We had seen the US i-SOBOT packaging before, and really liked it. This week we got our first look at the Japanese packaging, which is just as sweet. And, in the process, we realized why we like it so much compared to our horrible experiences with the packaging used by some other companies well known for their toy market robot products.
TOMY is currently shipping two i-SOBOT versions, the black model for the US market and a white model with blue accents for the Japanese market. Interestingly enough, the US product shipments via retailers online websites actually kicked off several weeks ago, and deliveries in Japan started on October 25th. So it was one of those rare, but happy cases, where the US market actually got a hot new Japanese product before it was released in the manufacturers home market.
Mechanically, electrically, and functionally the two versions are identical, though obviously the Japanese version speaks and recognizes Japanese, while the US version does the same with American (not British) English. The product packaging is also fairly similar between the two countries, though there are some interesting differences.
As you might expect, the US box appears to be larger, features a great see-through panel to catch the customers attention in stores, and carries a very prominent warning label right on the front:
The package is designed very much like a carry case for the robot, and some owners may actually use it that way. The warning label is basically a requirement for manufacturers in the US market, even though design-wise it kind of detracts from the overall product image. In contrast, the packaging for the Japanese market is more compact and more 'specs' oriented:
The package sides are surprisingly simple - elegant actually from a design perspective. It's really refreshing compared to the typical noisy to the point of being jarring toy packaging we see in the stores.
Popping the lid's velcro tab reveals the i-SOBOT, controller, eneloop batteries, and charger.
The back of the package has all the product details along with contact information, website url, and phone numbers:
The internal packaging is really well thought out, with a lot of thought and attention given to the customers first encounter with the robot. There are two vacuum formed plastic shells that hold everything in place. Unpacking the i-SOBOT is as simple as taking them out of the box, removing a few pieces of tape, lifting off the clear plastic shell, and taking the robot out to play with. It is literally that simple:
Anyone that has struggled with other insanely difficult packaging that used stiff wire retainers and screws and frequently requires the use of wire cutters will immediately recognize how wonderful TOMY's packaging design is, especially on Christmas morning opening presents.
This lead us to another useful realization. Due to regulations, i-SOBOT can't be shipped with the batteries fully charged, but since the packaging is so simple, you can easily open it, charge the batteries, put everything back in the box, wrap it, and put it under the Christmas tree in perfect condition. Really neat!
By the way, i-SOBOT was especially tuned to deliver the best performance with the eneloop batteries that come with it. We typically get an hour, or more, play time from a fully charged set of batteries. Recharging does take a while, several hours actually, so we bought a spare set and just swap them out as necessary. The controller uses 3 AA alkaline batteries that aren't included with the product, so you'll want to make sure to have some handy along with a small philips screwdriver to open the robot and controller battery covers. Be sure to check the official i-SOBOT website if you have any battery questions.