The story behind Apple and Product(Red) that you didn’t know about

Seeing red


By Rachel Au

The story behind Apple and Product(Red) that you didn’t know about

There’s no (concrete) news about iPhone 8 or iPhone 7S (will that be a thing?) but Apple does have two new products: the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus (Product)Red Special Edition. Featuring a vibrant red aluminium finish and a silver Apple logo at its rear, and a white front bezel with a silver Touch ID ring, it’s the smartphone that caused quite a stir on the Internet a few weeks ago. 



It’s not just because the iPhone is finally available in red colour and it’s not just because it’s a Product(Red)… well, product. After working together for 11 years since the inception of (Red), Apple is finally offering its iPhone for their partnership with Product (Red). But beyond owning a shiny new red phone, the collaboration paints a bigger and brighter picture on the fight against AIDS in Africa, and one that we all need to look at. 


First, let’s go back to the beginning: (Red)

The project is the brainchild of Bono, U2 frontman and AIDS activist, and Bobby Shriver of the One campaign. Created in 2006 and launched at the World Economic Forum, (Red)’s purpose was to engage the private sector to help raise awareness and financially contribute to The Global Fund where it will be used to provide medical care and support services for the people affected by HIV/AIDS in Africa. In addition, the funds are invested in HIV/AIDS programs that focus on mother-to-child transmission of HIV. 


A post shared by (RED) (@red) on


All good ideas start with a passionate brainstorming session and something to scribble on. For Bono and Shriver, the idea was outlined on the back of a napkin. According to Wolff Olins, there were only three simple goals:

1. Provide consumers with a choice that made giving effortless

2. Generate profits and a sense of purpose for partner companies

3. Create a source of sustainable income for the Global Fund to fund the fight against AIDS.


The result: Product(Red) where global brands (such as Apple and Nike) create special (Red) versions of products and a portion of the profits from sales would contribute to The Global Fund. 


A post shared by (RED) (@red) on


Before (Red): The Global Fund received around $5 million from businesses in four years. 

After (Red): The Global Fund received over $350 million from the private sector, through (Red), in a decade.


Steve Jobs initially said no to joining Product(Red)

The first iPod nano (Product) Red Special Edition was released on 13 October 2006 but the little guy almost didn’t happen. Steve Jobs and Bono (and his band) go a long way back, having even previously teamed up to launch a U2-themed iPod. So when Bono approached Steve for the job of creating a custom iPod for charity, the Apple co-founder wasn’t interested. 


A post shared by (RED) (@red) on


Jobs didn’t like the initial suggestion of releasing an iPod under the name (Apple)Red as he felt it will diminish the brand’s name. The discussion turned into an argument so heated it reached the “F-you stage,” according to biographer Walter Isaacson. They then agreed to sleep on it and in the end compromised and hence the first red iPod nano was born. 


Apple has since released a slew of red editions of the iPod nano, iPod Touch, iPod Shuffle as well as other accessories such as a (Red) iTunes Gift Card and cases for iPads and iPhones. 


Apple is the world’s largest corporate donor to the Global Fund. To date, the company has donated more than $130 million through (Red). The iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus (Product)Red Special Edition is now available online.


Updated as of 1 Dec 2017:

It’s World AIDS Day and here’s how you can lend your support to the cause:




Explore More