iPhone Pro needs a radical color revolution


The new
The new "deep purple" iPhone 14 Pro looks about as edgy as an eggplant.
Photo: Lewis Wallace/Cult of Mac

Apple desperately needs to shake up its iPhone Pro colors. The brand-new iPhone 14 Pro — in the exotic-sounding “deep purple” color — actually looks like a dull gray in real life.

When Apple marketing chief Greg “Joz” Joswiak revealed the new deep purple color at last month’s Far Out product launch, I immediately thought of “Smoke on the Water.” I envisioned a bold hue that would actually look trippy and unique. And I thought maybe Cupertino’s brightest minds finally broke free from the iPhone Pro’s typically mundane color palette.

What was I smoking?

iPhone 14 Pro colors: Boring!

“They come in four gorgeous colors,” said Joswiak during the Far Out event. “A new space black, silver, gold and this all-new deep purple.”

And, in fact, the purple color that blasted onto the screen during Apple’s hour-and-a-half-long infomercial did look kind of compelling. (Also, like many people, I’m always a sucker for “all-new.”)

Maybe the deep purple iPhone 14 Pro will sparkle in the sunlight, and look a little richer in real life than in the marketing materials, I thought.

Like fools, my wife and I both ordered purple Pros. And now that decision is generating some actual purple prose — in our house, and online.

“It’s not purple,” were her exact words upon opening her new iPhone 14 Pro on Friday morning. I could hear the disappointment in her voice (and I’ll spare you my more colorful, and less polite, reaction).

You call that ‘deep purple’?

The iPhone 14 Pro color lineup leaves something to be desired: boldness.
The iPhone 14 Pro color lineup leaves something to be desired: boldness.
Photo: Apple

Obviously, this is not a gigantic problem. We don’t live in Ukraine, where a belligerent Russia might flatten our house with a missile at any moment (nearly two decades after Ukraine’s own Orange Revolution).

And maybe my wife and I aren’t typical iPhone shoppers. We play together in an accordion rock band, and we frequently wear outfits onstage that look like we got caught in a paint-store explosion. So maybe it’s all a question of taste, and ours just lurches toward the outlandish.

However, I can’t help but think Apple is missing a fantastic opportunity here. The iPhone 14 Pro lineup actually feels truly “pro” again this year. It comes with a variety of features that differentiate it from the “normie” iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Plus.

The new Dynamic Island that replaces the notch, the Always-On display that mimics recent Apple Watch screens, the 48-megapixel camera … all that good stuff combines to make for a truly exciting update from last year’s iPhone 13 Pro. (Like any addict, I’m on the iPhone Upgrade Program, but I’d probably pull the trigger anyway. This update seems worth it.)

But then there are the color options. Cue the deep purple trombones.

With deep sadness, we survey the deep purple iPhone 14 Pro

I’m not the only one underwhelmed, either. Plenty of people on Twitter had their hopes for an exceptional iPhone 14 Pro color dashed as well.

Admittedly, as with previous iPhone Pro “hero” colors Pacific blue and Sierra blue, the deep purple model looks very different depending on the lighting around you. As expected, direct sunlight teases out some highlights — and in fact, some folks gushed and posted photos on Twitter that make the deep purple phone look borderline stunning.

But I have not found the perfect ray of California sunshine that makes my new iPhone look like Apple’s best product shots or the finest influencers’ photos. Even the device’s stainless steel edge doesn’t shine as beautifully as the one on the Sierra blue iPhone 13 I’ll be trading in. Maybe I got a dud.

Worse yet, indoors, it tends toward a grim, putty gray. It mimics the dingiest tones of Deep Purple’s classic Machine Head album cover art. And do I really want to go outdoors and search for the exact right lighting to make my iPhone shine? I do not.

It’s possible I (and my wife, and all those other disappointed deep purple buyers) simply chose wrong. Maybe I should’ve gone with the new space black color. That one fit with the Far Out event’s galactic theme, at least. And people do seem to like that color on Twitter.

Similarly, my boss Leander seems impressed by his choice. (“I really like this white hardware — with silver stainless rim,” he taunted me in Slack.)

Basic black and crisp white are all well and good, I suppose. But iPhone 14 Pro is screaming for some truly vibrant colors.

iPhone Pro needs bold color options

Corvette C8: Now that's a bold blue!
Corvette C8: Now that’s a bold blue!
Photo: Chen Zhao

Might I suggest international orange, like the eye-catching highlights on the upcoming Apple Watch Ultra? Or an intense blue, like my friend’s Corvette C8. How about a hot bronze, like my CultCast colleague Erfon Elijah has been craving for years? Or a glittery blue flake like the finish available on the Modulus Funk Unlimited, the most badass bass I’ve ever seen? Even a Product(Red) version would make sense.

It’s time for Cupertino’s color pickers to hop aboard the psychedelic train sweeping through Silicon Valley. Apple CEO Tim Cook needs to open up his third eye and produce some peeper-popping colors that make a real statement. This is the company that released the Flower Power and Blue Dalmation iMacs back in 2001, after all. Those still stand as some of the wildest-looking computers of all time.

Apple shifted into super-serious all-aluminum, all-the-time mode not long after that. While the refined design language emphasized Apple’s prowess with materials and commitment to premium products, especially compared to plastic laptops, we all get it now. Apple makes the finest hardware anywhere.

Apple design is slowly shifting back toward fun

The company’s color pendulum began slowly swinging back toward more daring options in recent years, but the iPhone Pro lineup in particular seems bound to boardroom blandness. I’m sure lots of suits buy the pricey iPhone Pro and use it to check their stocks from the C-suite. But Apple consistently showcases the Pro cameras’ capabilities for filmmakers and photographers. It’s time to unleash the creative potential of an essential tool for all creative people.

Unfortunately, the deep purple iPhone 14 Pro feels particularly timid, more dull gray than vibrant violet. It’s not even as audacious as your garden-variety aubergine. And don’t get me started on the purple iPhone 14. I usually feel jealous about the midrange iPhone lineup’s typically less-reserved color options, but that one looks straight-up lavender. This year’s purple iPhone colors represent a step in the wrong direction, in my opinion.

Again, this is totally a first-world problem. I don’t hate the deep purple iPhone 14 Pro color — I just don’t love it. I truly hope Apple sees the light and unleashes some truly bold color options for the iPhone 15 Pro.

Until then, I’ll be shopping for colorful cases for my “depressing purple” iPhone 14 Pro and grinning with delight at the Dynamic Island. There’s more than one way to turn a frown upside down.


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