One reason supplies of Apple’s gold iPhone 5S are backed up is because the company has under-supplied the Asian desire for objects that are gold. While almost all countries and cultures prize gold over other metals and colours, or at least attach special significance to it, gold in Asia is perhaps even more fetishized than in the West.
At New York’s 5th Avenue store, we’re told that the crowd in line for the new phone over-indexes with shoppers of Asian heritage.
Here’s how that is affecting the supply of gold iPhones. According to the Wall Street Journal, only the black iPhone 5S was available in China this morning:
Lian Jiyu, a 25-year-old at the Apple store in Beijing, said he wanted the 5S over the 5C because the 5S is the first phone to be offered in gold. “I don’t care what’s inside the device,” said Mr. Lian, who works at a local TV station. “Chinese people like gold.”
It’s the same story in Hong Kong:
In Hong Kong, it’s all about the Gold iPhone 5S.
… “Some people seem to like the colours of the 5C, but not me,” said 28-year-old Chris Wong who works in marketing. “I think the metal casing looks much better.”
The gold iPhone 5S immediately went out of stock in Asia after less than a day on sale. In the U.S., it won’t be available until October due to a backlog in web orders. MacRumors reports:
In Australia and China, online Apple Store shipping times for the iPhone 5s rapidly slipped to 7 — 10 days for all colours and capacities, with immediate unavailability of the 64GB gold version. Apple’s Hong Kong and Singapore online stores have even longer waiting times, displaying an October shipping estimate for all iPhone 5s models.
It’s not clear whether this is a screwup on Apple’s part — because it’s not that hard to estimate relative consumer demand for different models — or whether it’s part of a wider marketing plan. After all, what better way to create a worldwide frenzy for the gold iPhone than by immediately announcing that no one — except for a very tiny number — can have one? (We noted earlier that from this day forth there will be two classes of iPhone users — the gold people and the plastic people.)
Several earlier reports also suggested that the iPhone 5S will be hard to come by in general, as Apple may be focusing on the lower-cost iPhone 5C, which could be in higher demand and easier to produce in large numbers right now.