The Best and Worst Apple Colors

Once, even beige was cool

Key Takeaways

  • From the original Mac, Apple has always paid attention to colors.
  • Today, Apple seems to be following color fashion instead of defining it.
  • The current iPad Air has the same boring colors everyone else is using for everything.
An early iMac in Bondi Blue.
By Alterations by David Fuchs; original by Rama

Apple’s new 2021 iMac may have yet another surprise for us: colors. Just like the current iPad Air, and the iPod Mini back in 2004, the Mac may be getting a touch of tint. 

Semi-reliable Apple rumormonger Jon Prosser claims that the new Apple Silicon iMac, expected this year, will come in a range of colors. Hopefully, they’ll be better colors than the awful washed-out, not-even-pastels of the current iPad Air. In fact, let’s take a look at the best and worst Apple color schemes in history. 

The Beige Mac

A old, beige iMac
Federica Galli / Unsplash

Somehow, the original 1984 Mac (and immediate successors) managed to make beige cool. Even the later Snow White color scheme was pretty much just light beige.

Maybe it was the way the Mac’s face had a wry, lopsided grin, or perhaps it was because beige hadn’t yet been ruined by a zillion boring PCs. Then again, not even Apple could make all beige computers cool…

The Other Beige Macs

An Apple Power Macintosh G3 Mini Tower, and an Apple Power Macintosh G3 (Blue and White).
Wiki commons public domain

Look at this monstrosity. Just look at it. The Power Macintosh G3 on the left looks all the worse for being shown next to the transparent blue and white G3.

The G3, which used the original iMac’s Bondi Blue color scheme, may look dated today, but at the time, the world went crazy for semi-transparent blue kettles, toasters, and even dustpans.

Flower Power iMac

The Flower Power iMac.

The Flower Power iMac from 2001 was either the best or the worst Apple color scheme of all time. The transparent sections of the original iMac were a more opaque white, which made the colorful flower pop even more.

Except they don’t really look like flowers. They look more like you left a bag of confetti in the washing machine when you washed your white bed sheets. 

Tangerine iBook

Tangerine colored iBook.

The iBook was arguably Apple’s first consumer (non-pro) laptop, and it was fantastic. The original came in translucent turquoise, but other colors followed, including this beautiful tangerine number.

It’s also notable for being so big. Its swooping sides and extraneous curves were the computer equivalent of tail fins on a '50s car. The white iBook that followed was all business, with the minimal slab design that Apple has used ever since. 

The iPod Mini

The iPod Mini color lineup.

The little iPod Mini was a smash hit. At the time, it was the most popular gadget in the world

Coming after the iconic all-white iPod, the Mini was a real change. It was also cute and tiny. Yet despite its 4GB hard drive, it outsold the regular-sized iPod.

iPod Nano

The iPod Nano color lineup.

The fourth-generation iPod nano came in a crazy range of glossy candy colors. It arrived after the dull "fat" nano, and was advertised with splashes of paint.

The following generation added a glossier, more "lickable" finish, but this fourth-gen nano might have the best range of colors in any Apple product, ever. I’d buy an iMac in any of these hues. 

Product Red

Apple's Product Red line that benefits HIV charity.

Color-wise, there’s not much to say about Apple’s HIV-charity-tie-in Product Red products, other than that they are mostly all rendered in an awesome shade of red.

The Product Red iPhone 12 is one exception: its glass back interferes, making the red into an ugly pinkish red. 

The iPhone XR

The iPhone XR color line-up.

Seen together with the gen-4 iPod nano, the iPhone XR’s colors could be seen as an homage. This is the only good year for iPhone colors, in my opinion.

The iPhone 11 already was veering into the boring, cold, pseudo pastels of the current iPhones and iPads, leaving the XR range as the brightest iPhone lineup of all. 

The 2020 iPad Air

The Apple iPad Air color line-up.

Have you ever seen a more boring range of colors? Frankly, I’d rather have a beige iPad than any of these uninspiring hues. The space gray and silver models are fine, but that pink and that green are just dull.

And it’s not just Apple, either. These cool-toned, noncommittal shades have been everywhere for the past few years, from kitchen items to clothing. Not only is Apple using its worst colors ever, it’s using the same lame colors as everyone else.

The Future

If the iMac rumors are true, it looks like Apple will be expanding the colors of its Mac lineup, and that’s great news. The problem with colors, though, is that everyone has different tastes.

There are probably even some people who love that pale green iPad Air, or who fail to appreciate the primary appeal of those fourth-generation iPod nanos.

And that’s fine, because if there’s not a color you like, there’s always gray, aka the beige of the 2020s.

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