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A generation without colorful phones

We've reached the middle of April, which means all of the big names in the smartphone world that aren't based in Cupertino have unveiled their big offerings for the year. They all seem really impressive, too. Samsung's refined design language almost comes off as a piece of jewelry, LG has jumped on the all metal train, and it looks like HTC is actually going to show up and be interesting this year with the 10. Across the pond we saw Huawei drop some dual-camera love in an impressive new body, giving folks in the U.S. some serious fear of missing out.

There's another thing all of these phones have in common, and it sucks. All of these phones come in nothing more than some variant of black, silver, and gold.

Rewind a bit to last year. LG's G4 launched with half a dozen amazingly colorful backplates. Samsung released colors for the S6 that were so incredible people paid almost double the worth of the phone to import them to the US. Nextbit stunned the 100,000 people who were paying attention by releasing phones that had no boring option. Motorola released three phones with more color combinations available than people still willing to buy their phones anymore after getting burned on software updates. For the most part, it was a good year for colorful phones.

This year? Forget about it. Samsung's colorful flair is gone. LG's primer supplier only had four colors this year, and no one is going to carry the pink one. HTC is going to sell a crimson variant exclusively to a single carrier in Japan. There's no guarantee that Lenovo is going to continue Moto Maker in this new generation, because there are no guarantees with Motorola anymore.

When Alcatel can offer more colors than the 'premium' phones it makes that mid-range look even nicer.

This may seem like an odd complaint. After all, each of these manufacturers are releasing multiple colors around the world. In years past, we'd get one or two colors tops. HTC has a history of releasing exclusive color variants months after the initial launch to draw in new users, after all.

It's true, each of these manufacturers released multiple colors this year. Nearly identical, terribly boring colors. Grey, silver, and gold are the primary options available to everyone. Each offer a difficult-to-find fourth variant that almost no one will buy because of that fact.

It's not hard to see why this is happening. In the smartphone world right now there are only two manufacturers doing well, Apple and Samsung. Samsung's color set this year matches what Apple released last year, and when the two biggest players pick a design the others are likely to follow suit. These colors are also a lot easier to anodize and paint, with fewer opportunities for scratches to reveal a clearly different color underneath. When every phone sale matters, especially when trying to justify your higher price point in a world where mid-range phones are getting really good, differentiating on color might be tougher than it looks. On the other hand, when Alcatel can offer more colors than the "premium" phones it makes that mid-range look even nicer.

Silver Phones

There's nothing in these words that are going to change the minds of anyone making decisions at phone companies right now, but it's still worth pointing out just how dramatic a shift we've seen in the last year when it comes to color. When every phone looks the same on the shelf, customers will go with the brands they recognize. In a carrier store, that isn't necessarily a good thing for names like LG and HTC.

Here's hoping the second half of the year has a little more color in it.

Russell is a Contributing Editor at Android Central. He's a former server admin who has been using Android since the HTC G1, and quite literally wrote the book on Android tablets. You can usually find him chasing the next tech trend, much to the pain of his wallet. Find him on Facebook and Twitter

