Black & slate or white & silver: Which iPhone 5 color should you get?

This year, like the last few years, one of the biggest decisions you have to make about buying an iPhone 5 is which color will you get? Unlike the new iPod touches, the iPhones are still a two color affair -- black and white. But this year, they're also a two-tone affair, with a metal back plate breaking up the glass on the back. And for the black version, it's a blackout affair, which the aluminum anodized as dark as the glass.

Technically Apple is calling the iPhone 5 color options Black & Slate and White & Silver. So while you still have only two choices of iPhone color, with the iPhone 5 those choices are more extreme than ever before. So here's the story...

Is the White & Silver iPhone 5 more distracting?

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 iPhone 5. 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".

Others aren't bothered by a white border at all and really like the two-tone look of the iPhone when its off. This year, however, you also have something else to consider. Until apps update for widescreen, they'll be letter-boxed or pillar-boxed on the iPhone 5, which means black bars. Those will almost disappear on a black iPhone 5. On a white iPhone 5, not so much...

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

Will the White & Silver iPhone 5 discolor?

Rumor has it Apple delayed the launch of the white iPhone 4 in order to improve the UV protection and prevent discoloration. That's just a rumor, however. The white iPhone 4 has been on the market for over a year and a half now and there haven't been any widespread accounts of discoloration, and my own white iPhone 4 looks as white now as it did the day I bought it in 2011.

If you like White & Silver, so far the evidence says you'll be just fine.

Does the Black & Slate iPhone 5 look better?

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. So it's no wonder the Black & Slate iPhone 5 can't help but impress. That said, some people just love the look of a white phone, whether it's iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, or whatever. They sometimes get shipped in more limited quantities so, rightly or wrongly, there's a perceived air of exclusivity about them.


At the end of the day, you need to buy what you like. White & Silver tends to stand out more and can be more obvious with brightly colored cases. Is that something that appeals to you?

I loved the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S in white. But the anodized Black & Slate this year really has my attention.

What about two-tone and anodized aluminum on the iPhone 5?

It would be incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to get glass and aluminum to blend together absolutely seamlessly on the back and sides of an iPhone 5, so Apple wisely isn't trying. They're going two tone. Namely Black & Slate and White & Silver.

Like the watch or race car trend, the Black & Slate is blacked out. White & Silver appears brighter and flashier. Think Darth Vader vs. Storm Trooper. Both mix texture and sheen to great effect. Both look hot.

Unless and until a significant flaw shows up in one or the other, you're fine with either.

So which iPhone 5 color should you get?

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.

