A few years later and it was rose gold, another color that split opinions and yet made the whole industry crazy for pink. There hasn't been anything quite like that since, though.
Long ago, everyone but BlackBerry diehards decided a rectangle with rounded corners and a touchscreen was the reference design for smartphones. Style has therefore always been important, because manufacturers have had to ensure their rectangles get noticed. But historically they've also had more to talk about than how many color options will be available at launch.
Looking back at early smartphones, the path of innovation was a lot clearer, but naturally improvements in performance and capabilities have become more incremental. Face ID is "new" tech, sure, but is there anything fundamentally wrong with fingerprint scanners? Companies are under constant pressure to create something... anything new. The industry is built on the assumption that people will regularly upgrade. Rightly or wrongly, we as consumers are more integral to this machine than any other moving part, as we're the ones chomping at the bit for the next release, no matter how iterative.
We've been here before, though. Almost as soon as cellphones became mainstream, stagnation set in. A backlit screen passed for innovation back then, so in that sense manufacturers had it easier. They could also play around with style in a far less restrictive environment, experimenting with different form factors like candy bars, sliders, flip phones and other, weirder designs that don't have a generic name.
Think of how prolific Nokia was despite many of its devices having practically identical functionality. I remember how futuristic the dinky 8810 looked, with its internal antenna and faux gunmetal finish. It still only made calls and sent texts, but it was my kind of cool. The era created icons like the 5510, the first Nokia you could personalize with swappable front covers, and the impossibly slim and light Motorola RAZR. Style was paramount, and to illustrate my point, do you remember in any great detail what the Samsung Galaxy S4 looks like? Exactly...