The dumbest column I ever wrote was the one that suggested that if Apple wanted to sell a lot of iPhones in China it should stick with silver.
This was just about a year ago. Rumors were flying that Apple was about to launch a champagne-gold iPhone because gold was such a prestigious color in China. I went looking for market research on national color preferences, and the closest thing I could find was a Dupont chart that showed that the best-selling automobile color in China was silver, not gold.
Cars, it turns out, are not the same as phones.
The gold iPhone 5S was a huge hit in China. It sold out immediately in Hong Kong and the mainland. Customers in New York City buying for export lined up around the block. Gold iPhones were soon commanding mark-ups of several hundred dollar apiece in China’s grey markets.
Apple, it seems, knew what it was doing. In December it finally cut a distribution deal with China Mobile, the world’s largest carrier. In February, China Mobile announced that iPhones accounted for more than half of the phones on its brand new 4G network. By last week, that network had grown to more than 14 million subscribers.
“Whoever proposed the champagne gold model can’t be rewarded enough for the cascading benefits Apple has enjoyed from it,” writes an American ex-pat who posts here as Jake_in_Seoul.
Jake, as regulars here know, is a keen observer of the Asian smartphone market. In January we re-posted a letter he wrote from China that adds some color (pardon the pun) to the Chinese iPhone story: