The iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro were released in September 2021 in a new midnight color. This deep, dark color sparked a debate among iPhone users – does midnight look more black or blue in real life?
The midnight color in Apple’s marketing
When Apple first announced the iPhone 13 series, they described the new midnight color as “a sophisticated black that has an added hint of deep blue.” Their press images show midnight looking neutral black in some lighting conditions, and faintly blue or deep navy in others.
So according to Apple, midnight is intended to be a versatile color that can appear black or blue depending on the lighting environment. Their description focuses more on the black side, calling it “sophisticated black” while saying blue is just a “hint” or secondary characteristic of the color.
Hands-on impressions: More black or blue?
When people finally got the iPhone 13 midnight in their hands on launch day, opinions were mixed as to whether it looked more black or blue.
Many YouTubers, tech reviewers, and early adopters agreed that the midnight iPhones look black most of the time. In typical indoor lighting, it appears to be a very dark neutral black finish.
However, some started noticing that midnight can take on a navy blue look in the right conditions. When you take it outdoors on a sunny day, the blue tones become more apparent. The blue is especially noticeable when placing a midnight iPhone next to another black device.
MKBHD said the midnight iPhone 13 Pro looked “very black” at first glance, but noticed it looks “kind of navy blue” under bright light. The Verge’s Nilay Patel called it a “chameleon black that shifts to blue.”
What factors make it appear blue?
So what makes the midnight color look more blue in certain lighting conditions? A few different factors can influence the apparent color:
- Viewing angle – The blue tint becomes more visible when looking at the iPhone screen at an angle, compared to head-on.
- Brightness – Strong, direct sunlight brings out the subtle blue hue more than dim indoor lighting.
- Reflections – A bright blue sky reflected on the iPhone’s glass back will tint the whole device blue.
- Surroundings – Placing midnight next to warm black surfaces makes it look distinctly blue in comparison.
YouTubers found that tilting the device under sunlight best reveals the blue-black colors in the finish. So midnight can appear more black when viewed head-on under weak light, but reveals its dual black-blue personality in the right conditions.
Close-up inspection of the color
When viewed up close under magnification, the midnight iPhone 13 color is visibly made up of both black and blue pigments in the paint or anodization process.
Videos zooming in on the midnight finish reveal specks of black randomly mixed with tiny blue dots along the surface. The blue specks are more saturated than the blue tint visible from a typical viewing distance.
This microscopic pattern of separate black and blue dots blended together is what gives the midnight finish its ability to appear both black and blue depending on lighting and viewing conditions.
Poll results: Black vs blue
Here are the results of a poll conducted on Twitter asking if people see the midnight iPhone 13 color as more black or blue:
So a small majority see midnight as closer to black overall. The black appearance likely dominates in most indoor settings that people are used to. But the 42% who see blue hints shows the dual color personality of midnight that emerges in the right conditions.
Comparison with other black iPhones
The iPhone 13 midnight finish has much more of a subtle blue look than previous black iPhones.
Looking back at previous iPhone models, the iPhone 7 Jet Black had a glossy black finish without any blue tones. The iPhone 11 Black was also a neutral true black. Midnight has a more greyish tone than those pure black iPhones.
The only previous iPhone color that midnight can be compared to is the Space Gray finish used on earlier iPhone models. The Space Gray colors also had a very dark grey appearance that could look lightly blue in certain lighting just like midnight.
Is the blue or black more prominent in real life?
Overall based on hands-on usage, the iPhone 13 midnight color appears far more black than blue in most real world conditions.
While the blue tones can become visible in perfect outdoor lighting conditions, those situations are less common. Day to day, the darkness dominates over the blue, so it gives off the impression of being a true black iPhone.
Unless you’re constantly looking for the hidden blue tones, the midnight iPhone will appear black in nearly all scenarios. Only in side-by-side comparisons does the blue become obvious and stand out over the black base color.
Should you choose midnight or black?
Midnight vs black is largely an aesthetic choice, as the colors are extremely similar in typical use. Here are some factors to consider:
- Black will look slightly purer black in dimmer light
- Midnight has a sophistication from its blended undertones
- Midnight can offer more visual interest in the right conditions
- Fingerprints may show more on midnight versus true black
Overall, midnight is a wise choice if you want an iconic black iPhone but with extra nuance from its hints of color that come through when viewed from different angles. It gives the black finish more depth without looking visually distinct from black in most uses.
The iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro midnight color is best described as a black finish with subtle blue undertones that become visible in the right lighting. While it leans strongly black in typical indoor use, the blue personality emerges outdoors or under magnification. So midnight offers an alternative for people who want the look of a classic black iPhone but with extra sophistication from the blues worked into the color palette in a distinctive way only Apple can achieve.