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Gold vs. silver vs. space gray: Which iPhone 5S color should you get?

Gold vs. silver vs. space gray: Which iPhone 5S color should you get?

2013 iPhone buyers guide: How to choose the perfect gold/white, silver/white, or space gray/black iPhone 5s for you!

Color is one of the most visually distinctive - and personal - things about a new iPhone, which makes it one of the most important choices you'll have to make. Originally there was only one color, aluminum and black, but Apple eventually went to black and white, and now they're offering three choices for their high-end iPhone 5s: silver and gold, silver and white, and space gray and black. (The space gray and black replaces last year's slate and black, likely because it's an easier color to anodize). If you're on the fence about which color you should get, here's what you should consider.

Distraction dangers

Both the gold/white and silver/white iPhone 5s have white faceplates, which means white is the color you'll see most when looking at the screen - something you'll be doing a lot. TV sets are almost always black for a reason: when you're watching a show or a movie, or playing a game, you want the TV set to disappear, so you can enjoy what you're doing without noticing a big colored rim around it.

The same goes for the iPhone. Some people find having a white faceplate very distracting when they're watching videos or gaming, and others just don't like the contrast between the white border and the black screen when the device is off. It's very "panda". Conversely, if you do more messaging than media, white can actually blend better into Messages, Mail, Safari, etc.

I've had both a Black & Slate and a White & Silver iPhone 5, and a black and white iPhone 4, and have never been distracted nor irked by either one. If a white faceplate catches your eye, however, you might want to stick with black.

Discoloration doubts

Rumor has it Apple delayed the launch of the white iPhone 4 in order to improve the UV protection and prevent discoloration. Regardless, they took a long time to figure it out and get it right, and the white iPhone 4 has been on the market for over two and half years now and there haven't been any widespread accounts of discoloration. My own white iPhone 4 looks as white now as it did the day I bought it back in 2011.

So, whether you get the iPhone 5s in white and silver or white and gold, you won't have anything to worry about.

Coolness concerns

Black is almost always the most popular color for electronics and electronics accessories. That's why it's so common. It's literally the hot little black number. However, true black is incredibly hard to anodize, which is why the dark iPhone 5 was closer to charcoal and the iPhone 5s is closer to graphite. Gray may not look as cool as blackout black, but it'll likely still be the default for many people.

That said, some people just love white phones. At the end of the day, you need to buy what you like. White iPhones stand out more and can be more obvious with brightly colored cases. Black phones tend to disappear more, and let the accessories be the star.

Likewise, for some people gold looks hot, or portents prosperity. Others might worry it comes off as chintzy or tacky. It's neither of those things. It's just new. If you like it, if it appeals to you, if it represents what you want in an iPhone color, than it absolutely doesn't matter what anyone else thinks.

Withstanding wear

The iPhone 5s has an aluminum unibody. On the silver iPhones, it's clear coated but not otherwise treated. That means if there's a scratch or chip, it's not particularly noticeable unless the light hits it just so. The space gray iPhone is anodized. That means if there's a scratch or chip, it may be more easily noticeable under a wider range of lighting conditions.

Some people don't care. Like any great object, some people feel wear makes it look even better. Call it Millennium Falcon chic. However, the old iPhone 5 slate and black iPhone showed damage a lot more, which is probably why the new one is space gray and black instead. Apple may have mitigated a lot of the previous concerns with this change. Only time will tell.

If the idea of wear bothers you, however, you'll want to skew towards the white models.

Cases closed

Cases closed

For many people the color of the phone they get is of only passing concern, because they'll lock it up in a case the moment it leaves the box. However, depending on the case areas of the iPhone 5s will still show through. Many don't cover the face plate. Some cut out the Apple logo and the buttons and ports.

Just because you're wearing a jacket doesn't mean the clothes you have on beneath won't still peak through. Choose a color you love, then add a case you love to it to complete the look. (They're accessories because they accessorize!). If you already have a case you love, pick the iPhone 5s color that either makes it pop (black) or helps it shine (white). Either way, make sure you love the phone you get regardless of the accessories you may or may not add - or keep - to it later.

Who should get the space gray and black iPhone 5s?

If you want a color that won't distract you when you game or watch video, that absolutely won't discolor, even if it does show wear and tear a little more visibly, that's closer to timeless even if it's also more reserved, then get the space gray and black iPhone 5s.

It's the classic for a reason.

Who should get the silver and white iPhone 5s?

If you want a color that draws more attention in its own right and stands out better from the crowd (without being overly fussy about it), that may be more of a distraction but that doesn't show damage as much, then get the silver and white iPhone 5s.

Apple's senior vice-president of design, Jony Ive, is most often seen with it, after all.

Who should get the gold and white iPhone 5s?

