It turns out that this is how the “little black book” of MacBook Pro is “refined”

Recently, the MacBook Pro product line has welcomed new members. In addition to the regularly equipped M3 series chips, the most eye-catching one is the new space black color.

In the previous MacBook Pro series, Apple has always been fond of light-colored design styles such as space gray and silver, but the space black color scheme breaks the convention. The black is deeper, giving people a strong and calm metallic texture. .

So, how is this unique space black color scheme achieved?


Small colors, big wisdom

The well-known repair website iFixit recently shared a disassembly video of the new 14-inch MacBook Pro equipped with M3 and M3 Pro chips, revealing to us the manufacturing principles behind it.

In fact, creating space black mainly relies on two key steps: anodizing and etching processes.

Anodizing is an electrochemical process that coats the aluminum surface with a protective film. Just like a farmer planting crops on the land, the current is used to oxidize the atoms on the aluminum surface to form a protective layer with hollow protrusions. This oxide film is It acts like a "coating" to prevent the underlying aluminum substrate from being corroded.

▲Anodizing will produce a series of peaks and troughs. Image source: U.S. Patent Office

Adding dyes during the anodizing process can produce different colors, but the process is random and only filling the small pores of the oxide layer with dye particles is not enough to dye the ideal black. Other colors also require trial and error.

This is equivalent to standing in front of a very clean, smooth black table, and when the sun shines on the table, you will see bright white light reflected into your eyes. And when the tabletop is roughened with sandpaper and the sun hits it again, the different colors of light separate, and then you see black.

Space Black MacBook Pro Similarly, although black dye is added during the anodizing process, an overly smooth surface can easily produce strong glare, making it difficult to achieve a deep black effect.

Since diffuse reflection is the key to achieving ideal black, surface roughness needs to be controlled to reduce gloss. So Apple uses the method of etching the anodized surface to make the oxide layer uneven. The rough surface creates more effective light diffusion, reducing the amount of light that reaches the eye directly, resulting in a luxurious matte effect.

From a microscopic level, the following are the images of space gray and space black under a microscope. It can be seen that the surface of space gray is relatively smooth, while the surface of space black is pitted, uneven, and darker.

▲ As space gray, the right is space black

In order to present the degree of concavity more intuitively, iFixit also used a laser scanning confocal microscope to accurately measure the surface. The final result is shown in the figure below. The space black version has deeper valleys and higher peaks, and the greater the bump, the rougher the surface.

Our fingertips often secrete oil, and touching the laptop may leave fingerprints and stains, affecting the overall appearance. Although black shows stains more, Space Black is not pure black, and the uneven surface makes it difficult for finger sweat to spread, which can effectively avoid leaving obvious marks on the body.

Based on this inference, we might as well compare the "conspicuousness" of dark gray and dark black fingerprints. It can be seen that the fingerprint marks on the right are obviously lighter. However, iFixit believes that Apple may also use other polymers or oleophobic coatings.

According to foreign media Six Colors, Apple also considered using anodizing technology on the titanium alloy version of the iPhone 15 series, but ultimately chose PVD coating as the coloring technology for its titanium alloy version.

The principle of PVD coating coloring is like steaming rice dumplings: Put the mobile phone into a vacuum chamber, heat the metal to evaporate, and the surface of the mobile phone will "capture" the metal vapor, forming a beautiful and durable metal film that is not easy to scratch and fade.

Although PVD coating has many advantages, there is a risk of discoloration when exposed to grease. When the iPhone 15 Pro was first released, it was revealed that the frame discolored significantly after contact with fingerprints, especially the white and blue versions.

The reason is that grease changes the surface optical properties of the PVD coating, causing light interference, refractive index changes and scattering effects, resulting in discoloration. This discoloration is usually temporary and will return to its original color after cleaning off the grease.

Apple also explained in an updated support document that the titanium alloy frame of the iPhone 15 Pro model may temporarily change color due to contact with skin oils. Simply wipe it gently with a slightly damp, lint-free soft cloth to restore the iPhone to its original color. Some appearance.

In addition, a piece of hot knowledge, the origin of the "original color" of the original color titanium alloy version of the iPhone 15 Pro model is because in the PVD process, the surface of the titanium alloy frame is not painted with any color, showing the original color of the titanium alloy frame.

Small colors, big achievements

In this era of “face-based products”, scarce color matching is sometimes enough to become an important factor in consumers’ decision-making.

