iPhone 12 design flaw exposed — what you need to know

iPhone 12 with faded red side
(Image credit: Svetapple.sk)

The iPhone 12 may have a problem with runaway colors according to a recent report.

An investigation by Svetapple.sk seems to show that the aluminum sides of the iPhone 12 are prone to fading or losing their original color. What's more, this problem may extend back to older models than the iPhone 12, suggesting Apple's got a long-standing problem with getting certain colors to stick.

This begins with Svetapple's PRODUCT(RED) iPhone 12, which faded around the top-right corner of the phone and down towards the power button. Svetapple's account said its phone was contained in an Apple-made transparent case, so contact with caustic materials can't be the cause.

Investigating this further, Svetapple found corroborating accounts from others with different iPhones on an Apple Support thread. Several of the affected iPhones use the PRODUCT(RED) colorway, but not exclusively, with green and black-colored handsets appearing among the complaints too. 

Other models suffering this problem include the iPhone 11, an iPhone SE and even one account of an affected iPhone XR from 2018. On the other hand, the rest of the iPhone 12 family, including the iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max, are apparently unaffected. 

As a further example, there are images of a faded red iPhone 11, shared by MacRumors user tl01 in 2020. This phone, one of two identical ones bought for the user's children, had also been kept in a transparent case. The other red iPhone was fine, however.

iPhone 11 with faded side

(Image credit: tl01/MacRumors)

There are several potential causes for this problem. UV light can cause pigments to change color, as can certain chemical reactions. It's also possible this is a manufacturing defect that users would have been unable to avoid. However it's hard to square any of them with the patchy affected areas as seen in the examples and the limited number of cases. So for now the debate's still open.

If your iPhone is affected, you shouldn't expect Apple to offer replacements or refunds. This is seemingly just a cosmetic issue, and as has been seen in Apple support threads on the subject, so it's not considered serious enough for Apple to intervene.

The iPhone 12 series makes up several of the best phones we recommend to smartphone buyers right now. While fading colors are unlikely to make us change our mind on the overall quality of these phones, it may be something you want to keep in mind if you want your new phone to keep looking smart for the next few years.

Richard Priday
Assistant Phones Editor

Richard is based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, tablets, gaming, and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, he's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.