The gold iPhone 5S

Gold iPhone 5s quick and dirty mock up - NOT A REAL PRODUCT SHOT YO

There are a bunch of rumors and speculation making the rounds about Apple adding gold to the color options for the upcoming iPhone 5s. I've heard the same thing, but probably from different sources. I joked about it yesterday, saying we might soon have Threepio Gold to add to the existing Vader Black and Storm Trooper White lineup. But beyond rumors, speculation, and jokes - and even a gold iPhone 5s poll we ran - I find myself thinking about the idea a lot today.

For years, when it came to the high end, Apple has been a black and white company, and sometimes even black and white/aluminium was one too many options for them. Sure, the iMac under Steve Jobs had some positively psychedelic color variants, and less expensive products like iPods have been chromatic for generations, recently including the iPod touch. But a gold iPhone?

According to our own Ally Kazmucha, who's no stranger to the process, gold is among the easiest colors to anodize onto an iPhone. It involves simple chemical reaction, with the possible addition of dye depending on the exact color they want to produce. (True black, conversely, is the hardest, and takes the most time, which is likely why we currently have "slate" instead.)

So, technologically, it wouldn't be hard for Apple to make a gold iPhone. But commercially, what would be the motivation?

Given how popular gold is as an aftermarket option for color-treatments, and how many gold cases there are - including but certainly not limited to the Asian markets - it could simply be the decision to offer supply where there's demand.

It could also be the iPhone 5s problem, where Apple is facing another year where their current cycle means internal rather than external changes, in a world where competitive pressures have never been higher. Given the ignorant boring comments Apple had to endure after introducing the completely re-built iPhone 5 last year, gold would give the market the superficial appearance of change they seem to crave.

In that light, introducing a third color option, one that's incredibly easy to produce, to outwardly jazz up what's otherwise amazing but completely under-the-hood improvements at least makes a certain amount of strategic sense. But a gold iPhone?

Suggesting Steve Jobs, under whose watch the Blue Dalmatian and Flower Power iMacs were unleashed, would never have allowed for a gold iPhone is clearly ridiculous, as tying it to any stream of illogic that links it to Apple is doomed journalism.

However you analyze it, if Apple is indeed preparing to release a gold iPhone 5s, it would be a change in strategy and it would be different than what they've done before. Then again, so would be releasing a less-expensive iPhone 5c.

I wasn't sure what I'd think of the iPhone 4, nor the composite black/slate and white/silver iPhone 5 when they first leaked. I'm not sure what I'd think of the gold iPhone now. But I do think I'm beginning to understand why it might exist, and why there's smoke enough to fire up all these rumors.

Update 1: There's an image circulating that's getting covered as a gold iPhone casing leak. It looks wrong, and according to our own Ally Kazmucha, who again knows her iPhone anodizing inside and out, it doesn't come across as a legit Apple part. Could be a test of some sort at best, a fake or knock off at worst.

Update 2: Image updated to be less intense, which is more accurate.

Update 3: Here's an iPhone 5 re-anodized in gold (after-market) for comparison's sake.

Update 4: MG Siegler of TechCrunch, Mark Gurman of 9to5Mac, and John Paczowski of AllThingsD have also now reported that Apple will be releasing a gold iPhone 5s. Ben Bajarin of Tech.pinions has also been looking more into the Chinese market and concept of phones as jewelry.

iPhone 5 with after-market gold anodizing

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, Vector, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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The gold iPhone 5S

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It could easily be a candidate for a special China iPhone.

Gold is an extremely popular color in China and it doesn't have the same vulgar and ostentatious connotation it has in the West. I think this would go down very well there.

Agreed. China and some other cultures (like Persians) like gold and might treat this as a premium product. Maybe it will only be sold in certain markets (not even in the U.S.)

I like the mockup above. It's very AnoStyle-like and not gaudy like I had imagined a gold colored iPhone looking. AnoStyle & Apple need to contract together to give us the color options right out of the gate. That would be cool!

