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(Brief) opinion: Are we witnessing emperor’s new clothes syndrome with Apple’s new ‘rose gold’?


It is just me, or do you have to work for Apple to think that the fourth color added to the iPhone 6s/Plus is rose gold? To anyone else, the color is, like the Apple Watch Sport version, surely very obviously pink?

Don’t get me wrong – I have absolutely nothing against pink. It’s a popular color, it makes perfect sense to make pink iPhones and Watches. It might not be my personal choice, but then neither is gold – whether of the yellow or rose variety. Personally, I still haven’t quite stopped grumbling about Apple replacing black iPhones with gray ones, a topic I’ll return to in a moment … 

I fully understand, of course, that Apple isn’t intending to make the rose gold color look like real gold – any more than it does with the color it simply calls ‘gold.’ The standard gold iPhone is clearly what might be termed a stylized form of the color. Put a gold-colored iPhone next to something actually made of gold – an Apple Watch Edition, for example – and nobody is going to confuse the two, and nor does Apple intend them to. I get that.

But show anyone a gold iPhone and ask them what color it is, and everyone is going to say gold. Show anyone a pi- sorry, rose gold iPhone 6s and ask them what color it is and they are, unless they have been reading Apple’s marketing materials, going to tell you it’s pink. Because it is.

It seems odd that Apple, with all its famed attention to detail, its special alloys and all the other great things Jony Ive talks about in those signature videos, couldn’t come up with a rose gold color that looks … well, something like rose gold. Stylized or not. Something that isn’t, in fact, quite clearly pink.

And while I’m rambling on about iPhone colors and attention to detail, let’s talk for a moment about Space Gray. I’m going to get over the undeniable fact that there are only two Proper Colors for electronics – anodised aluminum and black – and take the open-minded view that other colors are permitted. But when you pick a gray, and even give a special name to that particular shade, shouldn’t the name actually describe the shade you chose?

Apple doesn’t seem to know what it means by Space Gray. Compare the iPhone 5s and iPhone 6. (I know you can’t do it from photos, as the light affects the apparent shade, but compare the two in person, as I’ve done.)


They are not remotely the same color. The difference between iPhone 6 and Apple Watch Sport is less marked, but they are still not the same color. Why go to the trouble of giving a name to a particular shade of gray when it doesn’t, in fact, describe a particular shade of gray? An Imgur user subsequently uploaded this comparison chart:


Yeah, it’s a slow news day, and these are trivial complaints, but this is, after all, Apple: the company that’s supposed to sweat the small stuff. I’m just curious why, when it comes to color, it doesn’t seem to bother.


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  1. Ryan - 8 years ago

    I think it looks more like copper than pink

    • Ben Lovejoy - 8 years ago

      Now, a copper watch – that I would like!

      • You’d need an intern to polish it daily. It would be shiny where it is scrubbed every day during normal wear and would oxide very fast in other spots. Have you ever owned a couple of copper pots? Nice, but a lot of polishing.

        In my opinion naming this pink Rose Gold makes sense. They wanted to come up with a colour that is perfect with the real gold Rose Gold watch. This is, I think, how they came up with this particular colour that doesn’t have to look like gold on it’s own but has to be a fit with the watch. And that is why it got that same name. It totally makes sense to me.

        I like the colour. I ordered a 6s in pink. And I promise I will always refer to my new phone’s colour as pink. Or rosé, like a French rosé wine from Provence. But definitely not gold.

      • Ben Lovejoy - 8 years ago

        I do have copper pans – getting on for 20 years old now. It’s my favorite metal – got very jealous when I saw a copper-plated bike one time!

    • snoman4096 - 8 years ago

      I agree, as rose gold is an alloy of actual Gold with Copper, I’m sure Apple intends for it to take on the appearance of a Copper-hued gold. I think it’s a beautiful color, and I have no problem admitting that as a man secure in my color choices.

      • rrobinson1216 - 8 years ago

        Exactly this. I don’t care what anyone thinks about it. I like it, and my 6+ is gonna be rose gold.

  2. galley99 - 8 years ago

    The aluminum Apple Watch comes in space gray, but the stainless steel model comes in space black. So, which color is space exactly? It sure looks black to me!

  3. Jamie Shaw (@jamie_shaw) - 8 years ago

    In regards to the different shades of the same colour, take a look at Apple’s compare iPad page. Gold, silver and space grey are all different in shade to their previous counterparts. Perhaps it’s lighting, maybe it’s RGB profile, but they’re certainly different.

    iPad Air and iPad mini 2’s silver and space grey are both darker than the Air 2 and mini 4.
    The iPad Air 2’s gold is more red in hue than the gold used on the Pro and mini 4. Maybe this is to distance it further from “Rose Gold”.