iPhone 5 buyers guide

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • The black looks very nice (which I'll probably be getting), but the white is more traditional. At the end of the day, it won't really matter because I will just end up putting an Otterbox case on it for protection.
  • White is more traditional? I completely disagree. What color were all the first iPhones? Black.
  • I think she means traditional for apple ie thinking back to the original iPods
  • I want black accessories, ie the cable, to match the phone.
  • Agree! I think that every time I see the promo photo of the black phone and the white ear pods.
  • i've always like the elegance of white and how it stood out, but now that you mention the whole blackout of certain apps since they're not yet compatible to the 4 inch screen. i am now reconsidering. really appreciate that note, i have t-4 hours to choose and preorder! D:
  • I am so torn up between the two. However, the black bars being visible prominently on the white iPhone thing is pushing me lightly towards the black side of the fence.
  • i have white for the 4s, but the black is looking pretty sharp
  • I closed my eyes and pictured fire engine red! (shrug). But, hey, that's just me. :)
  • Black all day. That's just clean but, if I were, I'd probably get white to match my iPad. I did the same with my S3, got it in white.
  • how do you like your s3
  • Love it. I think they should dial back their push to differentiate and tighten up the core but overall it's awesome. I just don't care for the gimmick features they put in.
  • Black and Slate
    "nuff said
  • I always get the "s" iPhones white... Now it's time to go black! Love the iPhone 5 black version!
  • When I saw the first leaked samples I would've picked the White but the official Black model has a Stealth Bomber type look to it and is a real eye catcher.
  • One thing I haven't seen mentioned: Bumpers! I always thought the official Apple bumper was the best case for the iPhone 4/4S, offering adequate protection while still showing off the phone itself. They look great with the white versions too, so if they are offered again it will push me toward the white. Still, that black and slate looks really nice... Decisions!
  • The title currently says "Black & Slate or White & Sliver: Which iPhone 5 color should you get?," instead of "silver." Honestly, I got black last time and so, I would be tempted to get another black iPhone when my time comes, for the same reasons. However, I want us to keep our 4S's as back-up devices, so it might be useful to ... hmm. Even as I type that, I realize that there's no point in getting different colors to differentiate between the newer iPhones and the 4S, as the size difference will tell the tale. Anyway, I hope that back is anti-slip. These devices are too slippery. I'm not clumsy. My iOS devices have been damaged only when they slipped out of a safe place and fell onto an unsafe place.
  • I took Black... because as you said, it's a standard color for consumer electronics.
    My TV is black, my Apple TV is black, my PC (yes yes, I don't have a Macbook (yet)) is black, Nintendo 3DS is black, PS Vita is black, PSP is black, Kindle is black, PS3 is black, etc...
    And when you turn the screen off, it's black, not white, so :) The only white thing I got is my old Nintendo DS Lite, which got yellowish by aging. So, for me, having a white iPhone would make another alien in the family.
  • Both are awesome but i'll stick again with white, i guess.
  • Got the black / slate model. But that white / silver model is pretty cool. Because it's really silver with white bezel and inlays. It's still mostly metallic. If Apple had made a silver / black phone (bare aluminum with black bezel and black inlays) it would have been awesome. Really would have accentuated the 2-tone design. (At the risk of looking like an Oakland Raiders fan.)
  • That's the best iPhone 5 idea I've heard so far! I would pick up a silver/black model SO quick...
  • Black is Beautiful.
  • It's black for me - any other colour, especially white, is at risk - in my hands at least - to become very dirty, very soon. It's a childhood curse - what can I do?
  • REALLY llike the black look, but how durable is the coating? Would hate to have it in a case only to take it out and find out the the coating rubbed off. Or get a scratch. Seems like the white would not be as noticeable with daily wear and tear. On the other hand, I find that the white looks too much like the 4 / 4S. Lay them both face up and back up 5 feet and the become very similar. Didn't order one, will wait to see them on Friday.
  • See that was my concern too. I have had other anodized things before and the slightest scratch ruined it. I will say though that having black makes the screen seem to flow across the entire front of the phone.
  • I always prefer black than white colour gadgets, for years I never change this habit but it's a bitweird isn't it ?
  • I currently have a white Iphone, and was planning on getting another white one UNTIL I thought about the black bars with certain apps, and how it would look on the white. So this time around i'm going to get the black one, now looking at them up close the slate on the black looks REALLY good with the black color. I'm not really feeling the white and silver thing.
  • As a long time Apple nut and iPhone and iPod user ... Apple can do no wrong... I'm a devoted fan and love the way everything works ... together... like Plug and Play, not the infamous Plug and Pray of some other companies
  • Plug and Pray! LOL love it!
  • Lmao! I couldn't agree more. I'm getting sick of commenting on each of the 3 million articles out there that talk about how this phone doesn't match up to the specs of the GSIII. No one seems to realize that no amount of memory or processor speed can compensate for the inherent flaws in the Android OS. iOS just WORKS. That's why most of these articles don't talk about the differences between the two operating systems... because they know Android would lose in a heartbeat! I'm so sick of Android and can't wait to get rid of mine. I have a feeling the iPhone 5 is going to turn me into an Apple fanboy.... lol
  • agreed. I have an android but hate the OS. WebOS was actually really good, but of course it's no longer out there so Apple is the way to go currently..
