Apple, the golden iPhone, and the supply chain

Apple, the golden iPhone, and the supply chain

Summary: Rumor has it that Apple has a gold-colored, blinged-up iPhone in the pipeline. But there's a lot more to manufacturing a golden iPhone than painting – or anodizing – the thing gold.

TOPICS: Apple, iPhone
gold_iphone copy
A gold-colored iPhone is easier to Photoshop than it will be to manufacture.

There's always a bit of a silly season vibe in the air in the weeks leading up to an anticipated Apple unveiling, and since the Cupertino electronics giant is expected to unveil a new iPhone on September 10, the rumor mill has been kicked into high gear.

One of the craziest bits of tittle-tattle to emerge is that Apple is planning to release a gold – or champagne – colored iPhone. Now, while the idea of a blinged-up iPhone doesn't float my twig, I can see how such a device might have appeal in some territories. For example, the Chinese are loving gold at the moment.

But there's a lot more to manufacturing a golden iPhone than painting – or anodizing – the thing gold.

Firstly, how much of the iPhone will be customized? Remember how much trouble Apple had with the white iPhone? Just getting the glass elements right was a big enough job, and if the golden iPhone involves anodizing the stainless steel bezel, then this would add geometrically to the complexity.

Vanity or limited edition colors will also put more pressure on Apple to deliver flawless products. You probably remember the screams following the release of the iPhone 5 when some people received their handsets pre-scratched.

Apple's main job with the iPhone in the weeks following its release will be keeping the thing in stock. Even the tiniest crimp in the supply chain will have a detrimental knock-on effect on Apple's bottom line come the end of the quarter, and this is a quarter that analysts and pundits alike will be watching closely.

Anything that delays iPhones rolling off the production line and into the hands of customers is a bad thing, and if Apple is indeed to release the new iPhone in a gold version – of for that matter any color – then it needs to make sure that people aren't left waiting for specific colors to come into stock.

Even if any color other than than the normal black or white is listed as 'limited,' this could still end up with people holding onto their money until the color they want becomes available.

This too wouldn't be good for Apple come the first full quarter following the release of the new iPhone.

Apple does offer the iPod touch, iPod shuffle, and iPod nano in a range of colors, but there are two key differences between the iPod and the iPhone:

  • The iPod is a mature product, and sales are only a few million per quarter.
  • The iPod is nowhere near as important to Apple's bottom line as the iPhone is.

While I certainly wouldn't want one, if Apple does indeed offer a golden iPhone, it will be interesting to see how it plays out.

So, who wants a blinged-up iPhone?

Topics: Apple, iPhone

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  • You should read up first

    According to Rene Ritchie's sources at iMore its easier to make a champagne colored phone than the slate black they have now. Also the 5 phone band isn't steel it's aluminum.
    • Anodizing

      Gold anodize is common on aluminum, especially in automotive applications. "Brass" faceplates and household hardware is also just anodized aluminum or steel. Yes, gold is much easier than black, but gold, blue, and black are all common.
  • It can't be all that hard

    the iTouch 5G comes in five colours, and it has anodized aluminium framing as well.
  • AKH - does this constitue as tech journalism?

    Have we come to reporting advancement of tech by the colour of the case.

    I almost thought I was skimming thru the rag magazine headlines at the checkout counters??
  • It might be possible

    For example, if Apple designed a process that makes golden Liquidmetal.
    • It may be a 'fact' that Apple invented Gold

  • Mater of taste

    I am sure Ms Hilton would love one as she has mega bucks and no taste. Others of us are into total cost of ownership and functionality. The 5s or 6 will have to give me a lot of added functionality before I give up my 4s just like a still drive my 86 Mercedes.
  • Availability

    Availability may only be an issue if Apple decides to introduce the colour & champagne iPhones in the US/European states. he "gold" iPhone, if it sees the light of day may appeal to those in the Near & Far East, so production/supplies will only apply to those markets.
  • Also Coming: The Two-Tone Version ...

    ... with a vinyl top and wood-grain finish.

    Did somebody say "white sidewalls"?
  • Sleek and attractive

    I have seen the iphone 4 and ipod in 24kt go9ld...they actually look very nice and fashionable. Ofcourse, if you just a tech fundi, it won't appeal much to you. These guys do it in SA for the past 2 years...Apple should just outsource this...

    Check it out here

    They look great, they even do Gold with Swarowski elements...
    • @Ash321

      They can do a maximum of a few thousands? Apple might need millions of phones, if they are to release another color model.

      Besides, iPhone is already insanely costly. This will add more cost. Certainly, I won't be interested in a $1000 iPhone.
      • "Already insanely costly"

        I generally just don't get this - it will be $200 with a 2 year plan, just like before, just like any other top-rung smartphone.

        Are you outside the States?
  • Moto X, anyone?

    It is interesting to see Apple struggling in offering an additional color whereas Google(originally a "software" company) can offer its flagship smartphone in a variety of colors and even with customization! This shows the importance of having total control over your manufacturing and supply chain relationships.
    • no thanks

      are you referring to google's flagship smartphone which doesn't offer custom engraving due to quality control issues?
  • I see

    Well based on how badly Apple has been doing any kind of releases and the issues with their products over the past years.. lets see how it launches