I worked at an Apple Store in 2004, when the iPod mini first went on sale.1 It is no secret some colors sold better than others. Pink was by far the most popular color. Just yelling “WE HAVE A PINK ONE!” caused people to come running. Blue and Green were the next most popular. We never had trouble selling either of those colors. Silver was the safe choice. People bought Silver as gifts, or when they couldn’t make up their minds. It always seemed like we received more Silver than any other color.
And then there was Gold. Almost no one wanted Gold. It was always the last of the iPods to leave the shelves. People rarely asked for it by name. Even the Gold AppleCare replacement parts could often be found collecting dust in the dark corners of the stock room. Soon we started to recieve less Gold than any other color. And by the time the iPod mini was refreshed in 2005, Gold was no longer an option.
These days Gold is back in the news as a possible color choice for the upcoming iPhone 5S.
There are a bunch of rumors and speculation making the rounds about Apple adding gold to the color options for the upcoming iPhone 5S.
For years, when it came to the high end, Apple has been a black and white company, and sometimes even black and white/aluminium was one too many options for them. Sure, the iMac under Steve Jobs had some positively psychedelic color variants, and less expensive products like iPods have been chromatic for generations, recently including the iPod touch. But a gold iPhone?
MG Siegler has confirmed the rumor, but the motivation behind gilding the next iPhone remains unclear. One theory is that a new premium color choice would help solve the problem of differentiating the iPhone 5S from the iPhone 5, from which it is rumored to share a similar design.
When the impression is that Apple will “only” release an S-class phone in any given year, consumers might be more interested in seeing what else is out there. They might be interested in seeing something different.
In the past, to mitigate against hardware similarity, Apple has turned to software differentiation, but this year they might increase the iPhone 5S’s appeal by releasing it with an exclusive color option. If anything, Gold would certainly aid customer recognition of the new iPhone.
A Gold choice also falls well into Apple’s Tick Tock cycle of manufacturing efficiency.
Keeping the same design for two years allows Apple tremendous economies of scale, and instead of funding an entirely new phone every year, they can spend their resources on making the same phone better for the same price.
From what we are told
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. (True black, conversely, is the hardest, and takes the most time, which is likely why we currently have “slate” instead.)
Adding Gold as a color option fits well into Tim Cook’s efficiency minded product roadmap without incurring too many additional costs.
Of course the biggest reason to go Gold would be customer appeal.
Given how popular gold is as an aftermarket option for color-treatments, and how many gold cases there are - including but certainly not limited to the Asian markets - it could simply be the decision to offer supply where there’s demand.
Out of all the people I have asked Gold just seems “too gaudy, perhaps even tacky” to have much customer appeal, but maybe I am asking the wrong people. From my own experience Gold has never been a popular color choice for any Apple product, but then again there was Jaguar print and look how well that sold. I wonder how the aftermarket industry of gilding Apple products will hold up after an official gold iPhone is released?2 I guess we will just have to wait and see. If by this time next year there isn’t a Gold iPhone on Apple Store shelves, I told you so.