  • Just FYI: Apple's iPhone 5 design page ( says that the white inlays are "ceramic glass," but the black inlays are "pigmented glass." Not sure what the difference is.
  • Another reason for black, if you shoot photos or video you get less reflections if you happen to have a window in the background, hence pro cameras tend to be black or dark grey especially tv cameras.
  • For some reason i feel like the white one is more feminine than the black one.
    That doesn't mean a man can't have a white phone and vice versa though ..
  • After seeing my wife scratch the heck out of her Droid X (in her purse) I went with the white and I'll take my chances with the aluminum.
  • I was in a business environment and always thought black more appropriate. I will be getting an iPhone 5 in black but can see how many will like the white too.
  • Great article Rene. I didn't think of it like this until now. I've always went with white but this year I ordered the black & slate one :)
  • Nothing personal Rene, but this is the kind of article one would expect to find on CultOfMac or one of the other, more sleazy, page-hit-crazy sites. An entire article about a subjective choice that ends up with "it's up to you"?? Seriously? This kind of fluff is only worth doing if you inject it with some humour or other craziness, otherwise you are just filling up column inches. It's fairly obvious that that's exactly what you are doing here and pretty much the only point for the article in the first place. You might as well have just run a set of pictures of the iPhone 5, it would have been more interesting and probably got as many page hits.
  • The white and silver color is the one to go with since its an eye turner and every one wants to know which phone it is from afar.
  • B is for Black. Black means better. I will choose it. It is the most popular color. Apple icon is made of black too.
  • I like the black and slate. I think it's less distracting and looks awesome!
  • "I've had both a Black & Slate and a White & Silver iPhone 4 and have never been distracted nor irked by either one. " I'm sure you meant you've had both black & silver and white & silver on the iPhone 4. But yes, I agree that neither are all that distracting. On another note, doesn't anyone else find the slate a little plasticky-looking or at least that the potential to look a little plasticky? My good friend who worked on all the antennas in the new iPhone said he's getting white because he thought the slate looked a little plasticky. I will probably want to take a look at them before making a decision on either color. I've had a black iPhone since the 3G so I'm leaning towards the white until I see a black one and see if I like that one better. Also, why is everyone making such a big deal about the black letterboxing? I think developers would want to fix that sooner rather than later. Don't you think?
  • I've been looking at both promotional and amateur photos of both the black and white. Does anyone know what colour the apple logo is on both? Black or silver? And is the silver on the white phone the same look as what is used for MacBook pros and airs?
  • The fact that Apple kept showing the black iPhone on the keynote pushed me towards the black one. I love the anodized aluminum look on the antenna as well.
  • I'm so glad I read this article! I preordered my iPhone at Best Buy on Friday... and ever since I've been worrying that I should have gotten white instead of black. I even thought about calling and asking if I could change my order, but I was afraid to complicate things considering the preorder mess they had last year. I usually get everything in black too, and I'm usually even deterred from white. White appliances, white electronics, etc... not a fan. However, there's something about the white iPhone 5... it's the first iPhone I've ever liked in white. It manages to look elegant and classy while still being eye-catching and sharp! However, I didn't even realize how out of place it would look with black on the screen. I now feel less anxious about my choice. I'm also hoping that once I actually have the phone in my hands, it will look more appealing. I'm assuming the black looks a little boring on a computer screen but hoping it will be a little more sleek and sexy in person. Fingers crossed!
  • white for me. Apple normally pays a lot of attention to overall build quality, materials and finish. but anodized aluminum has this nasty tendency of not being too scratch resistant, and the anodized layer can wear off over time. I imagine this would look awful with the black model - while silver stays silver...
  • white for me. Apple normally pays a lot of attention to overall build quality, materials and finish. but anodized aluminum has this nasty tendency of not being too scratch resistant, and the anodized layer can wear off over time. I imagine this would look awful with the black model - while silver stays silver...
  • When the anodized black iphone 5 gets scratched on the aluminum back, will it show the color (silvery) of the aluminum?
  • almost guaranteed, yes. I'm not a solid state physician, but the anodized layer on car rims, mtb handle bars, grapple hooks - and probably the iPhone 5 - is only a few microns thick. deeper scratches will be visible + look ugly on the black model
  • White.
  • White is clean, black is mean.
  • I got the white one, because in my opinion it is more attractive, also the black one can easily scratches. If it does it shows the silvery colour. I think the white frame is don't annoying when you playing games or watching videos or do anything on your device.
  • i dont think the color of the boarder around the screen distracts me i been using a white phone for a while now and i have a white iphone 5 and it dont seem to be a problem for me.. if i had a choice i would like a white tv also... black iphone does look nice but i prefer the white better
  • I had the black one and warranty'd it out for the white one because the black chips off the edges very easily and exposes the silver underneath, the white one may or may not have the same problem but you can't tell because it is all silver. I made the decision assuming my white iphone 5 would hold its value better.
  • At the end of the article, it is said "Unless and until a significant flaw shows up in one or the other, you're fine with either." Would the issue with the black model being more susceptible to being scratched and pocked and marred even with a case be characterized as a flaw?