  • As a Motorola guy, that first sentence hurt Moto X Pure
  • My thoughts exactly. However, Motorola burned a whole hell of a lot of good will with the decision to drop the 2014 carrier Xs, and it will take a long, long time to earn that trust back. There is so much turmoil and speculation, and absolutely zero non-PR-approved communication (and even that is slim), which makes it difficult to hold out any reasonable hopes for them. Even though I own and I'm reasonably happy with my MXPE, I can't say that, if I had withheld my purchasing decision past October, I would have made the same choice.
  • Ya, but the X Pure really is pretty awesome. I've been loving mine. Perfect size, perfect software, and the LCD display has even started to grow on me a lot. I never thought I'd like it when I first got it after using AMOLED so long, but after getting used to it I'm not sure which I prefer anymore, lol
  • yeah I kinda miss LCD ... there are def certain times I prefer AMOLED, as somebody with sensitive eyes that keeps my brightness low, I would rather have LCD. On a higher resolution display, it really looks nice.
  • Ya, at first I hated it when I got this X Pure. I thought it looked washed out and crappy, and that even my N6 AMOLED was way better. But my eyes must've adjusted to it because I'm liking it more. It's a really crisp display. But overall I still do prefer AMOLED, especially with what Samsung has done with it, which is make it amazing The LCD displays HTC's been using the last couple years are phenomenal job though
  • I hope I didn't make a bad decision. My MXPE went out yesterday for warranty repair. It just died while I was watching a YouTube video. When I tried to reboot into recovery, I got error showing no recovery was present. I think something shorted out and fried my storage. Now I'm hearing all the horror stories about lack of parts to repair devices. Maybe I should've waited another month and gotten a Nexus 6P. However, I like the ice color of the 5X better. Color wouldn't be a deal breaker for me. The size and better specs of the 6P would make it my choice over the 5X. Moto Maker was one reason I opted for the MXPE. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Moto was great until Lenovo took over and killed just about everything good about it. After 2 Motorola phones in a row, I just ditched my 2014 Moto X for an S7 and I couldn't be happier. The current Moto X PE turned me off with its ridiculous size and Lenovo's horrible customer service. That said, I actually don't care about the color of my phone much anymore -- I usually slap a case on it anyways since no phone is immune to light scratches from being tossed into my purse everyday. Plus, color choice can kill your ability to re-sell your phone once you're done with it (as I often do). If I choose a funky color but no one else likes it, I'm going to have a hard time finding a buyer. What actually sucks is having to choose between white and some awful mint green or coral-ish pink red and some random dark-but-not-black shade of blue. If I want something neutral, I'd have to get white, and I hate white phones with a passion. Sticking with neutral colors seems to be the best way to avoid a lot of potential, pointless issues not the least of which are stock issues: What if a color is hugely unpopular and the manufacturer ends up stuck with a ton of them because they don't sell? Then they have to unload them at a steep discount and lose money. Besides, most people accessorize their phones with cases and other stuff to personalize them, making the actual color of phone a moot point. Just my 2 cents ;-).
  • I went with a Dbrand's skin to give my Nexus 6 a different look and I have a Supcase frosted see through case. Most people I interact with don't know the difference between iOS and Android, let alone what type of "Droid" I have.
    Most like the "pop" of the yellow color that I chose and the frost gives it a different look. I wonder if illiterate people get the full effect of alphabet soup
  • Supcase are legit. I wanted to get another ballistic but they didn't have them available when I bought the note4. Got a sup case and I'm impressed with it. The built-in screen protector is great Posted via the Android Central App
  • I didn't get one with a built-in screen protector, but I went with a Mime tempered glass screen protector. I wonder if illiterate people get the full effect of alphabet soup
  • So, Lenovo decided the market wanted this bigger phone? NOT. Also, Moto and Lenovo have completely separate support and customer service organizations. Get your facts straight. Jesus
  • "When every phone looks the same on the shelf, customers will go with the brands they recognize. In a carrier store, that isn't necessarily a good thing for names like LG and HTC." I personally think having unique colors is more alienating than having colors similar to Apple/Samsung. If you go "off the grid" with colors, you face a bigger risk of people simply not liking the colors you choose to use. If you go with "the norm" - i.e. the muted/common grays, whites, silvers, etc, that risk goes out the window and it becomes more about the phone itself, and software experience. All the phones you listed from last year were not considered great successes within their respective circles. The S6 sold worse than the S5 and signs point to the same vs. the S7. The Moto X Pure Edition is a great device, but lets be honest, it's a niche market going after that phone. The unmentioned Moto G might be the exception, but it's not in the same league as the "flagships" from a competition standpoint. It's catering to a different market altogether. The Nextbit is even more niche than the XPE. The G4 was not as successful as the G3 or G2. None of them were bad phones, but to say last year was a good year for colorful phones seems a bit off. Well that became a long post... sorry!
  • I don't think S6 sales had as much to do with colors as the lack of SD storage and issues with battery life.
  • I like the colors. I typically stick with a darker color though as I know I won't get sick of it. I hate the piss colored phones Apple made popular though.
  • I like the regular gold (or champagne, or whatever they called it) color that Apple uses, but their rose gold one is so hideous. Posted via the Android Central App
  • +1. Rose Gold is more like shiny light red. If they didn't put gold in the name, I don't know how many people would buy it. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I have a rose gold 6s+. I only bought it because they didn't have gold in stock at the time, and I figured I'd put a case on anyways. The color has grown on me over time, it actually changes quite a lot in different lighting. Sometimes it's bright pink, sometimes more red, but most of the time indoors it looks more like a warm bronzy/copper color. I actually use a completely clear case now because I've grown to love the color. PS, bought this 6s+ to replace my 2014 Moto X (VZW variant) that Motorola decided not to update (white front/bamboo back)! I had the Moto X 2013 too (white on white). Still love Android but Moto definitely burned that bridge, my next Android phone will be a Nexus fasho.
  • Who care what color it is(n't), people will just put it in a case anyway.
  • Not I Posted via the Android Central App
  • Pretty much my reaction. I like this base set of colors then adding my own touch with the case. Also, I went looking for a G5 on Wednesday and the only color everyone had more than one of was pink. Posted via the Android Central App
  • No case for me either. I'd prefer more colors.
  • I never use a case.