For some reason, Apple can’t seem to keep the gold iPhone 5S on shelves.
As the first of the aluminium-and-glass smartphones out of Cupertino to deviate from the binary black/white options that have been available since the iPhone 4, the new gold option has gotten people really excited.
Business Insider’s Megan Rose Dickey got hold of one a few weeks back and couldn’t get over how beautiful it is.
Apple’s television ad for the gold iPhone made it look sexy and luxurious.
Yet Apple, a company famous for its industry-leading supply chain, hasn’t been able to keep up with demand.
We’ve heard reports of the gold iPhone instantly selling out in China and Hong Kong. Others have pointed out that major carriers in Europe (and the entire continent of Australia) went through a period of literally having zero units of the gold model.
There are a few possible explanations for this.
It could be that Apple has been overwhelmed by the sheer demand for gold objects in status-obsessed Asia. It could be that Apple is artificially boosting demand with “velvet rope” marketing.
Either way, the shortage has led to reports that the gold iPhone 5S has sold the least units of the three available colour options.
Today I visited the Apple Store here in Berkeley, where a manager told me that they received two gold iPhones when it launched and still sold out on the same day that they receive any more.
Now, Apple Stores deal with an insane amount of customers every day. In fact, they average well over 200,000 customers per store per quarter. If the gold iPhone is in such low supply that most customers who show up wanting it are turned away, that could quickly add up to millions of potential customers becoming unhappy in a very short amount of time.
Not exactly the best practice for a company that charges a premium for quality products and top-notch customer service — or Apple’s style. That’s why I don’t think Apple is artificially raising demand or sending all of its supply of the gold iPhone to Asia. I think that it *is* a supply issue, and it’s awfully similar to a situation Apple has previously faced when introducing a new colour iPhone.
Remember the launch of the original white iPhone?
It was supposed to ship at the same time as the black iPhone 4, back in June 2010. But as CNN’s Mark Millan reported in April of 2011, manufacturing the white iPhone at scale caused a number of unforeseen issues for the company — among other things, the design team’s favourite white paint interfered with the phone’s proximity sensor.
The white iPhone ended up being delayed for 10 months, and Steve Jobs even made a self-deprecating jab about making sure that there would be a white iPad 2 from day one at its announcement.
I’m guessing that Apple is facing some kind of trouble ramping up the process for integrating gold-hued anodized aluminium into its manufacturing supply chain. While they’ve gotten better at handling such things — as Dan Frommer notes, Apple has gone from being a company that can sell 9 million phones in a quarter to a company that can sell 9 million in a weekend in a mere three years — they’re still only able to get thin shipments out to stores, if any.
Rather than repeat the white iPhone debacle and face another faux-crisis (I bet the tech press would call it “Goldgate,” since everything Apple does wrong is a buzzword-gate worthy mistake at this point), Apple is making the smart choice of getting something to market.