With product innovation lagging, Silicon Valley opts for a new coat of paint

CNN business

When Google unveiled its new line of Pixel 7 phones earlier this month, the devices looked similar to last year’s. But there was at least one subtle change: the colors.

While the Pixel 6 came in seafoam (light blue) and coral (pale pink), the Pixel 7 comes in lemongrass (green) and snow (white). Google has also changed the Pixel 6’s black storm (a black storm) option to the Pixel 7’s obsidian (still black).

The emphasis on a new color palette for devices is not unique to Google. Over the past couple of months, tech companies have shown off their latest smartphones, tablets and laptops at exciting press events, the products had only limited changes on the outside but proudly designated by elaborate color choices.

Microsoft launched the Surface Pro 9 tablet in shades such as sapphire (blue) and forest (green), while the Surface Laptop 5 is available in metallic (silver), sage (green) and sandstone (brown). Apple’s new iPhone 14 range comes in Starlight (champagne color) and Midnight (black), which the company has introduced before. two shades of green (“green” and “alpine green”) and purple (“purple” and “deep purple”).

Purple, in particular, has had a moment in technology. Earlier this summer, Samsung introduced a ‘bora purple’ color for its flagship Galaxy S22 smartphone – the word ‘bora’ translates to ‘purple’ in Korean, effectively dubbing the color ‘purple purple’.

At a time when many of the biggest innovations in cell phones and other gadgets are under the hood, Getting consumers interested in a new paint job may somehow be easier than getting people excited about faster processors.

“The quality of all phones is so high, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for consumers to discern what is ‘better,'” said Kelly Goldsmith, a marketing professor at Vanderbilt University. “Consequently, technological brands must adopt new strategies. Presenting different color niches is just a way of doing it.’

For consumers, a wider range of colors can be of real value. “Devices—whether smartphones, laptops, computers, or tablets—are an extension of the user’s persona, both in terms of who they are and who they want to be,” said IDC Research analyst Ramon Llamas. “Introducing a different color is a way to differentiate the devices and their owners.”

But just as basic black, white, gray and silver are the dominant colors in the automotive industry, these colors tend to resonate most with smartphone owners, according to Peggy Van Allen, color anthropologist at Color Marketing Group. However, he noted, a shift is underway to stronger colors.

The Pixel 7 comes in Obsidian, Snow and Lemongrass.  The Pixel 7 Pro is available in Obsidian, Snow and Hazel.

Apple brought “Bondi Blue” to its Mac line in the late 1990s after Steve Jobs returned to the company (to great success). Recently, made a splash in 2015 with the introduction of the rose gold iPhone.

“The hot metallics went away and then came back into style, and rose gold gained a lot of appeal,” Van Allen said. “It peaked at a time when social media influencers were devouring it, and Millennial Pink’s popularity also helped launch it.”

Both roses lasted longer than most forecasters predicted, he said. “It was also carried along by other trends of the time that reinforced the desire for personalization and female empowerment.”

The names of the newest colors have become increasingly esoteric over the past year or so. It’s also likely a strategic game, according to Barbara Kahn, a marketing professor at the Wharton School in Pennsylvania.

“Color names that are descriptive but odd can create positive reactions because the consumer likes to be able to ‘solve the puzzle,'” he said. “Even ambiguous color names attract attention and customers work to figure out what the meaning might be.”

But for all the different colors, It’s important to remember that customers still keep their phones in a box, essentially covering the color that once enticed them to upgrade.

“There are some transparent cases available from both first and third parties,” said Eric Abbruzzese, director of research at market research firm ABI Research, “but anecdotally at least, they don’t seem to be as popular as regular cases.”