  4. I loved the dark grey of the original iPhone 5 – give me a colour like that again!

    • TfT_02 - 8 years ago

      Yes! Same here. Now that is the original space gray.

    • dcperin - 8 years ago

      Only problem with that is the black chipped really bad on the original iP5. To me, the 5s space grey color looked the best.

  5. Wylan Gross - 8 years ago

    I agree, its slightly annoying my iPhone 6 Plus and sport watch are both space gray yet completely different shades, I made the issue worse by ordering an aftermarket metal band and clasp off Amazon, all described as Space Gray, yet the phone looks silver, the watch can actually pass as a space gray, the clasp are black chrome, and the band well thats gunmetal. Yet they all claim space gray, i can understand the aftermarket stuff being off but space gray between phone and watch should at least match.

    • I do understand your point. And I think it would be interesting to know why actually Apple didn’t paint everything called “space gray” in the same “space gray”, I also think it looks better like it is. Think of someone who wears an orange leather bag and an orange leather belt, let’s say both pieces are from Gucci and made out of exactly the same coloured leather. And then think of someone wearing the same but with different shades of orange from different brands. I would call the former boring and fashion the latter.

      I work in design. There is this Pantone colour system. A lot of companies with style guides have a corporate colour that is often defined as a Pantone code. But if you print the very same colour on different papers, it comes out differently every time. And it differs from lighting to lighting. Daylight, sunlight, a special wavelength of light that comes from that particular fluorescent tube. And the paper is coloured itself. This white paper is more yellow, the next one is more blue. All this affects how the very same Pantone colour looks. Maybe Apple switched to a different colour additive that is more environmentally friendly and it just comes out a little bit different. Or the old chemical is not compatible with the new anodizing process of the watch which comes from a different manufacturer. Reflections on a large flat surface compared to a differently treated matt polished small curved surface … I can think of a lot of reasons why it could be almost impossible to get a perfect match.

      Embrace the variety Apple brought to you instead of being annoyed. :-) There’s also a really good line from Nam Jun Paik, who once said: “If too perfect – God angry”. And then Wabi-sabi, the Japanese theory about aesthetics: I would say an iPhone that looks worn and used and has patina is still a beautiful product. And it could be explained with this theory.

  6. Biansta (@Biansta) - 8 years ago

    you *really* needed to hit your word count today. right…?

  7. I completely agree! Especially when it comes to Space Gray. My iPhone 6 and iPad Mini 3 look nearly identical, but my Space Gray watch doesn’t fit in. I know I’m being very picky, but it would be nicer if they all matched.
    Personally, I’d like to see the iPhones and iPads in a colour closer to the Watch Grey.

  8. nonyabiness - 8 years ago

    Apple chose the naming schema because options like “pink” and “grey” simply fall flat. For obvious reasons, silver and gold don’t need additional modifiers. After all, everyone knows the value of real silver and gold. But to ask an Apple customer which color iPhone they choose, and to hear simply “grey” or “pink” – that’s as boring to hear as it is to say. Even though in truth, they may very well be simple colors to you, others may enjoy more exciting and elegant modifiers, regardless of their basis in reality or accuracy.

  9. Mosha - 8 years ago

    If you Google rose gold jewelry you would probably have the same impression. People insisting that rose gold is simply hue of copper don’t know what they’re talking about to begin with.

  10. Stefano T. (@FaF46) - 8 years ago

    It is not that Apple doesn’t bother, it is actually pretty smart. Apple makes a distinction on how it treats technical specifications and looks which is more subjective and a question of taste. By calling the pink rose gold it seems more premium, more mature than would be a “girly” pink. Men can buy the rose gold iPhone, maybe they wouldn’t’ buy a pink one. Bottom line it is all about marketing this new color and I think they are doing a great job about it.
    Space gray doesn’t mean anything, it is their invention and they can make it how they want it to be. Also the color names are made to differentiate iPhones of a same generation I think, not really to compare different generations so the color can evolve if it makes sense.
    Should they use RAL color chart to exactly describe the color of the iPhone? I don’t think we care what the exact color is as long as we like it and the name is attractive.

  11. William Chu - 8 years ago

    Space Grey = Gun Metal
    But Apple would never use gun metal as a marketing name for its colors.