AnoStyle is that great. They don't even do the glass and thats what apple will have to do with the gold iPhone if they want it to be successful.

Maybe it's not just limited to gold? I would love to be able to pick a color for my iPhone 5S. It sure would make my wife a lot more excited about a new iPhone too.

Metallic color-ways for the flagship product, Candy Crush color-ways for the plastic product.

I would like to see a copper 5S as well. That would round out the metallics...

Or one could go "Olympic" and offer gold, silver, and bronze iphones for the 5s (along with black of course), and the colors of the Olympic rings for the 5c . . . I dunno, somehow seems a bit cheesy to me, but others may love it.

I think it will be more of a champaign color that you see in some car models, I never much liked the chrome back to the old iPods (I remember looking at them then looking at the perfect aluminum of the mac books and thought the latter was the better choice) and it really can't be any worse then that. The white one looks very platinum to me so in that way as well it wont look too off from what they've done before.

I agree with Digitalrex that it's more likely to be a champagne than a true gold. Actually, my hunch is that, given Jony Ive's fixation with authenticity in design, this color won't be the result of anodization but will actually represent a different casing material, specifically a magnesium alloy. Magnesium is even lighter than aluminum and tends to take on this sort of tan/gold patina. The weight savings from Mg would be pretty small in a phone, but would be noticeable in bigger devices like iPads and MacBooks.

I don't foresee that Apple is going to release anything revolutionary with the next phone. If they don't, I think many current power users will move to something like the Galaxy S4. Bottom line, Apple needs to WOW us. iOS7 doesn't do it and neither does a fingerprint reader. I do think they may counteract any loss of power users by perhaps inserting a lower end phone which would get more of the low hanging fruit that is now on some of the more mundane models of Android.

Good riddance to them. We need less wow in our lives and more products that are designed well, well made and reliable.

I agree with you. All this make a next 'wow' device that translated to consumer and media speak means gimmicky is not the kind of Apple I want. Really how vital is a feature that when I turn my head the video stops playing? How about a battery that lasts a full work day. That would make me truly happy. Now that takes some work and innovation. The last thing Apple needs IMO is buckling to all this 'doom' crap. If there were going to introduce something that might please a lot of trolls would be a bigger screen on the iPhone. I am chomping at the bit to finally get my hands on the 5. I am on the S cycle. Four inches does look better than 3.5".
If gold is a gimmick then we don't need it. Unless you find some plastic see through case won't it get covered up anyhow?

It also looks like urine more than gold. If you're gonna go gold don't be a wuss, commit. I don't want gold but if you gonna get flashy commit.

color as a new feature is a sure sign that innovation has run dry, and yes, that mockup makes the iPhone looks like it was soaked in urine.

That said, I certainly haven't heard of a big demand of people wanting different color iPhones (probably since most of them get slapped into a case)

You're a moron.
You obviously don't no a thing about marketing to a target audience.
Every teen girl and mom will want to upgrade to a color phone.

orly? So you're of the belief color phones are top sellers? You are probably the dummy who thought the Lumia phone would sell well and the same for the MotoX. How about the iPod Touch? Color certainly helped boost sales there didn't it? Oh wait.

I bet that the Lumia would have sold a lot less if it was only available in Black and White. Even so many carriers only had limited colors, a problem Apple will face less because their stores can stock the whole range.

The Moto X isn't even for sale yet, a little early to make any judgment if the colors help or not.

As for the iPod Touch if you don't understand why it's sales would decline anyway, colors or not, well... you're the dummy.

yeah, and I was the one who bought Apple and held and made money.
I only buy Apple products wouldn't even consider anything else.

Probably you didn't mean to but that's a pretty trashy sexist thing to say. How about just saying that lots of *people* will want a coloured phone instead of just making it a girlie thing. If you think for even a nanosecond before commenting, you'd realise this is true and that Apple wouldn't be so stupid as to make a phone that only appeals to one half of the population. It would be business suicide.

