Apple's 20 Color Options Show Fragmented Offerings Across Devices
While Apple's color options have been a source of considerable discussion in recent years, complaints about the company's color offerings started to gain traction following the launch of the iPhone 13 and the aluminum Apple Watch Series 7, which are not available in Space Gray or Silver. With 2021 drawing to a close, we have examined Apple's entire selection of colors across its devices to take a look at the growing fragmentation that seems to be occurring.
Overall, Apple offers a total of 20 different color options across 22 of its main hardware devices, excluding AirPods and AirPods Pro. As the above table shows, while many products are available in multiple color options, there is very little consistency across product lines.
Apple's most omnipresent color option is Silver, with 15 devices available. Space Gray is the second most prevalent, offered on 11 devices. Green is the next most common, with seven devices available, followed by Blue and PRODUCT(RED) with five devices.
While inconsistent color options between individual products is not a significant issue, users with multiple devices may face problems matching their devices. For example, customers hoping to get all of their devices in Silver will be disappointed with the iPad mini's colors, while Space Gray fans will struggle with the 24-inch iMac. More strikingly, neither the iPhone 13 or the aluminum Apple Watch Series 7 have a Silver or a Space Gray color option.
It may be understandable that Apple does not offer bright-colored options, such Yellow or Orange, for all of its product lines, since users can theoretically look to neutral colors that should not contrast with the rest of their device setup. However, while it may be expected that Apple does not offer a consistent range of vibrant color options for all of its devices, clear issues emerge with matching Apple's neutral colors.
Apple offers Silver/White and Starlight as equivalent light neutral colors, in the same way that it offers dark neutral colors of Space Gray, Black, Midnight, and Space Black. These multiple variants often contrast, with Starlight's warm, champagne-tone clashing with Apple's cool, monochrome Silver. Similar issues may be seen with the contrast between Black, the navy blue-tinted Midnight, and Space Gray.
Without a consistent or matching set of neutral tones to use as the base color options across the product lineups, creating a visually congruent setup becomes extremely difficult, depending on your exact range of devices and choice of colors. While this may not be bothersome to some users, others who have appreciated the company's famed attention to detail have bemoaned the lack of consistency on social media.
'Pro' Devices Only?
Some pundits have suggested that it is Apple's intention to offer a more limited color palette of just Silver and Space Gray for its "Pro" products, reserving more vibrant color options for its consumer-level devices. While it is true that devices like the iPad Pro and MacBook Pro are only available in Silver and Space Gray, the disparities begin to emerge when looking at the inconsistency of Silver and Space Gray among consumer-level devices.
A large number of standard-level devices, such as the Mac mini, iPad mini, iPad Air, entry-level iPad, iMac, HomePod mini, Apple Watch Series 3, and Apple Watch SE, are available in either Silver, Space Gray, or both. Some devices, such as the iMac, are available in Silver, with no Space Gray option, while devices like the iPad mini are available in Space Gray, but not Silver. So while it holds true that Pro devices have fewer color options, there seems to be no clearly discernible pattern of color offerings to separate Apple's product lines.
Though Apple now offers a total of 20 color options across 22 devices, in reality, there are multiple shades of Space Gray, Blue, and Purple within Apple's labelled colors. Space Gray is infamous for its inconsistent finish on different devices, looking considerably lighter on MacBooks and darker on the AirPods Max, for example. While the iMac, iPhone 12, and iPhone 13 are offered in Blue, they are all very different shades, and similar problems may be seen with the company's Purple.
Apple's 20 color options also seem to feature some similar shades with no clear differences. For example, the White iPhone SE, iPhone 11, and iPhone 12 are effectively Silver, while Pink and Rose Gold also seem to be effectively the same. Sky Blue is much lighter than Blue, but it looks very similar to Sierra Blue. Apple seems to use "Graphite" to delineate a gray stainless steel device from Space Gray aluminum devices, despite effectively being the same. Other names, such as "Starlight," have come under fire for a purported lack of clarity.
Colors in 2022
Initially, it seemed like there could have been some consolidation of Apple's color options in late 2020 to early 2021, with broad color matches between the iPad Air and AirPods Max, and loose congruity with the iPhone 11, iPhone 12, and 24-inch iMac.
The fall 2021 releases of the iPad mini, iPhone 13, Apple Watch Series 7, MacBook Pro, and refreshed HomePod mini shattered any pattern, however. Even the assumption that Midnight would replace Space Gray was dispelled by the launch of the iPad mini, which is available in Space Gray instead. Similarly, Starlight has not proven to be a replacement for White and Silver, with Apple sticking to its traditional light neutral colors for the high-end MacBook Pro and refreshed HomePod mini.
Apple often refreshes the colors of some of its products mid-way through their cycle, and this seems plausible for the iPhone 13 and AirPods Max in particular going into 2022. With an updated iPad Air, MacBook Air, the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro, as well as three new Apple Watch models, expected to launch with multiple color options next year, 2022 could give greater clarity and consistency to Apple's color palette going forward.