Gold iPhone Could Help Apple Build Its Fortune

By Michelle Maisto  |  Posted 2013-08-20

Gold iPhone Could Help Apple Build Its Fortune

Rumors of a gold iPhone continue to spread.

Japanese site Macotakara reported Aug. 12 that according to sources in Asia, the Apple iPhone 5C—the lower-end version of two new iPhones expected to be introduced in coming weeks—will come in a "champagne gold" hue.

While Apple rumors tend to rise and disappear with the pace of the workday, this one has stuck around. So has the rumor that Apple will introduce both the iPhone 5C and a higher-end 5S at an event Sept. 10.

There are a few arguments for why a gold iPhone could be a great idea.

"Gold is among the easiest colors to anodize onto an iPhone. It involves simple chemical reaction, with the possible addition of dye, depending on the exact color they want to produce," iMore's Rene Ritchie blogged Aug. 16.

Apple famously had a terrible time with its white iPhone early on, calling the color "more challenging to manufacture."

The same day as the iMore article, French site Macboutic published photos of what it called the iPhone 5S—the expected name of the expected new high-end iPhone.

The better argument, though, may be that the rumored iPhone 5C is expected to be compatible with the 4G network being launched by China Mobile—the world's largest carrier, and the only major carrier in the world's largest smartphone market not currently selling the iPhone.

The timing of a gold iPhone 5C could be in sync with a China Mobile deal, and the phone could have a price point more appealing to mainstream consumers in China.

And, as you may know, gold is a popular color in Chinese culture, as it symbolizes wealth and by extension happiness.

Additionally, in the practice of feng shui, which incorporates five elements, yellow represents the earth as well as food, and so energy and wellness. In a feng shui chart called the Bagua Template, yellow, or gold, is at the center, suggesting it's the center of all things.

Gold is also used to denote prestige and royalty.

Illuminant Partners, a public relations agency that offers cultural guidance for doing business in China, blogged in 2011 that companies should use care with yellow, since there can be a tie to the suggestion of pornography (which is called "yellow pictures"), but gold is rather safe, as there are few cultural faux pas to beware of.

"Gold is a color which has long been used in China as a symbol of nobility and wealth," wrote the firm.

Gold iPhone Could Help Apple Build Its Fortune in China

However, it added, "We advise our clients to avoid over-use of the color gold. ... The 'gold rush' has caused over-use of the color to become the domain of the nouveau riche, and as such, can easily appear to make your message gaudy and cheap-looking. Appropriate use of gold is one of the keys to productive marketing and advertising in China."

An iPhone for China Mobile

New iPhones are said to be priced higher than is comfortable for many Chinese consumers, which is why a lower-cost iPhone 5C could be a winning solution for Apple.

According to a new report from Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty, however, Chinese consumers say they're willing to pay more than was previously thought.

An AlphaWise survey including 2,000 Chinese handset users, Apple Insider reported Aug. 20, found customers in Tier 1 and 2 cities planning to buy more expensive smartphone models.

Survey respondents said they were willing to pay $486 U.S., or 4,000 RMB, for an unlocked, contract-free iPhone 5C.

"That number was higher than what Chinese customers are willing to pay for a Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini (2,600-3,800 RMB), or the HTC One Mini (2,000-3,000 RMB)," Apple Insider reported. It's also higher than the $399 Huberty has forecast that Apple will price the device at.

In recent weeks, Taiwan-based HTC introduced a version of its popular One smartphone in red—a color that suggests luck in China. But in China, as in the United States, it's Samsung that's Apple's biggest competition.

During the second quarter of 2013, Samsung sold more than 15 million smartphones in China, according to Strategy Analytics, compared with Apple's 3.4 million units. Also outselling Apple in China during the quarter were Asian brands Lenovo, Coolpad, ZTE and Huawei.


Follow Michelle Maisto on Twitter.

Rocket Fuel