C is Not for Courage: What's Wrong With the New iPhone's Colors
Yesterday, as the whole world now knows, Apple unveiled two new iPhone models. The iPhone 5c, which goes on sale September 20, broke the mold in two ways: its $99 price point and its colorful plastic casing. While the iPhone has traditionally worn neutrals, Apple does have a tradition of offering bolder options, dating back to the vibrant iMacs and iBooks of the late 90s. But what do the experts think about their iPhone color choices, which Apple famously takes very seriously?
Leslie Harrington, executive director of The Color Association of the United States, was disappointed, saying she thought the colors were in line with Apple’s palette, but also a missed opportunity.
"My first instinct was that I was not really excited or blown away or surprised," Harrington says. "The C doesn’t stand for courageous. It’s essentially red, yellow, green, blue. There’s nothing really interesting or different. You have to wonder whether or not there was a missed opportunity to strengthen their color leadership, which I think over the years they’ve started to lose."
Harrington predicts that yellow will be the poorest selling color, which, she says, "doesn’t necessarily mean anything--any line has a top and bottom seller." But it still serves a purpose, adding to the shelf appeal of the entire array. "It’s light and so happy that it picks the whole line up visually and grabs attention. It maybe won’t always be the best seller, but it brings with it a sense of fashion and of being on trend," she explains.
One thing that Harrington is fascinated by is the lack of creativity in the color names. Just like Nokia--which already came out with an ad telling Apple that "imitation is the highest form of flattery"--the names of the iPhone colors are straight-forward. "There’s no pride of ownership in having ‘green,’" she says. "Have some fun. Apple can do that. They’re at that point. That’s another place where they could have set themselves apart." Harrington notes that, in addition to giving the colors more personality, descriptive names would let Apple set the conversation. Instead, they’ve opened the door for others to frame the palette as "bubblegum" or "jelly bean" colors.
And to pre-empt the question of choosing a color for something that's only going to be covered by a case, Apple is also releasing a set of matching cases. While some have called the holey cases "ridiculous" or “like Crocs shoes,” the company describes them as having "unique circular patterns [that] let splashes of color show through."