If you want everyone to know that you have the latest, greatest iPhone 5s, and you want to stand out as much as possible while doing so, that you're also not as easily distracted and enjoy that it doesn't show damage as much, then get the gold and white iPhone 5s.

It's the bling thing.

Still undecided?

If you're still not sure about gold and white, silver and white, or space gray and black - or as I like to think of them, Threepio gold, Stormtrooper white, and Fett gray - jump into our iPhone discussion forums and the best community in mobile will happily help you out.

At the end of the day, the only real answer is get the color you like better. Everything else is manufactured anxiety at this point. Just close your eyes, picture your iPhone in your hand, and carefully look at what color you're picturing. Then buy that. And if you change your mind later, you can get a case. Once you've decided, though, et me know - which color did you go with and why?

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, The TV Show, Vector, ZEN & TECH, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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There are 68 comments. Add yours.

Kevin Michaluk says:

GOOOOOOLLLLLLLLLDDDDDDDDD!!!!!

Rene Ritchie says:

I'm going gold! You're getting the CrackBerry orange case to go with it, right?

Peter Cohen says:

What the hell is wrong with you people?

jenniferlikes says:

White! I really liked gold though. Maybe I will get a gold case if I can find one I like.

Madhu Kekalathur says:

bought a gold/white iphone ........ the next day i changed it to Space Grey / Black ....... space grey is more classic and elegant !!!!

trmoney24 says:

my dad told me to get him a gold one. but he's east indian, so that was expected.

JeremieJones12 says:

I decided on the white/gold with the red apple leather case (49er edition) last night. I told my female co-workers this morning of my choice and they said it was feminine. Now I'm considering the space gray/black with the red leather (air jordan edition)?! Any advice?

Shane Teo says:

It's all your own opinion. White with red case is NOT feminine at all. I mean guys can love the color combination too.. Most importantly, what color combination do you like? White/ gold and red? Go with the former then.. You will be using the phone for 2 years so it's very essential that you pick up something you like.

Marc Haddad says:

I am very tempted with the Gold color just afraid that it will look too girly did you get chance to have hands on ?

HC houtx says:

i agree with you! but at the same time that's what alot of people said about the white and silver for the iphone 5 being girly but alot of guys i see have that phone. it all depends on what you want/like. i know i will go with the gold but i have to see it in person to make my final decision.

Dmitri Boucher says:

I just got the IPhone 5s 4 days ago and I got it in white and gold. I wasn't to sure about it after words, because I was thinking that it was girl colors idk.

farbod21 says:

I still cant decide... ahhhh, they all have strong points. I am leaning gold...

bettiol says:

Space Grey for me. I like the clean look of the silver model, but I find the white faceplate to be very distracting. I'd prefer not to comment on the gold model, but I will note that it could have been a lot worse.

Safwan Saf says:

Bettiol u r ryt ... !! I was in dileama wch to buy ## atlast went for space grey ... Wch i realy loved to refuse it !! In othrhand my friend jack is stepping bck to refuse hs 5s gold '' thinking tht thr wl v dull appearance soon '' if he ....

dgrass90 says:

Thanks for the great pointers, Rene! I honestly want the new space gray but scuff gate from the black/slate 5 is my biggest concern. I'll put it in a case for a bit and then get tired of it and take it out. Murphy's law dictates some sort of drop will only happen when I have it out. How much would you say the gray option will mitigate the issue with aluminum not taking to the annodization process well? Just as easily scuffed but less noticeable?

ame says:

I don't do white. If the gold had black glass instead of white, then I would have a real issue. But since there is only one black option, black it is.

talexis says:

my goodness, these were my thoughts EXACTLY! i adore the gold, but am truly not a huge white phone fan. maybe next year?

JNGold says:

Rene,

I think that the "white distraction" plays a really minor role with the release of iOS 7. Much of the OS is based on a lite/white background motif and thus many apps will have a "continuity" of screen with the white iphone. The white distraction played more of a part with iOS 6 and earlier as I too felt that the white bezel was more of a distraction with the dark and linen views of OS versions.

That being said, I will be picking up my first white iphone (Silver/white). The gold seems appealing but the nail in the coffin for me is the gold ring on the front which just puts it over the top in terms of seeming to "blingy".

SockRolid says:

Space Gray. Ain't no bout a'doubt it.