    Rose Gold ~ Pink
    Maybe or at least its close enough, sadly some males wouldn’t touch a phone that was pink. But if you are color blind it looks grey anyway.

    That said I would love a true copper color phone.

    • islandgirl45 - 8 years ago

      A true metallic copper would be cool. And in regard to the article, as others have mentioned actual rose gold can look very “pink.”

  12. Rose gold is the new black.

  13. iluvappleblog - 8 years ago

    My space grey iPad Air is way darker than my space grey iPhone 6+, the space grey iPhone 6+ and silver iPhone 6+ are almost indistinguishable, which is annoying.

  14. rogifan - 8 years ago

    Are you guys hard up for stuff to write about? ;-)

  15. rrobinson1216 - 8 years ago

    Way closer to copper, I have to say. But I don’t care, I like the color either way.

    • dailycardoodle - 8 years ago

      It’s not close enough to copper! It’s the other way, towards cyan, that gives it the ‘too pink’ look. Copper colour is a yellow gold mixed with pink.

  16. First of all… Who cares what they call the color? If you like it, you like it. Second, simply calling it “Pink” is about the same as calling it “Rose Gold”. And as others have mentioned, there is a slight “orange” tint in it.

    • George Pollen - 8 years ago

      If you were sold on rose gold for the iPhone because you’d seen the rose gold Watch Edition, because you’ve seen rose gold jewelry, or just because you thought it would be a rose tinted gold hue (because that’s its name!), you’d be wrong. Once you discover this marketing screwup and your gullibility, with the rose gold iPhone in your hands, if you’re not satisfied with the pink color, you will need to get in the back of the queue for obtaining an iPhone of a different color. Isn’t that enough to care?

      • “if you’re not satisfied with the pink color, you will need to get in the back of the queue for obtaining an iPhone of a different color”

        First of all, the gold iPhone 6 doesn’t look ANYTHING like the gold Apple Watch Edition, why would someone assume a “Rose Gold” iPhone would look exactly like the rose gold watch? For all we know Apple did in fact use a rose gold tint and when anodized to the aluminum it took on certain characteristics of the metal, thus washing out some of the color. (Search for other products with Rose Gold Anodized Aluminum.)

        Second, I can’t imagine anyone would blindly order any device without seeing what it looks like first. In fact, I would say it’s almost impossible to do so. You’re going to see it before you buy it, there’s no reason you’d return it because of the color.

        And finally, this is an extremely stupid non-issue, I can’t believe people are actually complaining about it.

    • dailycardoodle - 8 years ago

      I would say it’s too cyan, needs more yellow to push it away from pink and towards ‘real’ rose gold.

  17. George Pollen - 8 years ago

    @benlovejoy: Agree totally with you about the pink iPhone and Sport Watch. The lack of gold color and dissimilarity from the hue of the rose gold Watch Edition are striking… and dumbfounding!

  18. I have no issues with the rose gold color and yes I ordered my new 6S+ in rose gold to go along with my already existing gold 6+

  19. Moises Soto - 8 years ago

    Your opinion is not so trivial. I personally don’t care much about the pink gold (I mean rose gold) iPhone (can we at least call it pink gold instead of rose gold?)

    But your mention about the Space Gray color did actually hit the spot. I’ve been unable to pick a space gray device. I really don’t like the color, in fact given the lack of a black color case, I’ve switched to the gold color which I like much more than grey (space or otherwise).

    On the iPad, being so big, I didn’t want to pick a gold one so I decided to buy the grey version (what they tend to call silver).

    I a sense, the space grey lacks personality, and if you have several apple products you actually can’t color match your devices if you choose the space gray versions.

  20. macnificentseven48 - 8 years ago

    Reading articles like this is just a waste of time. Naming the color of paints seems to be a vague art when looking through color swatches. It’s really difficult to name every hue to suit everyone. Even different lighting appears to make colors change to the human eye. Apple can use any name they want for a color and they’re not breaking any set rules. Just check out car color names which is a pretty common thing. The names don’t seem to match colors at all.

  21. Rich Davis (@RichDavis9) - 8 years ago

    To do true Rose Gold has to actually use GOLD. But that’s expensive, but these days the various types of coating processes can get various colors that are seemingly close, but not 100% perfect. Obviously, naming a color is just a marketing term. They use this in the car industry, just look at the names of the various colors used in cars.

