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.