iPhone 5S (gold, two-up, left angled)

All the chatter over whether a gold (or champagne) iPhone would be a good move on Apple’s part has served to highlight a glaring gap in our global knowledge.

What started out last week as a report on the economic value of a golden iPhone, quickly morphed into suggestions that gold was a preferred color in China – even a ‘lucky’ color for consumers there. Now comes the coup de grâce of the color debate: a comparison of auto tints…

Fortune’s Philip Elmer-DeWitt took a look at a chart of auto colors and wrote earlier in the week that the favorite color of Chinese consumers (at least those buying autos) is silver, not gold.

Note that gold is the easiest color to anodize onto the iPhone’s shell. Others suggested a gold iPhone would help Apple retain interest in its handset, a factor that often declines between product introductions.


Forget looking at China’s auto tastes for hints.

After all, red is seen as good luck in China, not gold. Instead, look at the fashion industry, which is gaga over gold. Couple that with the fact HTC and other Asian smartphone brands already produce golden handsets, then top it all off with the reality that the iPhone is viewed more often as a fashion brand.

Besides China, a golden iPhone could sell well in other regions, particularly India. While China’s new rich are driving the demand for gold, in the world’s second most populace nation, gold for centuries has been seen as an item of good luck.

gold iphone 3

Indian weddings are drenched in gold, families eagerly going into debt to buy ropes of the material. As Reuters reports, a gold iPhone 5S could be a way for Apple to “upsell” iPhone 5C owners on a more expensive handset.

Although the iPhone 5S – believed to be the direct replacement for the iPhone 5 – is often mentioned as receiving the golden treatment, don’t expect the budget-minded iPhone 5C to go gold as well.

So, is gold lucky for Chinese consumers?

Not really.

But it could be a different story for Apple.