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Two years ago, Apple began what now seems to be the start of a new trend when it released the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max in a classy new Midnight Green colour, marking the first time the high-end flagship iPhone had been available in anything other than basic black, white, and occasionally gold finishes.
It wasn’t a one-off exception, either. As we began to hear about preparations for the iPhone 12 Pro last year, we saw hints that Apple was actually planning to use a unique new colour each year, and as predicted, the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max landed in a gorgeous Pacific Blue finish.
This has naturally led to an assumption that this year’s “iPhone 13 Pro” will continue this with yet another new colour, and as with last year’s iPhone 12, we’ve already seen hints that this could be something more orangish.
The iPhone’s Not-So-Colourful Past
Of course, Apple has experimented with colourful iPhones before, but until recently, those were the exceptions, rather than the norm.
After years of basic black/grey and white/silver options, Apple changed things up with the iPhone 5c back in 2013, introducing a lineup of more fun and colourful entry-level iPhone models. Unfortunately, Apple also targeted these at budget-minded consumers, seemingly feeling that “serious” iPhone users would never go for frilly bright colours.
As a result, the iPhone 5c was already an outdated model when it shipped, and the fact that Apple had made it with a much cheaper-feeling plastic casing didn’t help matters either — it felt like a toy alongside the sleek and sophisticated iPhone 5s, which of course not only packed in a more powerful 64-bit CPU, but also introduced revolutionary new features like Touch ID.
Other than its foray into (PRODUCT)RED versions that began with the iPhone 7 in 2016 — something that took an unusually long time for a company that had released its first (PRODUCT)RED iPod nano ten years earlier — Apple continued to eschew more colourful iPhones until the release of the iPhone XR in 2018.
Even in this case, however, Apple was once again displaying a rather myopic belief that colours were for “the common people,” and had no place in its more sophisticated iPhone models. After all, the iPhone XR represented the first time since the iPhone 5c that Apple had released a second-tier iPhone, but at least this time it was a current model, with the same A12 CPU as its more expensive iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max counterparts.
It’s hard to say what Apple expected the iPhone XR to amount to — it very much felt like another experiment in those early days — but it quickly became a massive success, being heralded by reviewers as the best iPhone for most people.
A New Splash of Colour
While there was obviously much more to the success of the iPhone XR than its fun and colourful finishes, Apple clearly realized it had a hit on its hands, and in 2019 it rebranded its successor to make it more clear where everything fits in the lineup.
While the iPhone XR often had the feeling of a second-class citizen — a step down for those who couldn’t afford the better iPhone XS — it turns out that many consumers didn’t see it that way.
So, by the time the next-generation iPhones came around, Apple had embraced this perspective as well, dubbing the new lower-cost model simply the iPhone 11 and the flagship versions the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max.
This aligned the naming with the reality, which was that the iPhone 11 was the best iPhone for most people, and the iPhone 11 Pro models were a step up for those who wanted something more — basically better cameras and a better screen.
This seemed to be the last piece in the puzzle, as it turned things around for Apple in China, appealing to many status-conscious users who didn’t like the perception that they were buying a “second-rate” iPhone model. While the iPhone XR already dominated the smartphone market in 2019, Apple has been increasing its lead with subsequent models ever since.
However, something funny happened on the way to the iPhone 11 as well. For the first time, Apple decided that it was finally time to make its “Pro” models a bit more colourful.
While Apple clearly still held on to its idea that bright colours were for lower-end devices, it realized that perhaps it could come up with some classy finishes to make the iPhone 11 Pro a bit more exciting.
In the process, Apple also clearly decided that it would pick one special and unique colour for each year’s Pro models to add even more panache to the lineup.
While the lower-end iPhone models also saw a few colour changes year-over-year, they generally all came in an assortment of four fun colours (in addition to black and white, which we wouldn’t really call “fun”). Green and purple replaced coral and blue in 2019 with the iPhone 11, while yellow disappeared in the iPhone 12 in favour of a return to blue, and it wasn’t until several months later that purple returned — as a much deeper and richer colour compared to the anemic pastel variant found on the iPhone 11.
With the Pro models, however, it was clearly about producing a special colour that would highlight the high-end iPhone in a unique way each year. This resulted in a sleek Midnight Green finish for the iPhone 11 Pro models, followed by a cool Pacific Blue for the iPhone 12 Pro.
New iPhone 13 Pro Color for 2021
Now, it looks like the bold new colour for the “iPhone 13 Pro” models will be dubbed “Sunset Gold.”
But, that’s not all. The same supply chain leak that’s confirming the bronze-like “Sunset Gold” colour is also suggesting that Apple plans to bring back rose gold for the first time in five years.
This latest info was shared on a Korean-language message board by leaker Ranzuk, which cites a Chinese supply chain source that’s likely already involved in the production of the new iPhone models.
Gold has been a staple colour of most of Apple’s high-end iPhone models since the family split up in 2018, although the year before that it was actually found on the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, rather than the premium iPhone X. However, Apple ended its alliance with the Rose Gold finish after just two years — the colour was only ever used on the iPhone 6s, first-generation iPhone SE, and iPhone 7, between 2015 and 2016.
However, the move to a bronze-like “Sunset Gold” — likely the orangish colour we’ve already heard about — it would almost be necessary for Apple to get away from the more traditional Gold that it’s been using for the past few years. The two colours would otherwise just be far too similar.
According to the source, the new rose gold “looks very pale,” so it’s unclear whether it will be the same as the Rose Gold of yesteryear, which definitely had a far more pinkish hue, but either way it’s clear that it’s going to have to be set apart from the new “Sunset Gold.”
Naturally, these new colours are only expected to apply to the higher-end “iPhone 13 Pro” and “iPhone 13 Pro Max” models. The standard “iPhone 13” and “iPhone 13 mini” will likely come in the same sort of fun colours as before, although we expect Apple to change this up a bit — we’ve even heard rumours of a pink iPhone this year, although it’s also possible that sources are conflating this with the new Rose Gold for the iPhone 13 Pro.