The differential effects of two color improving products, ethephon an ethylene-releasing compound, and seniphos, a nonethylene-releasing product, were studied on `Starking Delicious' apples (Malus domestica Borkh L.). Ethephon and seniphos were applied 2 or 3 weeks before commercial harvest. Ethephon- and seniphos-treated fruit showed a significant improvement of peel color associated with a sharp increase in anthocyanin content and chromaticity values. Color improvement in ethephon-treated apples occurred during the preharvest period and cold storage. The seniphos-treated fruit stopped color development in cold conditions. In comparison to the ethephon-treated fruit, the seniphos-treated apples showed lower internal ethylene concentrations and a ripening delay. Both treatments sharply increased the activity of phenylalanine-ammonia-lyase enzyme, which seemed to be the determining factor of color enhancement. The seniphos-treated apples compared to ethephon had higher fruit firmness and lower soluble solids concentrations. Anthocyanin biosynthesis may be enhanced by seniphos treatment without inducing ethylene production or other ripening associated changes. As a consequence, fruit treated with seniphos can be held longer in storage.