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Apple Experimented With Colored iPhones Years Ago

The iPhone 5C isn’t the first of its kind, in other words.

Apple Experimented With Colored iPhones Years Ago

Yesterday, after years of living in black and white, Apple finally unveiled a set of colored iPhones. With banana yellow, bubble gum pink, kiwi green, and Slush Puppie blue, it’s nice to know a company named after a fruit still knows how to make its products appear juicy.

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However, it’s not the first time Apple has brought its iPhones to life with color. In fact, when the company was first developing the iPhone, between 2005 and 2007, it considered a rainbow of hues for the mobile device. “We did colors internally,” says Andy Grignon, a former top iPhone manager closely involved with the iPhone’s creation. “I seem to recall a color swatch coming back. It was pure experimentation, though. We just wanted to see it.” Thus, regardless of the new colored iPhones that CEO Tim Cook and company revealed on stage Tuesday, it’s likely that Jony Ive and team still have an old colored prototype in the ID lab, hiding in a sea of grayscale models.


The revelation comes as part of Fast Company‘s oral history of design at Apple, published this month and comprised of interviews with more than 50 insiders. As sources describe in detail, Apple had enough headaches already during the iPhone’s development, from issues with materials to UI hurdles to dilemmas with the touch screen. It appears providing customers with color choice from the beginning was not a top priority for Apple, though this has long been the company’s strategy, whether with the iMac or iPod.

“Colors were just really hard to do,” Grignon recalls. “Even to do white was really hard.”

For its new set of iPhones, Apple promises the devices are “for the colorful.” A slate of complementary colored cases provides even more Crayola-style variation.


While the jury is still out on the new iPhone design–I feel the combination brings to mind a flamboyant polkadot tie, or a sheet of old-fashioned paper candy buttons, or even a pair of Crocs–it’s clear this is a color story that Apple has been thinking about for many years.

A team of Fast Company reporters spent months interviewing more than 50 former Apple execs and insiders, many of whom had never spoken publicly about their work. Read part five of the oral history here. An extended version of this oral history is available in the iBookstore and from Amazon.

About the author

Austin Carr writes about design and technology for Fast Company magazine.

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