The gold Apple iPhone 5S is reviving bad memories of the white iPhone 4. While the iPhone 5S, which was not made available for preorder, was to be released Sept. 20, on the morning of its big day, the gold model was in short supply. Or more exactly, it was nowhere to be found.
Apple and AT&T began accepting online orders for the iPhone 5S at 3 a.m. ET—retail stores all opened their doors at 8 a.m.—and by 7 a.m., according to MacRumors, both sites were announcing that the gold iPhone 5S will ship to customers in "7 to 10 business days."
By 10 a.m. ET, the Apple site was telling buyers the gold iPhone 5S will ship in "October," though silver and gray models were available. By the same time, the AT&T site was saying the silver and gray would ship in 7 to 10 days, while the gold would ship in "21-28 business days."
But surely some gold iPhones had already shipped to stores?
At a Sprint store in Brooklyn at 7 a.m., no one was in line. By 7:30, eight people had gathered, but even the first in line wasn't in luck.
"We only have 64GB gray phones," the manager told me.
"I called yesterday and you said you were getting everything," I told him.
He gave me a look that suggested his job was as fun as it looked. "The only phones they sent us are 64GB gray," he repeated.
At the SoHo Apple store in Manhattan, hundreds of people were lined up, with numbers in hand. The line wrapped around the building, which at 8:10 was bustling with activity, and traveled down the block. Around halfway down the block, employees had ended the line and restarted it 20 or so feet away. (Was this a safety measure, or to make the latter group feel good about being near a beginning, if not the beginning?)
"There are no gold iPhones left," a blue-shirted Apple store employee, told me.
He insisted that a "very limited number" had been received.
"Like, three?" I asked, hoping for a number.
"A very limited number," he repeated. Then in a more friendly tone he offered, "There are plenty of 5C, though."
At a nearby Verizon Wireless store, approximately 30 people were in line. I asked the first person in line if he planned to buy a gold 5S.
"They didn't get any gold ones," he told me. "They said they have everything but the gold phones."
Ken Hyers, a senior analyst with Strategy Analytics, said reports were coming in from around the globe of the shortage of gold phones.
"Apparently, Apple anticipated that the gold iPhone would be less popular in the U.S. (outside of Miami) and Western Europe and would be more popular in Asia," Hyers told eWEEK.
"Even in Asia Apple failed to fully anticipate how popular the gold iPhone color would be," he continued, "with Hong Kong and other markets there already facing shortages. This is a fairly easy problem to fix, and Apple has already asked its suppliers to increase production of the gold iPhone."
Jack Narcotta, an analyst with Technology Business Research, isn't buying it.
"Is there a better way to create frenzied demand for the gold iPhone by announcing no one can get it?" he told eWEEK. "I can't imagine Apple, the consumer king, underestimated consumer demand."
Hyers said he doubted whether the issue had to do with the gold color being difficult to get right, as was the case with the white iPhone 4. "Ah, first-world problems!" he added.
Editor's Note: This article has been corrected to reflect that Jack Narcotta is an analyst for Technology Business Research, not Strategy Analytics.