End of the Rainbow
I’m certainly no “Apple insider” and I don’t have any sources to confirm or deny my theories, but that hasn’t ever stopped me from taking a few stabs in the dark a few days before an Apple announcement. I have read about the proposed “gold” or “champagne” iPhone 5S color option. I have heard it mentioned on several podcasts and I got curious enough to even go look at some of the “leaked” photos of supposed components. Based on nothing more than my gut feelings and trying to think about how Apple has operated in the past few years when it comes to supply chain management, here are my predictions when it comes to the iPhone 5S (should it carry this name).
The iPhone 5S will come in two color choices. Those choices will be “White & Gold” and “Black & Graphite”. Currently, the iPhone 5 comes in “White & Silver” and “Black & Slate”. All the articles I’ve read agree that the gold option would be paired with white components that mirror the existing “White & Silver” iPhone 5. I do not believe that Apple would offer both a “White & Silver” and a “White & Gold” option for the 5S. The majority of the articles that discuss a gold iPhone 5S propose the primary motivations are to offer customers more choices and appeal to a more global style or cultures. While I don’t disagree that the latter might be a valid benefit, I think it is more about differentiation than it is about an additional SKU for the 5S. The colors we’ll likely see with the iPhone 5C will provide enough choice for those that hold it above other core design elements.
Slightly altering the shade of the metal body and backing for the 5S makes sense for so many reasons. When the iPhone 4S launched, there was an overwhelming tone in the reviews from major media outlets that it was not different enough. This was based solely on the looks of the device. If you look at an iPhone 4 and an iPhone 4S, there is virtually no difference. The iPhone 5 launched with a larger screen that stretched the device’s overall height. The metal frame expanded to wrap around the back of the device. While many people said the design was still too similar, the iPhone 5 was a natural and beautiful progression in the industrial design that the iPhone 4/4S made famous.
When a smart and mature company has an iconic design that is as popular and striking as the iPhone has become starting with the 4, there is no reason to scrap it completely in an effort to reinvent itself. Ferrari and Lamborghini both have striking designs that are almost immediately distinguishable to even a novice car enthusiast. As new models have come and old models retired, there is a common design language that spans the brand dating back decades. Even with all badges removed, I’d be willing to bet that most people would be able to identify either of these brands from a line-up. Apple has accomplished the same thing with the iPhone. The color of the metal being different on the 5S vs. the 5 would, at a minimum, give reviewers a reason to pause and think twice about saying it looked too similar to its predecessor. By also adjusting the “slate” to a different tone and calling it “graphite”, the same occurs for both the black and white iPhone 5S options.
Lastly, Apple likes being a step ahead of the competition, especially when it comes to the design of their hardware. The iPhone 4 was the first phone to introduce a full glass front and back. A couple of years later, it was a design element that was “borrowed” by the Nexus 4 by LG. The iPhone 5 incorporated more metal into the unibody frame. HTC took notice of this trend and the HTC One was released with a full-body aluminum enclosure design. Apple will continue to push the envelope when it comes to industrial design of its products. They are running an ad in movie theaters that shows off nothing except the design of the new Mac Pro. I’d argue that the design of Apple products, and the constant refinement vs. redesign of those designs, is what makes the hardware sexy to the millions that choose it over the competition.
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