I love the new MacBooks, but they badly need a dash of iBook color

Couple looking at iMacs in store upon release in the 1990's
(Image credit: Future)

Apple has become an ever-looming giant in the tech industry and is synonymous with sleek, minimalistic designs. The new MacBook Pro 16-inch (2023) is the brand’s latest triumph in consumer computing, showing off the new M2 chips that provide incredible processing power. The tech giant has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to aesthetics and its products set standards and trends for other companies to follow, even when they pull controversial stunts - like removing the headphone jack on the iPhone.

The core design philosophy we see in every Apple product these days is ‘minimalism’. The company adheres to this philosophy so strictly that they’ve removed essential elements of products for the sake of aesthetics or thinness (I’m thinking once again about the lost but never forgotten headphone jack). If any company other than Apple made this incredibly bold move it probably wouldn’t have gone down as well as it did. I’m not saying there were no objections at the time, but we all forgave and forgot pretty quickly.

That being said, I’m bored. Yeah, the hardware itself is great, and yes, they’re super powerful (not to mention expensive) but MacBooks all look the same! It seems to me that the company has taken its philosophy far too seriously and become rather bland. The technology itself is absolutely awesome but completely devoid of personality - and that’s such a shame because with the right splash of color MacBooks could change the game entirely.

Steve Jobs besides the iMacs

(Image credit: John G. Mabanglo vis Getty Images)

Better in color

Throwback to January 1999 when Steve Jobs announced five colorful iMacs and completely changed the computing sphere. Computers no longer had to be square and ugly and beige! The era of wonderfully colored iMacs emerged and changed the way people thought about computers.

The funky colors and all-in-one design meant you could have something fun in your living room; it could match your home decor or your personality, and they all had super fun names like Bondi Beach or fruity names like Strawberry or Grape. We don’t have that anymore; rather we have very exciting names like MacBook, MacBook Air, and… MacBook Pro. The slogans they used were clever and memorable, like “iThink therefore iMac”. Who wouldn’t want a Mac with a slogan like that?!

Even the adverts for these funky little fruity machines were so much better. Slogans like “No artificial colors” or “iCandy” are so memorable. The translucent casing let you see all the nifty components inside your computer and I imagine felt pretty futuristic at the time (I cannot personally comment on this, because I wasn’t even born yet). The creativity and ingenuity of the 1999 iMac propelled Apple forward as a serious commercial competitor and laid the groundwork for the success of the iPod which came in a similar color scheme.

1999 iMacs

(Image credit: Getty Images/ Handout)

Of course, I’m not saying Apple is devoid of all joy and puts out purely monochromatic products these days; iPhones, iPads, and even the new HomePods have diverse color schemes even if the colors are on Apple's terms.

I can only speak for my own generation here, but the pink iPhone is a spot of contention for many, as we’d been begging for a proper pink iPhone and the pale, barely-there metallic pink finish Apple put out wasn’t all that satisfying. The diversity of colors with the iPhone 11 is the whole reason I bought a yellow iPhone! I refused to buy an iPhone 12 or 13 because they simply didn’t have the color yellow. A lot of my friends chose the lilac iPhone instead.

Apple used to be the 'fun' tech brand - what happened?

The current generation of MacBooks all come in the same four colors, grey, darker grey, 'starlight' (which is an admittedly fetching shade of gold), and blue-black. The pastel versions of the modern all-in-one 24-inch iMacs are really beloved. So many people adore them, and hopefully Apple will take that as reassurance that people do love colorful computers and it should incorporate color into more of its hardware.

I recognize that the aesthetic that MacBooks hold is a carefully crafted one. There’s always that implication that if you use a MacBook you’re an artsy creative, pretentious university student, or a free-spirited professional that works in a ‘fun office’. They strike the perfect balance of being both status and social symbols - and the general cost of the MacBooks does help with that.

Apple Advert from 1999

(Image credit: Getty Images / Handout)

But Apple will have to deal with a nostalgic, expressive, and creative younger generation that wants more from their technology. If zoomers and millennials have grown up with tech as second nature, an extension of their formative years, why not give them something that expresses their personality?

Hopefully, with the new Apple silicon, we’ll see updates to the 24-inch iMacs soon - and that might bring about more vibrant shades. If not, perhaps we’ll have to wait another 22 years for the sad grey colors to get old and for color to come back in a big way. I somewhat doubt that will be the case, but I still have hope that Apple will go back to thinking in color.

Muskaan Saxena
Computing Staff Writer

Muskaan is TechRadar’s UK-based Computing writer. She has always been a passionate writer and has had her creative work published in several literary journals and magazines. Her debut into the writing world was a poem published in The Times of Zambia, on the subject of sunflowers and the insignificance of human existence in comparison. Growing up in Zambia, Muskaan was fascinated with technology, especially computers, and she's joined TechRadar to write about the latest GPUs, laptops and recently anything AI related. If you've got questions, moral concerns or just an interest in anything ChatGPT or general AI, you're in the right place. Muskaan also somehow managed to install a game on her work MacBook's Touch Bar, without the IT department finding out (yet).