shallow but deep. It's the failure to appreciate the work that goes into making something simple that is shallow.

  • Invasion (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Clueless Nick ( 883532 ) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @10:55AM (#40698713) Journal

    Did Slashdot get invaded by Engadget? Are we already living in the era of idiocracy?

    I find it hard to understand how a difficult to open packaging could lead to comparisons between two major technology companies. Oh, by the way, Motorola sold their phones in smoothly sliding boxes way before the iPhone was launched, so it is not like it is yet another of Apple's 'innovations'.

    To tell you the truth, I find these huge number of insipid 'unboxing videos' and 'reviews' to be an insult to the intelligence of discerning viewers and readers who might be actually looking for useful information about a product.

  • Re:Huh? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 19, 2012 @10:57AM (#40698771)

    without requiring the customer to locate sharp objects.

    I have never met tape that requires anything sharper than a housekey to remove. If you can't locate your keys, you've got bigger issues than failure to open a toy.

  • by caveat ( 26803 ) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @10:58AM (#40698793)

    John Siracusa wrote a full page [arstechnica.com] on the literal "out of box" experience with the G4 Cube, it seems it's still relevant today:

    Who cares what the packing materials are like? What does this have to do with the quality of the product? Is nice styrofoam supposed to make up for the huge price tag? But step back a minute and consider Apple's motivation here. Like other "boutique" brands (e.g. Bose or Bang & Olufsen), it's important for Apple to provide a uniformly high quality experience with its products. And yes, that certainly includes packaging. In fact, psychologically, packaging may be one of the most important first impressions. The customer needs to be reassured from the very start that their money was well spent. It's not so much that they'll be impressed by the packaging, it's just important to prevent the feeling of "cheapness" that might result if "standard" packaging materials and techniques are used. Welcome to the wonderful world of marketing.

    Love or hate Apple, but they think everything through.

  • Re:Wrap rage...? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by j2.718ff ( 2441884 ) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @10:59AM (#40698805)

    I save the packaging for any products I might eventually return/sell. This has nothing to do with Apple. (I also have enough space in the basement that a few extra boxes won't get in the way of anything else.)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 19, 2012 @11:00AM (#40698821)

    Every time I get a new Apple product, it's a cool experience ... It really makes you feel like you're getting a luxury item.

    I think this sums up pretty well why people buy Apple products -- the *feeling* that you're buying something "cool."

    Whether that should be why people buy computer products is another issue. This whole fiasco highlights the problems with that mentality--and by "fiasco" I am referring to the preciousness of those complaining about the packaging, not the packaging itself.

  • Re:Wrap rage...? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dog-Cow ( 21281 ) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @11:13AM (#40698979)

    And why in the world would you think that Apple's packaging is not recyclable?

    You should be applauding Apple's approach because you and MisterSquid get what they want out of it.

  • Re:Wrap rage...? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Johann Lau ( 1040920 ) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @11:19AM (#40699123) Homepage Journal

    http://fadeyev.net/2012/06/19/moral-design/ [fadeyev.net]

    Life is the ultimate aim of moral design, which it must protect, advance, ennoble and enrich. Immoral design, which is also bad design, is the opposite. It takes life by stealing time; it impoverishes by pretending to be more than it is; it does not last; it deceives, harms, enrages and degrades. The difference between the two lies at the origin of the work, when the designer first establishes their true goals and decides whether it is to satisfy their destructively selfish aims, or it is to be something higher, something that respects and elevates peopleâ(TM)s lives, something that they are not ashamed to put out into this world because they know that their heart lies in the right place; and if they fail to achieve what they set out to do, it will be but an error of affection, not ill work laden with guilt.

    By that standard, Apple suddenly doesn't look sexy at all. Nor do other corps.

    out-of-box experience

    not shallow but deep

    Bullshit. That's as shallow as you can get.

    It's the failure to appreciate the work that goes into making something simple that is shallow.

    Something can be a lot of work and still be shallow, nobody is claiming the don't waste a lot of time and money and resources on their packaging, so that's both a strawman and a false dichotomy.

  • Apple cares (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Quila ( 201335 ) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @11:42AM (#40699483)

    Google and others think the user experience of a product is confined only to the actual use of it. But that's only one part pf a user experience, and forgets walking into the store (or using the online store), buying, unboxing, first start and setup, support, and eventual recycling.

    Apple does everything in its power to make all aspects of the user experience perfect. Apple does unboxing tests for products, even did store mock-ups instead of just slapping up the usual crowded aisles. That's their brand strategy, and it's popular with consumers and profitable.

  • Re:Wrap rage...? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheLongshot ( 919014 ) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @11:56AM (#40699675)
    The referb Kindle I got from Amazon came in a package like this. A zip open cardboard box with a plastic insert to hold the Kindle, all of which was recyclable.
  • Re:Wrap rage...? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Karlt1 ( 231423 ) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @12:09PM (#40699903)

    "Ah, the joys of owning an iDevice. You have to constantly plan ahead financially for when the next version comes out."

    So in all of technology, only Apple users ever upgrade?

  • Re:Wrap rage...? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DNS-and-BIND ( 461968 ) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @12:21PM (#40700093) Homepage
    Oh, fuck that noise. Apple makes luxury products, they can afford fancy packaging. Any product that sells on price gets whatever packaging the factory can make that won't damage the product during transit, and whatever is cheap. A lot of times that unfortunately means the clamshell packaging. I work with goddamn Chinese factories, I know this. Apparently you don't. "Out of the box experience" what the fuck?!? You exist at such a high, luxury level of consumerism that you have no idea why anyone would do anything differently, eh? When you have fucking 50%+ margins like Apple does, you can do things like make the packaging nice-nice.

    People care about the product. If you're so far gone that you fetishize the packaging...well dude you're way out there. Honestly, I envy you and wish that I had more money than brains. Unfortunately, I'm on the short side of that ratio.

  • Re:Wrap rage...? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cellocgw ( 617879 ) <cellocgw@NOSpAm.gmail.com> on Thursday July 19, 2012 @12:42PM (#40700473) Journal

    Moving once every 3 years is not normal, and nothing you do to facilitate that will be considered normal.
    Never heard of the Armed Forces, have you?

  • Re:Because (Score:3, Insightful)

    by roc97007 ( 608802 ) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @01:16PM (#40701031) Journal

    I wouldn't have put it that way, but using your terminology, it's more like iCrap version 1.00003 is coming out in six months and I NEEDS it, YES my PRECIOUS, so I'll need to get rid of this piece of crap that is iCrap version 1.00002, and that's easier with the orginal box.

    And if nobody wants it, I can always throw it away.

  • Re:Wrap rage...? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fatphil ( 181876 ) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @01:20PM (#40701101) Homepage
    Mostly agree, but I wouldn't have thought "nonchalently" was the best adverb. "Narcissistically" seems to be closer.
  • Re:Wrap rage...? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Mr Z ( 6791 ) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @05:18PM (#40704337) Homepage Journal
    You're confusing "normal" with "majority" or maybe "common." Something can be perfectly normal without the majority of people doing it or it even being particularly common. For example, it's perfectly normal to have a pet bird, although it's fairly uncommon: only 4% of households have a pet bird.

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"