Personally, my only problem with the coloured iPhone 5c is the colours they have chosen. First of all there is no black or grey, (my faves other than white), secondly, there is no option for simple secondary colours like orange and purple. There is a green, but it's neither standard green, nor electric green, but something in between. There are also no neons at all like neon pink and no blue-greens which are some of the most popular colours on the planet.

I think if Apple is going to do a cheap coloured iPhone they should let you get it in any colour you want, just like the cases that people buy, that they now won't need anymore.

I think Jonathan Ive is going crazy. Iphone gold will be for gypsies. The most terrible and stupid color and totally anti high tech is gold color.

I think it's quite obvious what's going on here. Apple is going to announce a partnership with Nintendo. This is just the Legend of Zelda special edition iPhone.

All I say, and I've said it before, a (PRODUCT) RED iPhone would be a welcome addition to the line up. Think of how much would go to the Globl Fund for the fight against AIDS from the revenue it would haul in.

If it looks like that (as shown in the photo), then no thanks, I'd never buy it. Too "loud" and ostentatious for me. Rappers and some billionaires in Dubai might dig it. But if it's more of a subtle, lighter, champagne gold, like some of the old Marantz or Sony ES-series high-end stereo components, I think it would look nice and classy.

I would Totally Rock a Gold iPhone5S in my house I'm not going outside in less Apple care is going to cover lost are Stolen.

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Gold and white like that is not too bad. I sure wish Apple would just let users customize their phones like AnoStyle. Some of their combos looked amazing.

A gold iPhone might matter to those who want to make a fashion statement, but it doesn't matter if Apple makes one or not. If so, then great. If not, doesn't Ally do that for a fee? So either way, if you want a gold iPhone 5S, you can get one. But in the grand scheme of things, would the appearance of a Gold iPhone 5S sell more iPhones or would people just see it as a pointless gimmick and be unimpressed?

Apple has a massive pile of cash outside the US and is under a lot of pressure to do something with it. Could they convert it to bullion overseas, import it as truly gold parts of products, and then avoid paying taxes on the cash they're effectively repatriating to the US? That would require them to strip the gold off or something after it was imported. But what a trick.

I stand by my previous assertions that we're all getting worked up for nothing. I believe these colored cases, even the mid-tier '5C,' are entirely bogus. Something smells of 'too convenient' in these leaks. No one correctly predicted the iPhone 5's redesign last year. They may have guessed a feature or two, but thats it. Apple cant switch up release cycles? Fourth-generation iPad, anyone? If I'm wrong come fall, I'll admit it gladly; if I'm right, I might gloat a bit, especially considering how many bloggers have presented these rumors as inevitabilities. Regarding this gold monstrosity, did it occur to anyone that anodized color is already available as an aftermarket service, and someone just had an iPhone 5 case done and took a few pictures of it? Of course not. That would be deceitful, and people just aren't deceitful, right?

I guess we shall see. I'm also not bothering to speculate on moves Apple hasn't actually made yet, so I guess we both have our own approach to wasting time. Also, simply dismissing my thoughts as dreaming or denial rather than retorting with reasons I might be wrong is rather lazy, don't you think?

Yeah, sorry for the quick and empty retort.

It just seems crazy at this point to say that all the leaks we've seen so far are fake though. It would have to be a conspiracy of pretty large proportions for the 5c to not be real. And we are so close to release ... where are the leaks of what they *are* doing?

That's just it - I don't think anyone really has insight, and the forgers are having a field day, knowing full well the tech world will jump on (and subsequently write about) anything without reasonable skepticism. This gold phone is, as I see it, nothing more than a 5 with a gold anodised treatment, something anyone can pay to do for a fee, but here goes the techies trying to figure out 'what it all means.' The 5C is also an easy fake, should someone bother to try hard enough. Critical thinking has been absolutely supplanted with wild, baseless speculation, and that's just kind of sad.

