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.
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.
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.
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