    They are trying to mimic Rose Gold with an anodizing process and unfortunately it’s not as close as the real thing. But they have the real thing with the $10K version, but to mimic it with anodized aluminum is tough. Just as Space Grey has changed. Originally it looked VERY dark almost black, now it’s just a slightly darker than the standard aluminum finish.

  22. Jonathan Brusco - 8 years ago

    I own a Rose Gold watch (A hamilton automatic, not an apple watch) and the color is absolutely gorgeous. Of course mine is real rose gold plating, not anodized aluminum.

    • With real gold, it’s not just colour it is also about reflections. Sometimes, parts of a golden thing made out of real gold appear almost black with an extreme contrast between bright shiny spots and dark spots. You don’t get that from a sandblasted anodized aluminium.

  23. charismatron - 8 years ago

    Ben, I’m a fan of your work, but from headline to content, this is reaching (the bottom of the barrel).

    • Ben Lovejoy - 8 years ago

      Some of my opinions are more trivial than others :-)

      • charismatron - 8 years ago

        Best. Possible. Answer.
        You got me.

  24. dailycardoodle - 8 years ago

    I agree, it’s pink.

    What I didn’t understand was “The difference between iPhone 6 and Apple Watch Sport is less marked”. The iPhone 6 ‘space grey’ is very close to silver, the dark Watch Sport is basically black – they’re totally different!

    I wish the iPhone was dark like the watch.

  25. bobborries - 8 years ago

    Is Ben even aware that rose gold actually exists in nature and was used 10,000 years ago by ancient Egyptians to make jewelry?

  26. Pedro Vega - 8 years ago

    Rose Gold is a color and the phone is Rose Gold. That’s actually besides the point. The color metal finishes of the iPhone actually have nothing to do with us, the American market, and everything to do with the Luxury Chinese market. The addition of the rose gold is not to appeal to the suburban mom who wants a pink phone, it’s to appeal to the luxury buyer in China where rose gold is actually huge and, honestly, that’s smart. It’s not a coincidence that it was pointed out during the keynote that iPhone grew 75% in Asia while the market overall fell. It’s a super important market for business cause, frankly, they can spend.

  27. hayesunt - 8 years ago

    I agree about the pink. I wish they would have made it more of a true rose gold, I think it would look classier. I think there were mock-ups a while back that got the color a lot better. As for the grey, I think most everyone wishes it was darker, or truly black. Consistency would be nice as well.

  28. stativarius - 8 years ago

    It’s a very metallic and seemingly gold-toned pink, though I haven’t seen it in person.

  29. stativarius - 8 years ago

    I haven’t thought about the space-grey color discrepancies between products but it definitely seems askew. If you’re going to invent a specific color name, it should reference a specific color! There is a huge difference between Space Grey on the iPhone 6 (which is light grey) and the Watch (which is nearly black). The watch version should be called Space Black.

    On another note, I find it funny that this “slow news day” post is the only one on which I’ve cared to comment in months. Good call on the content!

  30. jeamland - 8 years ago

    How has nobody called RvB on this one?

  31. wow. lots of comments about the color of the phones. IDK, it looks fine to me…just don’t buy it if you don’t like it.

  32. Rolf Haug (@rolfhaug) - 8 years ago

    Am I the only one that would love a gold back with a black front? I really like the gold iPhone but I just can’t live with the white front. I originally got the gold and sold it three months later for space gray, only because I wanted a black front.

  33. Rose gold is NOT Gold.

  34. Dave Huntley - 8 years ago

    I may be too old but in the 80s a lot of high end stereo came out of Japan in “Champagne” which is basically an anodized aluminium gold colour, I missed it a lot when everything suddenly turned to bog standard black. years before that everything was bog standard silver.

    However Apple is acutely aware that N America and Europe may have disadain for flashy gold and other colours, but Asia does not. Just like so many scoffed at gold, or how many scoffed at solid gold watches, Asia laps that stuff up.

    Not sure what the colour sales are like in different countries, but the Japanese embraced gold decades ago for electronics and I have seen many women in Tokyo, Beijing and Singapore that will go silly for rose gold no matter how pink it is. In fact probably the pinker the better.

    I just wonder if Hello Kitty is next.

    • bogger (@alphashot) - 8 years ago

      Hello Kitty is defiantly next, if Chinas customers demand it.

    • bogger (@alphashot) - 8 years ago

      Hello Kitty is defiantly next if Chinese customer demand it.

