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Is There Gold in Them Thar Cupertino Hills?

By Richard Adhikari MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Aug 21, 2013 5:00 AM PT

"They just gotta have that gold," warbled Jose Feliciano in the theme song to the 1969 movie Mckenna's Gold, but those very same lyrics might well be the theme for recent media coverage of the forthcoming line of iPhones Apple is expected to launch Sept. 10.

Is There Gold in Them Thar Cupertino Hills?

Speculation is rife that Apple will include a gold-colored iPhone, or at least one with champagne-colored trim, among its new lineup.

A gold-colored iPhone may boost sales, especially in China and India, where gold is highly prized, some have suggested.

"Adding a color to the iconic iPhone design is big news for a company that, up until this point, has released only one device per year and, up until this point, in only two colors," Carl Howe, a director of research at the Yankee Group, told MacNewsWorld.

Of course, there could also be another reason for the media frenzy, Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, suggested: "Perhaps people have nothing to do during the ramp-up to the iPhone," he said.

Apple did not respond to our request to comment for this story.

The Love of Gold

Rumors about a gold-colored iPhone have been making the rounds for quite some time already. One of the earliest sources, if not the first, was Japanese blog Moumantai, which in April posted photographs of what could be a black SIM card tray and another that could possibly be called gold but looked more like beige.

In May, Boy Genius Report posted an exclusive that included shots of the same two trays, among other things.

Earlier this month, Luna Commerce posted photographs purported to be of buttons for the iPhone 5S. These were described as being champagne-colored, but they look more like a denatured beige.

Then, on Friday, iMore stated that a gold-colored iPhone 5S is on the way, and -- after yet more alarums and excursions -- AllThingsD on Monday cited "sources in a position to know" as confirmation that Apple would offer a gold-tone iPhone.

Forget the possibility of an iPhone in denatured beige: If Apple does offer a gold-colored iPhone, it "will not be gaudy and cheap-looking," Enderle told MacNewsWorld. Apple "has a reputation for turning out good-looking products."

What Is Truth?

To date, all we really have is rumors -- the iMore site ran a photo of what it clearly stated was a quick and dirty mock-up, and it carried a speculative story on the possibility of a gold iPhone being launched.

Proponents of the "gold iPhone theory" buttress their arguments with the speculation that Apple might be targeting China and India, where gold remains in strong demand and where the company has lost considerable ground.

Apple's Q3 unaudited figures show revenues from Greater China fell 43 percent sequentially and 14 percent year over year; revenues from the rest of the Asia Pacific excluding Japan fell 35 percent sequentially and 18 percent year over year.

However, that might be wishful thinking -- the economies of both countries are in less-than-ideal shape.

Consider the Possibilities

There might be a more practical reason for Apple to consider including a gold-colored iPhone in its lineup, the Yankee Group's Howe suggested.

Namely, "a gold finish is one of the only colorings you can apply to aluminum that is both permanent and actually strengthens the aluminum itself," Howe explained. "It also protects the aluminum from oxidation and corrosion."

Compared with the line's existing colors of black and white, aluminum-encased iPhones would involve more difficult processes and be less likely to be permanent, Howe continued.

"I think Apple is going gold to produce the best possible metal surface," he concluded -- "not because they think it has special appeal in China."

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