Modern smartphones are incredibly boring - and Apple's new red iPhone proves it

iphone 7 product red


Ooooh. Shiny.

A plague has infected the modern smartphone industry: Monotony.

Take a stroll through the aisles of a mobile phone retailer, and you'll see an endless stream of brushed aluminum, gleaming glass, and muted shades of gold and silver. It's tasteful. It's uninspired. It's dull.

After years of experimentation on materials, size, and design, smartphone companies have largely reached a mundane equilibrium. A metal body, available in silver/gold/black, a 5-ish-inch screen, maybe make it available in two sizes - done. The result is a parade of identikit devices with little to distinguish them.Advertisement

Apple is finally doing something new

Apple has been one of the worst offenders, its gloriously plastic iPhone 5c not withstanding.

But on Tuesday, it did something different: It launched a red iPhone.

The device, an iPhone 7, is part of Apple's long-running partnership with the (RED) organization, with money from each sale going towards its HIV/AIDS research and relief efforts. (In China, the red iPhone is expected to sell particularly well, given the color's association with luck - but the device is on sale in Western markets too.)

In photos and videos, the device looks striking - and the initial response has been highly positive.

The device was announced at the same time as a new, low-cost iPad. But if you take a look at Google Trends, the searches for "red iphone" far outstrip "new ipad." More anecdotally, more than 115,000 people read Business Insider's story on the new iPhone - versus less than 70,000 for our piece on the new iPads.Advertisement

google trends red iphone new ipad march 2017

Google Trends

The red line is Google searches for "red iPhone," while the blue line is "new iPad."

Gold isn't 'high-end' - it's out-of-date

The design language that Apple, Samsung and the rest employ - that elegant gold devices are synonymous with premium quality - is tired and stale. Even lower-end devices, like Motorola's Moto G, are now aping the aesthetic, coming equipped with metal bodies and "luxury" colour-schemes. There's no soul.

product red iphone box


But the public response to the red iPhone shows that the world is crying out for more interesting phones, and it looks like smartphone makers are just starting to wake up to this. Leaked renders show the new Samsung S8 coming in lilac (albeit in a subtle, desaturated tone), and other rumoured shades include blue and pink. Huawei's premium P10 device is available in green and blue, as well as the usual gold-black-silver-white suspects.Advertisement

These are baby steps, but welcome ones. There's a near-infinite variety of fashions, clothes, and accessories, to meet all tastes, so there's no reason people looking for a decent smartphone should be boxed into choosing between three wearisome shades of metal.

In short: "Premium" needn't be synonymous with boring. Smartphone companies need to rediscover their sense of fun.


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