Everyone loves to unbox brand new products. Especially if it’s a brand-new iPhone. And Apple for so many years, very carefully and smartly, has done it with their iPhones and iPads. They ship their products in incredibly packed and shrink wrapped boxes and Apple has managed to change how products are packaged forever.
I remember older phones used to come in these big boxes with plastic bags holding accessories and thick booklets of documentation that only added bulk because it barely had any useful information. Although a few rivals have managed to adapt to the new packaging standards, there are still a few companies that ship with such bulky packaging. Apple has truly excelled in every aspect of its most selling products, the iPhone and the iPad, over the years.
But lately, I noticed a small change in the packaging of Apple products. And although you might think it’s not a deal breaker, when something little changes in a business worth $600 billion, that small change can make a huge difference.
The goal of the brilliant iPhone was to make sure that every minor detail be perfected. And over the time Apple has done just that. But basic idea behind the iPhone packaging is that it should feel premium right from holding the box itself. The box is tightly packed in a shrink wrap that has been done so well, that it almost feels like the whole plastic is one sheet without any sealing edges. No company would invest so much in something that will be taken apart in seconds after it’s sold to a customer. But such minor details are important. Something like the shrink wrap would mean that the iPhone boxes stack up perfectly and maybe that’s important in transporting and storing the iPhones. Also, these boxes when kept in glass cabinets in stores will look premium due to the light reflecting off the glaze and it’s all about capturing the attention of the customers to maximize its sales and customer satisfaction.
Apple managed to fit the cable, charger and the headphones along with the very basic documentation in a box that hasn’t changed in the last 10 years.
But that changed with the iPhone 7. With Apple products, the first thing you see when you open the box is the product you paid for. That shiny phone with the plastic tab is what you see first and you pull the tab and you hold the phone in your hand as soon as your box is open. Apple has been the best at such small and important things and it all starts with your first interaction with the phone. When someone bought an iPhone for the first time, during the iPhone 4 and iPhone 5 era (and also iPhone 6), the first thing they saw was the iPhone itself in all its glory. As everyone has been talking for so many years Apple wants to give that ‘magical’ feeling right from the first moment. And Apple’s packaging does just that. It’s like opening a Pandora’s box and you are truly surprised at what you see.
What happens when you open an iPhone 7 box? Dull white packaging that says ‘Designed in California’. You use your fingers to struggle and open this white documentation case and then you see the iPhone. Where is that ‘magical’ feeling when you open the box? Underneath the dull apparently. I was surprised to see Apple change this.
Believe it or not this is significant. Apple wants to give its customers the experience of an iPhone and it doesn’t just end with the phone. It all depends on every minor detail. It is a company that spends nights and weeks designing every detail of its products. The iPhone is their most important product and it is likely going to keep that title for the next 10 years. I have seen customers experience opening their iPhones in Apple stores for the first time and I’m sure they don’t want to see a white documentation page when they do that. They don’t want a bit of experience taken away from them. Unboxing a product does leave an impression about it.
But there is probably a totally logical explanation to this. People have simply dropped their phones in excitement when they opened it for the first time. This happened with the iPhone 6 when a customer opened it after standing in line outside and Apple store for hours only to drop and break the screen. Apple may have given him a brand-new iPhone later but this is probably the only reason I can think of why Apple changed the packaging after 9 successful iPhones.
If you don’t open the box on a flat surface, you are likely to drop the iPhone. And this is probably true only for iPhone 6 and 6s due to the curved edges. The iPhone 4 and 5 fit perfectly in the tray meant to hold it and did not slide out of the box even at an angle. This probably means Apple did not notice this or simply thought it would not matter much. However, since Apple seem to have changed this, it did matter. Apple probably decided to stick with the same packaging with the 6s because changing the packaging does change costs of manufacturing. Think of it this way, when every iPhone costs 10 cents more due to a small change in its manufacturing, it costs Apple $10 million over the 100 million iPhones it sells over the course of 2-3 years of that iPhone.
Apple should have better solved the issue of ‘product-first’ during unboxing. In today’s market, every customer is important. For someone like Apple keeping the customer satisfaction close to 100% is extremely important no matter how small the issue is. That’s the only way it can guarantee a returning customer. Customers simply have too many options. And you wouldn’t care about the packaging of a some other premium phone you would buy today. The bar is simply not set that high for anyone else. Apple has made itself stand out due to its minor eye for details and it not only has to follow it but should make its statement even bolder if it must stand out in the fierce competition in the smartphone market.
Products like the iPhone 7 have fierce competition today, but Apple’s job is to make sure it gets every detail right, every time.