Rajbir Dhadda says:

Yes space grey,classic beauty

jabbaspalace84 says:

It's nice to have an article that addresses this pressing albeit cosmetic concern. The slate iPhone 5 for me has been a real hassle because visible scratches would bother the heck out of me. Just finally took it out of the otterbox! Anyway. I'm torn between gold and silver. Seeing that gold ring around the home button might be a little much to my eye. But I might be kicking myself for not going gold when it's all we'll be seeing in commercials for the next year. Silver was such an easy tasteful choice, why'd they have to tempt me! Huge fan of your iphone coverage this year, Rene. You say gold, huh? Gold is anodized and slightly more prone than silver to visible scratches, right? So torn. Sorry, I'll shut up.

simplylaurakb says:

Gold. Just because I like it. I've always had a black one before, so it will feel really new. 'Space Gray' (?) for my husband, because he does find the white faceplate distracting.

ricnmar says:

I want the Gold! I think it looks very classy - even though it will usually live in a case.

khobia2 says:

I'm getting the silver and white. I have a white iPhone now and it's not distracting. However like you said Rene I don't play any games on it. So take it for what it's worth. My wife as soon as she saw them yesterday said she wants a gold and white. Which is interesting seeing she has a black 4s. Counting the days. I am ready to graduate to the bigger iPhone screen.

Sent from the iMore App

nino63004 says:

Are there any pictures out there comparing the black iPhone 5 to the space grey iPhone 5S? I would love to see that and would love to see more pictures of the 3 different colors too. What I have found online doesn't really show what I'm looking for.

Member exists says:

Good question. I was looking for the same thing as well. I went to Apple recently & asked the assistant what the differences between the slate & space gray were & he said that the only noticeable difference was that the aluminum back plate was a little lighter

HC houtx says:

like @memberexists said about the apple agent saying that is lighter is true. Here is the link that i saw last night showing me that the iphone 5 (black) has a darker look in comparison to the iphone 5s (black). One thing i like from the 5s space gray was the front screen and home button. this video says that the sides of the space gray looks similar to that of the iphone 4s. but it still looks nice. http://youtu.be/OUqWy7-yDYA

scottdoc718 says:

Wouldn't the gold phone with the white replaced with black look good? If they had that, I'd get it. I dont like the gold and white.

babs1003 says:

I have to say, I wasn't sold on the Gold until I was able to watch the whole announcement last night... SO PRETTY!! However, I am now 98% leaning towards Gold (the 2% doesn't really like the white front... because my 4S is white and I don't know if I want to stare at a white front for another 22 months). Ok, I'll get Space Grey. Umm, nope, gonna get Gold. Wait........ Space Grey! Never mind, Gold it is!!! Man, life is hard!!! (firstworldproblems!) :)

Iman Rush says:

I like silver, it's cool, but Gold is fantastic!

sortingitout says:

Thanks Rene for your a enlightening, well thought out and professionally delivered piece on selecting the right color iphone 5S. This more than makes up for the tacky remarks written by "Un PC" yesterday.

nickpthemft says:

Looks like I'm going "space grey". For some reason, though, that name irks me. My wife will likely go goldpagne, since it's something fresh and different. She doesn't even really like gold, but says she likes the way it looks! Go figure...

pstmd says:

I've had a white 4s and a white iPad. The distraction thing never even crossed my mind. I like the clean, no nonsense look. this time I'll get the Silver and white perhaps with the tan leather case.

Jaguarr40 says:

Put me down for Space Gray 32GB please.

mjcostajr says:

I had the white 4s, then upgraded to black 5, thought I was going white 5s, but the space grey is pretty intriguing. I also do believe I'm able to focus on reading better with the black face plate...we'll see what they have in stock on Friday morning...

Behshad says:

What about AT&T stores !? Will they have 5s in stock and open @ 8am !?

Bradley Dudney says:

Yes they will just call your local store for details

swarlos says:

I'm also torn between the Gold and Silver hmmm. All of the iPhones I've owned have been black so I'm thinking it's time for a change!

KarmelVixen says:

I'm sooo getting the gold!!!

RavenSword says:

I'm co spidering black and gray so it'll match my ipad more. But when I think of iPhone, white almost always comes to mind and I've always wanted a white phone.

Royoflynn says:

I'm hoping Apple fixed the visible scratches on the black model, surely the new space Frey won't show scratches like the black iPhone 5 did?

GoingDark says:

The gold in my opinion looks super hot but rather feminine with the white screen. I've always felt that the iPhone 5 (and therefore also 5s) design made it look like a piece of jewelry and the gold really emphasizes that.

Burnaby says:

I prefer the white faceplate.
But the rest of the phone could be Lady Gaga leopard print and I wouldn't care - I'll never see it. A device this smooth surfaced and valuable goes into a armored case before it leaves the carrier store. Even before I ever got an iPhone, I accepted that a protective cases were the natural state for such devices, and 'unclad' was for store display purposes only....or if I evolved sticky pads on my fingers like a gecko.

Paul5555p says:

Gray and black..no silver and white..no wait, gray and black yea, the silver and white though...we'll see, anyone have a coin to flip?