Jack Trout, the author of "Positioning", once proposed the famous "Seven Second Theorem". When consumers choose products, it only takes up to 7 seconds to determine whether they are interested. The impact of color on the brain is as high as 67%.

Looking at the current huge smartphone market, the "minor repairs" designed from generation to generation of iPhone are certainly helpful in shaping the brand impression, but they can also easily cause consumers' aesthetic fatigue. Other domestic mobile phone manufacturers are also very similar. The common "Oreo" lens module, the same water drop screen, and the ordinary metal middle frame. At a glance, there are obviously fewer flagship phones in the past. Several resolutions.

▲ Picture from: iPhone 13 Pro vs 15 Pro

Compared with other hardware upgrades, color matching can bring the most intuitive visual impact at a lower cost. This "player" that is naturally able to boost consumer demand has also been increasingly valued in the homogeneous mobile phone market. At the same time, Along with the evolution of color matching, there is also the exploration of coloring technology.

Taking Apple as an example, the iPhone 4 only comes in monotonous black and white. In order to give the iPhone 5 a deeper black color, Apple used an anodizing process for the first time. Unfortunately, due to the inexperience of the coloring process at the time, the iPhone 5, which was only a week on the market, caused Apple to fall into the controversy of "paint peeling".

▲ Picture from: AFP

Although the anodizing process at that time needed to be improved in achieving deep black coloring, it was very good at light coloring. In 2013, Apple released a new champagne gold color for the iPhone 5S, which was quickly sold out within an hour of opening pre-orders. According to a report by the Wall Street Journal at the time, Apple even specifically increased production of the champagne gold version in order to meet the strong demand in China.

Since then, the iPhone 6S rose gold, iPhone 7 red and other colors have been released one after another, which have effectively enhanced the aesthetic appeal of the iPhone and successfully gained a large number of users who are loyal to their appearance.

The principle that appearance is justice is still valid today. CIRP, an American investigation agency, has launched a quarterly survey of Apple users. As of December 2022, 42% of iPhone 14 Pro model users have chosen the new dark purple version. In comparison, 23% of users chose space gray and midnight black, and 11% chose starlight and silver.

Apple, which tasted the sweetness of the dark purple version of iPhone 14, continued its previous strategy and launched five colors of black, blue, green, yellow and pink on the basic iPhone 15 model in an attempt to start a color war again.

In order to make the color of the iPhone 15 in your hand more fresh and natural, Apple uses the industry's first color-melting glass back panel. The fused glass backplate is first strengthened by an optimized double ion exchange process, and then polished and etched with nanocrystalline elements to give it a luxurious matte appearance.

In addition, the Android camp that "rolls on top of each other" also spends a lot of time on color matching. For example, the Huawei P20 series, known for its stunning gradient design, has exceeded 10 million global sales in just five months, once creating the sales myth of Huawei mobile phones.

▲ Picture from: Mashable

The OPPO R15, which is at the forefront of aesthetics, also hits the pain points of users. By transferring the ribbon to the PET film through thermal transfer, and then laminating it with the glass plate, it creates a starry sky purple and dream mirror that you will never tire of. The red gradient version has been well received in the market. Other "eager" mobile phone manufacturers followed suit. The gradients of various tones were dazzling for a while, and each manufacturer became more and more concerned about the color matching of mobile phones.

The ceramic body is a "non-mainstream" solution, but its unique warm and moist feel is favored by consumers, so it often becomes a "guest" for manufacturers to expand sales markets. It is not easy to achieve uniform coloring on the surface of ceramics. The "privilege" of colorful colors is still in the hands of plastics, metals and other materials with more mature coloring processes.

However, there are also mobile phone manufacturers that prefer Hushanxing, such as Huawei Mate 60 RS. The extraordinary master Ruihong uses ceramic + metal splicing. After 1400℃ high-temperature calcination and more than 50 manufacturing processes, he has successfully put "a touch of red" on the ceramic body. After being fixed, it ushered in a great breakthrough in the ceramic coloring process, and also took the ceramic color to a new level.

The core of these seven-second psychology to capture user excitement is to mobilize consumers' purchasing emotions. But it is undeniable that various manufacturers have obviously put a lot of effort into the color matching and material polishing of their products.

Of course, the route that only relies on external appearance is often more suitable for a fairly stable stock market. If you want to gain a leading position in the market and maintain a long-term competitive advantage, you still need to give consumers more dimensions of surprises – just like Steve Jobs The classic phrase "One more thing" during his lifetime.

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