While Ive spent the subsequent years at Apple shifting from polishing white plastics to bending aluminum (or, a-lew-min-e-num, in his parlance), it seems that he’s returning to his roots, so to speak. It’s not unlike an artist going through different periods in their work.
And this is a good time for Ive to return to his colorful period, because again, now he has control of the software side of the equation as well.
“I think that designs with a real coherence are the result of developing form, material, and color in unison. Each element informing, and in many ways defining the other,” Ive says in the video. If you truly believe that design is not just the superficial — not just how something looks when it’s on a table — but rather how it works, as Ive’s longtime collaborator and boss Steve Jobs did, the hardware and the software have to be fully intertwined. And Ive gets to fully design for that symbiosis for the first time with the iPhone 5c.
Ive certainly seemed more passionate about the 5c than he did the 5s, and Apple is putting far more emphasis on it. In Ive's own words, the iPhone 5c is "beautifully, unapologetically plastic."
Apple isn't apologizing for using plastic because Apple isn't using plastic for the reason we all expected. The 5c was supposed to be the "cheap" iPhone, and using a plastic case instead of a metal one was supposed to be a main route Apple was taking to lower the price. As it turns out, Apple wasn't making a cheap iPhone at all, they were making Jony Ive's iPhone. As Siegler points out, plastic is where Ive's roots are. And colorful plastic, at that. In fact, it's where all of Apple's roots are. The Bondi Blue iMac (and company) played a key role in bringing Apple back to a profitable state after it almost went bankrupt in the late 90s. Since then, Apple has slowly moved away from releasing playful, or colorful products. The iPods have almost always come in a variety of colors, but they haven't been Apple's most popular products for years. With the iPhone 5c, Apple is finally bringing color to their biggest product line. They're bringing the famed Apple playfulness back to the masses. Combined with the bright new palate of iOS 7, including the color coded wallpapers for each 5c, the experience is truly seamless — the software and the hardware are united.
We expected the 5c to be plastic because it was going to be cheap, but we should have known better. Apple never compromises quality for price. The 5c is plastic because that's what Ive's vision for the iOS 7 iPhone truly is. The plastic isn't cheap. It's playful, it's colorful, and it's going to be a huge, huge hit.