When Apple came out with colored phones and the world didn’t end

Sometimes I look back at my older posts and I can’t believe I was so dramatic. Back in 2013 I covered Apple’s announcement of colored phones. I’m talking about the then-new iPhone SE, not today’s iPhone XR which also comes in multiple colors.

Apple had come off several years of bona-fide hits including what may still be my favorite design, the iPhone 5. They followed it up with plastic cases that came automatically with screen-matched backgrounds. It looked to me like Apple was ceding the high ground to Samsung, and that Apple’s design leadership was finally at an end.

Of course that wasn’t true.

Apple has continued to grow and grow and grow. They have reinvented the phone several more times, with varying degrees of success since then. Although their phones began to look fairly dated by the end of last year they followed up their boring iPhone 7 with the iPhone X, the phone that the competitors are falling over themselves to imitate. Apple’s design engineers integrated not only an ID system that didn’t need a button but a “notch” at the top of the phone that surprisingly, has gained universal acceptance. By leaning into the design choice instead of trying to defend it, Apple has made their phones once again iconic. See a phone with a straight bezel at top? That could be almost any competitor. However, that notch is hard to miss and it turns out people don’t mind it at all.

So they came out with a colored version.

After taking as much of your money as they possibly could — only Apple could make a $1,000 phone seem like a good value — they followed it up, iPhone SE style. The new iPhone XR, which is just now starting to get to customers, is practically everything last year’s phone was, except it comes in multiple colors and it’s actually cheaper. Break down the specs and you’ll find a screen that’s not quite as bright or as detailed, but you won’t see the difference. It lacks the ultraincredible camera of this year’s top model but still has the awesomesauce camera of last year’s top model. In fact, Apple seems to have done the impossible once again. They haven’t just gotten you excited about colors. They’ve actually gotten reviewers to say, regular folks should buy the cheaper one.

That’s a big step for Apple. They’ve always done a good job with the high end. The previous iPhone SE appealed to a very small sliver of the market. I’m talking about people who didn’t want a used phone but didn’t want the latest and greatest. That’s not a lot of folks. Now, Apple has an array of phones starting with the $450 iPhone 7. They’re competing in pretty much every segment of the market, other than the money-losing super-cheap phones.

And so once again I was wrong. I told you that the combination of iOS 6 and a boring hardware upgrade would be the end of Apple. It wasn’t. In fact none of the scandals since have dented Apple’s reputation. I guess I ought to stop predicting their demise, since it seems like they can do no wrong.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.