Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

The paradox of Apple Watch choice

Note: This story has not been updated for several years.


Henry Ford famously wrote, “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.”

And so it was, for years, for buyers of Apple products. They were beige or gray or white or black, but each model had a look and that was that.

Then some clever people1 decided that it might make sense to offer products in a variety of colors, so we got iMacs and iPods where you could choose your own color.

Letting people choose colors is good. When Apple offered the MacBook in both black and white models, I paid the extra money and got the black one.

In recent years, Apple has added choice to iPad and iPhone purchases—first space gray, then gold—and just extended those color choices to the new MacBook. It’s great! I love space gray. It’s my favorite space color.

But sometimes having choice can cut both ways2. I love having options, but sometimes the options can become overwhelming.

I have never fretted more over a purchase than when I bought my Apple Watch. There are 38 different models, 32 if you don’t count the 18-karat gold Edition models. And of course, watch bands are interchangeable—so you can stick a leather classic buckle on an Apple Watch Sport if you don’t mind the mismatch of stainless steel lugs with anodized aluminum body. More choices!

I wanted a leather band. But did I want to spend $300 more to get it? Did I want the space gray Apple Watch Sport with the black sport band, or would it be too dark? What about a lighter Sport model with a bright band? Could I cheap out and get a Sport model, then add a leather band later?3

There were so many options to make the Apple Watch feel personal to me, and yet the buying process really stressed me out. There’s a lot to be said for simplicity—and while Henry Ford’s successors have introduced colored cars, every time I’ve bought a new car I’ve had to choose from an extremely constrained set of options.

This is all a long way of saying that I wonder if Apple Watch sales have been suppressed, even a little bit, by the large number of buying options. And when the Apple Watch begins being sold in Apple retail stores soon, how will Apple Store employees manage that experience? The last thing they’ll want to do is overwhelm their customers with options.

In any event, now that I’ve got my Apple Watch, I’m happy with the fact that it came after some careful shopping and difficult decision-making. But if Apple had told me that the watch was going to come in any color I wanted as long as it was silver with a blue band, it would’ve been an easier experience.

  1. Let’s call them Steve and Jony. 
  2. After I wrote this column, I discovered that back in October Apple Codex discussed this same topic. Kudos to them for recognizing this issue so far in advance. 
  3. I’m actually wearing this combination now, and I don’t mind it at all. Loving the leather band. But I realize this decision will horrify some people. 

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