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Do smartphone colors matter?

Colors can make or break a phone's success. Over the past year or so we've seen a huge influx of unique options hit the market.

Published onJune 1, 2018

Take a second to look down at your phone. What color is it? Black? White?

It’s most likely one or the other. Black or white are generally the most popular options at launch, though sometimes companies will tempt consumers with a special, limited edition color — one that encourages them to buy a device they weren’t all that excited about previously.

Pixel 2 XL

Both the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL came in “special” color options that were much more popular than the standard black or white models. If you were trying to nab a “penguin” Pixel 2 XL within even the first few months after launch, you’d likely be left with a full wallet and searing round of disappointment.

Why is this? Well, the “penguin” edition Pixel 2 XL was simply different. Most devices’ color variants are just one shade. This option used both black and white, and even mixed things up with an orange power button. That difference is what made it so popular.

Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus vs Pixel 2 XL: Nobody does it better

People love being unique — it’s why we have different hairdos, wear different clothes, and enjoy different hobbies. Every iPhone might come in Black, White, Gold, and sometimes Red, but there’s still a market for thousands of cases with different colors and designs (most of which are more cosmetic than protective). We all have an inherent need to express our individuality in different ways. Manufactures realize this, and have been slowly shifting to introduce more color options.

OnePlus 5T Lava Red

OnePlus is a perfect example of a company that knows how to use added colors to keep hype alive. At launch, the OnePlus 5T only came in black. Just two months later, the company built up an incredible amount of hype on social media hinting something new was coming. That new thing was a new color, sandstone white. Then came the Star Wars edition. Then came the lava red model, which only released a few months before the launch of the OnePlus 6.

OnePlus knows how to keep the hype going

OnePlus understands its audience. People will get excited by even the simplest thing if it’s new, especially if it’s also unique. OnePlus can keep its phones in the minds of consumers seemingly forever with new colors and finishes. It will no doubt release the OnePlus 6 in new colors over the next couple of months, too.

There are two big visual trends in 2018: The “full screen with a notch” design, and a unique color option. Let’s take a look at some examples from the last six months or so.

Samsung Galaxy S9 in lilac purple

Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus

While Samsung is known for releasing multiple color variants of its devices, it almost always releases something simple, like blue. Not this year. Though this color is still pan-tone, the lilac purple Galaxy S9 sparked a lot of hype in the Android community. It’s subtle and relatively simple, but even this much of a departure from Samsung’s typical color schemes got people pretty excited.

HUAWEI P20 in twilight


Just a couple of months later, Huawei launched the P20 in twilight. This was a departure from anything we had seen before. The dual-tone gradient made people just as excited as the prospect of three cameras. This model turned out to be a huge hit. I’ve seen a few people in the San Francisco rocking this model even though it’s not even technically available in the United States. That’s dedication.

OnePlus 6 in mirror black and powder white

OnePlus 6
OnePlus 6 review: the spiritual successor to the Nexus

OnePlus released three different color variants at launch, each with their own unique aspects and feel. The powder white model had a soft powder-like finish. The mirror black option refracted light into an “s” pattern. These aren’t exactly crazy color options, but each model has its own unique aspects. OnePlus even released a special Avengers Infinity War model that will get diehard fans swooning. We’re sure there will be even more coming later this year.

HTC U12 Plus in translucent blue

HTC U12 Plus

Last year, HTC announced the U11 Plus with a translucent back revealing the wireless charging coil. This got a ton of media attention for the unique design, and this year HTCdid it again.

The HTC U12 Plus isn’t available in carrier stores, but the press surrounding the device has been quite positive overall. While the phone is quite solid internally, most of the hype focused on the translucent blue variant. This model is a little more subtle than last year’s, but combined with the dual camera setup up top it looks positively bionic.

HTC U12 Plus review: You should probably pass

There is no doubt other manufactures will jump on these trends soon. Most of the top companies have already released their flagships for the year and will have to wait till next year, but we’ve heard scant few details on Google’s Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL. We got a glimpse at what the front panels may look like recently, but without a back material or color option leak, we’ll have to wait until September to see what Google has in store.

What are your thoughts on these colors? Do more colors options make you more likely to buy a phone? Let us know in the comments, and remember to add an answer to our poll so we can really see what the community thinks about colors in 2018!

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