MatttMN says:

Actually a great article. At first seems a little superficial, but it's important! Coming from a black Android, it's harder to tell what white would be like. And is the gold too blingy? Or classy and warm? Seems like a pretty soft tone to me. JeremieJones12 was told gold is feminine, but is it really? I'm really drawn to it, but could do silver or the gray. (BTW, 'graphite' seems like a better name than 'space gray' to me.) I don't plan on getting a case, so wear-n-tear is a factor too. Tough choice, 1 week to decide.

jabbaspalace84 says:

*Might* want to consider going with silver. The gray and gold both feature anodized aluminum, which means there is a top coat of color that could be scratched off. The silver, however, is not treated this way, so a slight scratch on the silver would just yield more silver underneath. I'm going through the same thought process as you. One quick story: I had the white 4s and some girl I liked told me it was kinda girly. So I went with the black 5 the year after...which I've regretted for the past 7 or 8 months :)

mahck says:

It wasn't mentioned in the article but one of the big color concerns for me has been its effect on the phone's temperature. I have a black iPhone 4 that has gone into thermal protection mode on a couple of occasions when I had it mounted on the dash of my car in direct sunlight. I imagine that a white/silver iPhone would be much more resistant to this type of overheating.

Aidan Toole says:

At first I was thinking space gray for sure. But then I noticed the home button looks a little strange, like theres no ring around it. I'm 50/50 on either space gray/silver. I think I'd just have to physically see them in order to make up my mind.

Zachary Ang says:

I'm DEFINITELY getting Space Grey iPhone 5S. Gold, surprisingly, SUCKS. Firstly, the front of the screen is white, which is extremely distracting when watching movies. Secondly, most people buy covers to protect their phone, which means the cover will cover the gold part. Thirdly, gold is very similar to yellow, which are meant for girls. This three reasons also apply for the Silver iPhone 5S. Whereas, Space Gray iPhone 5S is good for watching movies as the colour of the front of the screen is black. Space Gray is also not girly like the gold one. Space Gray go!

OdysseyDFX says:

Nooooooooooooo, Nooooooooooo !!!

i've ALWAYS had black iphones, intrigued by the gold....what to do, what to do !!!

Goldmember says i should go gold, but he's bias
Wesley Snipes told me I should "always bet on black"

seriously, they're both strong opinions, what to do ?!?!?!!?

Bradley Dudney says:

Go with the silver mainly because it'll look good for a while!

DBozard says:

No one has mentioned the fingerprint issue with the black iPhone (and most other black phones). I had a slate/black iPhone 5 but found myself frustrated often with what seemed like a million fingerprints and oils no matter how often I wiped my phone clean. White & Silver it is this go round.

Fonso4g says:

i will be getting the gold one. i have owned both black and white iphone 5's and cosmetic damage is a major distraction for me. i pretty much hate cases. i just throw on a glass screen protector and a skin to protect against scratches. The white face isnt a big deal for me

Member exists says:

I wanted the silver/white one but i saw a hands on with the black one & it looked very appealing to me & now I'm stuck between getting the silver/white or the black/grey

rtdunham says:

in the subhead and first paragraph of your article you describe the color combinations two different, contradictory ways. Is anybody proofreading?
"GOLD/WHITE, SILVER/WHITE, SPACE GRAY/BLACK"
"silver and gold, silver and white, space gray and black"

TeKKeeVee says:

I Got the Space Gray. The white seems to break up the screen too much for me. The Gold was an absolute NO for me, reminds me of of gilt laden knick knacks.

Wolf847 says:

Ordered a Gold Galaxy S4 already, getting it within 5 days. Heallyeah!!!!

rich146 says:

I think if you try too hard to show you have the latest iphone such as the gold it will look like the oldest if they don't do the gold on the next release. They always do black and the white one with every release so far. Something to think about!

mattmn521 says:

im getting the black iPhone 5s because my sidter told me that the white front where the screen is for the silver/white iPhone breaks more easily

embieone says:

I got the gold 5s on day of Release but the reli liked the space grey so got that one too so i have both not that bad ha

vmethod says:

I am absolutely shocked this wasn't mentioned... that the biggest reason why I will be choosing white is the simplest fact that white does NOT show your finger print smudges where as the black will always and you'll have to clean it often unless you want everyone to see your greasy gross phone!
That being said, I own a black ipad... For the reasons you stated about media... But a phone is used so often, it's white for me, no one needs to see all my finger grime. Eww! And I am constantly wiping my stuff off regardless!

om a says:

Great points one and all, Jeff. I have to admit, I’ve not always followed through on #7 – something for me to correct if I guest anywhere in future. :)http://indresult.com