      • chasinvictoria - 8 years ago

        The word you are looking for is “definitely.” This is why one should never rely on spell-check! :)

    • strawbis - 8 years ago

      You’re not old! I remember the days when Marantz was the hifi separates of choice, finished in “Champagne”, they were beautiful – then NAD came along and spoiled everything with their dark grey units that everyone wanted.

  35. My Wife ordered a 6s+ “Rose Gold” simply because it is PINK. Her clear Speigen case came in the post yesterday :-)

  36. bogger (@alphashot) - 8 years ago

    I couldn’t agree more! It’s not just a color or name, it’s Apple.
    And to be honest none of the colors is pleasing me. It’s just a compromise for the least annoying one. I go so far to say how can they make marketing videos making Jonny talk (why doesn’t he ever speak on a keynote BTW???) about pure design passion and all the hard work to get it perfect, to come up with this color mess?
    Pink is for the Chinese market, they want it, they buy more then anyone else, they get what they request – even if that would be brown. (sorry, for putting this picture in your minds)

    • PhilBoogie - 8 years ago

      If they let Jony talk during a keynote it would go from the current ≈ 2 hour to 6 hours….at least¡

  37. Jason Cutburth - 8 years ago

    I love Apple and the answer to your question is, “Absolutely!”

  38. Liam Deckham - 8 years ago

    Love this article! Bang on! Give the author a raise!

  39. Jake Becker - 8 years ago

    This article has 60 comments

  40. André Rowe (@aromedia) - 8 years ago

    Someone here must be color blind because here is what I call pink:

  41. chasinvictoria - 8 years ago

    I can’t speak for anyone else, but I make two observations: my wife, who is normally not fussed with the latest iPhones since she is never getting one (she is my hand-me-down person, so she’s in line for my iPhone 5s soon) was **immediately** attracted to the Rose Gold iPhone — and this is not someone who thinks much of (regular, real or fake) gold. She liked that it was a cross (to her) between pink and copper. Being a man, it looks pink to me (at least in photos, I’ve noticed that in person these products look quite a bit better most of the time).

    Second: It’s already the top-selling color option, if reports are to be believed, so I think that renders the article’s point rather moot.

  42. SleptOn (@JxSleptOn) - 8 years ago

    Without the shiny aspect of “rose gold” missing from the anodized aluminum on the iphone 6s it appears more pink.

  43. Chris Williams - 8 years ago

    We get it: you don’t care for gold. Too bad, because it’s always been a lot classier than the various shades of monochrome (silver, pewter, chrome, grey, black, white, etc.). Ask anyone who was around in the ’40s, or before the 1990s for that matter. Rose gold is perhaps not as classy as “straight” gold, and Apple’s rose gold might be a bit too reddish, but it’s a good choice for those who’d like a phone that connotes a touch of femininity (and they don’t have to be female).

  44. I LOVE THE PINK COLOR, LIKE MY surge protector with usb FIT MY Iphone6s VERY WELL!

  45. AbsarokaSheriff - 8 years ago

    I am and I suspect you are Ben the wrong audience for this kind of question. When I go to the mall, I go directly to the store I need to get something from and directly out. But yet there are people male and female who consider shopping a vocation, People who can distinguish hundreds of variations in perfumes.
    Sherwin Williams or any paint vendor will have hundreds of beiges, Dandelion Wine anyone.

    I would be happy with calling it pink but those aren’t the people buying it. It’s for the people who consider gold too ostentatious and silver, space grey too metallic. There is an audience for it.

  46. corwinsr - 7 years ago

    Yes. Of course it’s Emperor’s New Clothes syndrome and Apple has been pulling this particular stunt longer and more successfully than anyone.
    And I happen to like Apple for a lot of reasons. This marketing ploy to attract peoples shallowest instincts can be found anywhere pretention and snobbery thrive.

    Largest case in point – quite literally – was the demotion of Pluto to a “dwarf” planet. In a world that actually *has* planetary scientists who lets astronomers decide what a planet should be? If I want to describe a tooth, I ask a dentist, not a general practitioner. Pssst, hey, you know what we call dwarf people? People! A dwarf planet is a planet. It’s kind of right in the name.

    Rose Gold is not gold folks – it’s metallic pink. And anyone that would decide if they liked that color based on what it’s called rather than how it looks is a pretentious oxygen-thief.

    *note: this was an opportunistic attack on rose gold basically so I could bitch about the asenine demotion of Pluto again. Seriously, look up the “official” qualification for being a full-fledged planet. Hint: Earth doesn’t consistently meet the qualification either. Grrrr.


Avatar for Ben Lovejoy Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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