Do you own a gold iPhone 5S?
No, of course not.
That's because there aren't any.
Let's qualify that: Gold iPhones exist. They are just very rare.
And you don't have one.
At Business Insider, we've got a new iPhone 5S and an iPhone 5C. But the 5S is black (sorry, "space gray"), not gold. And the 5C is blue, because it doesn't come in gold. Everyone wants to see the gold iPhone 5S but ... they don't seem to exist in real life.
There are good reasons to believe this is a deliberate marketing ploy by the geniuses at Apple.
The business press is abuzz with the gold iPhone "shortage." There has been talk of a "supply" problem.
This, of course, is nonsense. The gold iPhone is NOT made of real gold, it's made of anodized aluminum colored gold. The price of aluminum has actually declined during the year in which Apple began planning for its gold iPhone supply — so the idea that there might be a shortage of gold-hued aluminum is just silly.
Apple's marketing people are not dummies. They can estimate demand prior to a new product launch.
Pointedly, there is not a shortage of plastic iPhone 5C's. No one is complaining that they can't get the blue one.
The price of industrial plastic contracts has actually risen over the same time period (see chart at right). Contracts for polycarbonate, which the iPhone 5C is made of, are trading at no more than $7 per pound. Somehow Apple still managed to meet the demand.
And yet if you want a gold one, good luck. Consider:
- O2, the major European carrier, has zero gold iPhones.
- Verizon on Wall Street has zero gold iPhones.
- The entire continent of Australia has zero gold iPhones.
- Apple's flagship store in San Francisco had only 20 gold iPhones.
- There has been a vast under-estimation of Asian demand for gold iPhones, where the device is also sold out.
At this point, only the most hopeless Apple fanboy would argue that Apple's brand managers seriously believed that the sum total of demand for new gold iPhones among Wall Street, Australia and O2 subscribers would be zero phones.
So the alternative explanation is that Apple has screwed this up.
How likely is it that Apple simply made a mistake? This is Apple, the company that is routinely heralded as the premier marketer of the entire world. The same Apple that is the subject of 668 Harvard Business School case studies.
Sure. It's an embarrassing supply chain miscalculation. Whatever. (We emailed Apple for comment but did not hear back.)
In the meantime, the conspicuous absence of gold iPhones is creating more positive publicity than Apple could ever buy in advertising. Gold iPhones are already selling for $1,800 on eBay. The Atlantic has noted that gold iPhone ownership has already become — after only 24 hours on sale — about social "showmanship." (And Business Insider predicted last week that the gold iPhone would divide the world into the haves and have-nots.)
This is about "velvet rope" marketing. If you've ever been to a nightclub you'll know what this means: Nightclubs tend to be very similar. Even at the highest level, you're basically paying to enter a large, dark, crowded, noisy space with flashing lights and expensive drinks. It's often not that much fun. But if there's a long line outside — because it's difficult to get in — and a bouncer controlling access behind a velvet rope, then the club suddenly seems very enticing indeed.
That's what is going on with the gold iPhone. You can't have one. And that's why you want one. Here's the quote-of-the-day that proves the case, from ABC:
Anna Prymak, who was eighth in line at the Fifth Avenue Apple Store in Manhattan, also said she was there for the gold iPhone, which she had heard was going to run out first. "I want the gold one and everyone wants the gold one," she said.
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