I'm going to go back to "your in denial." Nothing is proven but there are likelyhoods and things that are not likely at all.

Alright, then. By your assessment, I'm in denial. Since that's a rather personal judgement, I'm sure you won't mind when I reply in kind when all of these rumours are shown to be dead wrong in the coming months.

Ally's mockup looks more like the parts leaks we've seen of "gold" sim trays and the like and is much more attractive than any aftermarket gold phones we've seen or the pictures that were circulating yesterday. I'm glad that if Apple is doing a gold phone that it will be more tasteful than other gold products we've seen.

Personally, I think it's hard to argue against the "gold==tacky" thing, but Apple has done tacky things before as Rene points out in the article. Leopard print is the epitome of tacky-ness and Steve Jobs loved it.

I suppose a lot of "gangsta" types will love this phone. I'm sure "RiRi" will buy one and post a selfie of her giving everyone the middle finger on it. :-)

I'd love to see Ally do a mockup of a copper coloured phone with black glass. IMO that would be classier than the gold.

I think this gold iPhone stuff is more rumor BS. Hope I don't get proven wrong. They do bring out this product then I can hear the media now Apple is heading 'out to pasture.' Really innovate with the next gen iPhone but gold naahhh.

Everyone is forgetting the most important part of this issue. Think about all the Georgia Tech fans that would love to have a White and Gold iPhone. They probably wouldn't be able to keep them in stock. Go Jackets!

It has been said before. China (as well as many other cultures.) China is a huge and possibly most important overseas market with the most upside right now and iPhone is not leading right now. Chinese love them some gold! Anecdotal, but Chinese and Persians apparently identify gold with wealth and prosperity and not at all goutiness. If there is to be a "cheap" iPhone 5C for the less wealthy (or "lower to and middle class",) they need to make the iPhone 5S a "premium" (since it'll be a premium price.) It's the gold Mercedes (if you will.) The black and white can serve as this, yes, but gold may be more successful as the premium product in some areas. Most recently spending time with some Persians over the weekend, I noticed that just about anything they can get in gold or gold finish (like sunglasses, hardware on handbags, etc.) they prefer.
So it's a cultural thing. Where as Americans (and I assume Canadians) might see it as gauti, other cultures do not.

I would venture to guess that if Gold is in fact a reality, it will not even be sold in the US.

Why are all the mockup pictures 2-tone, white and champagne? I think Apple needs to make the glass the same subtle champagne color as the anodized metal in order for it to look as classy and elegant as the existing iPhones. A 2-tone colored iPhone wouldn't fit into Apple's new flatter leaner design elements and would degrade the high-end perception that Apple devices have.

PALEEZE! I need anyone who thinks that gold would only do well in "certain markets" to log into Instagram and search #selfie. After you check the number of uploads under that tag I want you to come back to this article and realize that we are talking about a GOLDEN IPHONE! It's going to sell [out] everywhere IF it comes out bottom line. There are too many vain men and women in every culture in every country here in the 21st century. If a gold iPhone comes out this year I'm buying it ASAP! And I don't even take #selfies. Although I do have one for my twitter account... Sorry. #hypocrite

i love iphone 5s it is amazing!!! it seems so cool is especially the home button, and ios 7 is the best ever it loads in less than 2 seconds! i want one pls i have always wanted one i beg u !!!!!!!!!!! i will be so happy if i get 1 and that will be the best gift ever!!!! plus apple has got the best products you can ever have and imore is amazing with everything! and imore and apple will always be the best i have ever seen!!!!!!!

Well I have the Gold iPhone 5S & it looks absolutely fantastic. I also have have the new white iPad Air with its crome highly polished edge it looks fat!!!! :-D I'm just angry that Apple hasn't done a gold iPad Air & no touch ID but, the 5s is still fantastic & Apple have had a lot of I'm Improvements over the iPhone 5.