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On the face of it, the latest iPhone rumor seems a tad boring: According to various reports, Apple will offer a golden color option for the next iPhone (dubbed the iPhone 5S, for now).
That may sound like a tacky choice for a company like Apple, which is known for its minimalist hardware designs, but it could make sense for one huge market: China. Gold is a popular color for electronics in China — especially among the country’s growing middle-class — and Golden Week, a huge national holiday, also begins on Oct. 1.
Indeed, if Apple were to release a gold iPhone in China, Golden Week would be the ideal time. Chinese workers get three days of paid leave during the holiday, and the weekends are usually rearranged so that people have a full seven days off to travel. Similar to “Black Friday” in the U.S., it’s also a time of increased electronics spending for consumers (though that trend may be slowing down). A golden iPhone 5S could be a hit during the holiday (along with the rumored cheaper, multicolor iPhone 5C model).
With Apple’s September 10 media event all but confirmed, we’ll likely see the iPhone 5S available in the U.S. within a few weeks (there was a nine-day gap between the announcement of the iPhone 5 and its release). But to make a splash for Golden Week, Apple would also need to have a significant amount of stock ready for early October, which is far less certain. Last year, Apple didn’t offer the iPhone 5 in China until the middle of December, several months after it was announced.
Even if the golden iPhone isn’t ready for Golden Week, it could serve as the centerpiece for an eventual partnership with China Mobile, which sports an older 3G network that current iPhones don’t support. China Mobile is the world’s largest mobile carrier, with more than 740 million subscribers, so there’s no doubt that Apple is eager to jump onto its network (as we’ve explained before, the companies simply need each other). A combination of newer 4G technology for China Mobile and more versatile networking chips in the iPhone 5S could finally bring the two companies together.
Less likely, but far more intriguing for Apple’s investors, would be a double-whammy announcement of the new golden iPhone 5S on China Mobile in time for Golden Week. But given how much work that coordinated announcement would entail, especially as Apple also needs to deal with launches in the U.S. and other regions, I wouldn’t bet on it.
Now that Apple’s growth in the U.S. and other Western countries is slowing, China remains the company’s best shot for growing its stock further. According to Brian White of Topeka Capital Market, success in China could lead to Apple’s stock crossing over $800 a share, well above its previous high of $702 last September.
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