Gold Rush

06 October, 2013 07:41AM · 7 minute read

On the 10th of September, 2013 Apple announced a new iPhone 5s that came in the colour Gold (amongst other things). It had been rumoured for months prior as is normally the case for mass-produced Apple products these days with the supply chain leaking like a sieve. When the White iPhone was originally announced as an option with the iPhone 4, it was delayed for close to a year and then when it was finally available, I knew my next iPhone would be a White, 64Gb 4S1 as I said goodbye to my treasured 3GS. That’s not what happened. When the iPhone 4S was released there was a shortage of White iPhones (at least where I lived) and buckling under the tech-geek-lust after waiting several weeks I purchased a Black 64Gb iPhone 4S instead. Since then nearly every day I looked at my Black iPhone and inwardly sighed wishing it were White instead. The phone was excellent in every measurable way, just the colour I looked at every day wasn’t as I had originally pictured.

Seeing the photos and video of the Gold 5S I knew that I wanted that colour and I needed 64Gb to store my music and videos/photos. Unlike two years before however, I was going to go to more extremes to get what I wanted. For the first time in my life, I lined up at an Apple Store for a product launch. It was 5:30am and the line at Chermside Westfield was already over 100 people long. There was the farce of people holding spots for others and angry abuse being hurled at the queue jumpers but as the shopping centre doors opened at 6am and as we started moving inside out of the brisk morning air we quickly learned that those waiting for Gold were already out of luck. In what has become standard practice now, Apple has an inventory of phones in stock and has an equal number of small cards representing each model is has in stock. They walk the line from start to end handing out cards such that if you have a card you have that model reserved. Unfortunately they only had 6 Gold iPhones in their entire stock for opening day.

Undeterred I pulled out of the line (along with more than a dozen others) and headed for the other resellers: Telstra, Vodafone and JB HiFi (a Telstra dealer). None of them had any Gold in stock. The opening day gold rush was over and I had nothing to show for it. I called the Apple Stores in both Chermside, Carindale and Robina as well as Vodafone stores for days following and always received the same answer: No Gold. In my frustration I decided to give up trying to intercept a Gold iPhone in store and pre-order online through my desired Telco: the wait was 2 weeks and I could handle that. By Saturday the 28th of September, there was no 5s stock at all; anywhere in any colour and the delay on the Telcos website has extended through 4 to 6-8 weeks. There was no way I was going to wait 2 months, so my plan shifted back to Apple Stores.

A glimmer of hope on Tuesday the 1st of October as the Telstra shop in Chermside had a single Gold 5S, alas it was 16Gb. Too small. I began to see the patterns of delivery: Apple Stores receive a single shipment daily of all products and it usually arrived between 12pm and 2pm each day, though never on Sundays and rarely on Mondays. Knowing this I targetted my attendance in store and camped out between these times in extended lunch breaks on subsequent days. I was able to do my job whilst using the Apple Store WiFi and made business calls. Alas, no stock came in. On the second day I did this I was told by the Manager (the staff now knew me by name) that there would be none in today’s shipment.

Unable to work from the stores (it was now Wednesday) I reported to a customer location for some software reviews and was within 12 minutes drive of the Carindale store. At this point I changed tactics by necessity to calling the store every 30 minutes between 12pm and 2pm until the daily shipment came in. Wednesday was a miss, but Thursday I stuck Gold. At 1:45pm I quickly ducked out of work to grab a phone before they were all sold. However it was not going to be easy.

I arrived in the Carindale store at 2pm and after a quick conversation with the staff was brought the exact model I wanted. I actually examined it closely for almost 30 seconds, making 100% certain there had been no mix up. ‘Yes, it’s real…’ the Apple Store employee helpfully pointed out. Clutching the phone closely we proceeded to sit down at the two Macbook Pros set up with (ick) Windows XP and Internet Explorer such that I could sign up with TBA2 and so began two hours of torture. The employee was not an expert but was helped by the expert on several occasions, however try as they might the system refused to let me sign up on the plan I wanted. During this time I witnessed other customers come and go purchasing two Gold 5S’ at a time while I was sitting there, frustrated. My 4S rang: my mother in law had injured herself in an accident at home and my wife wanted me to leave immediately to assist with wrangling the children. I promised her I would leave as soon as I could and after the call was over I asked the staff how many Golds were left: None. I was holding the last one. The first stock of Gold iPhone 5S’ since launch day almost 2 weeks ago was sold in less than an hour: except for mine. I clutched it tighter. After wrangling with TBA for a bit longer over the phone I gave up and signed up with a different carrier. I was out the door shortly afterward and off to help my family. So much for going back to work that day. I worked some additional hours that night to make up some time and cancelled my online pre-order with TBA but smiled every time I glanced over at my golden iPhone. It truly was beautiful to me; and worth it.

Now the gold rush is over3 I’ve had a chance to reflect on the events and the things that drove me to this end. There is a parallel I’ve considered to this situation, also relating to colour: that of the new cars. Four months ago I purchased a new car4 and I wanted a red one. The opportunity arose to get the exact model I wanted without waiting 6 weeks for delivery but it was Black, it was floor stock and they would cut the price by $1k. I bought it. The iPhones total cost was 1/16th the cost of the car and yet I held out and went to almost stupid lengths to get the colour that I wanted as soon as I could. The difference is how often I see it. I don’t really see the colour of my car when I’ve driving it, and once I’m at my destination I leave the car in the garage/car park/parking lot while I do what I want to do. I added up the approximate amount of time I spend looking at my phone relative to how often I look at my car on a given day and it’s staggering: 25 times as much.

I use my iPhone for making phone calls, taking photos and video of my children, reading the newspaper, blogging, chatting with family and friends on iMessage, Twitter and Facebook and listening to podcasts and music and playing the occasional game. My phone has become a more pivotal part of my life than any other gadget I own5 and I will be looking at it day in day out for the next two years. For such a device, colour matters.

  1. Not the iPhone 4 since it was already 10½ months old when the White model became available ↩︎

  2. For good reasons the Telco in question must withheld until mid-next week. ↩︎

  3. for me it is, but many others are still waiting patiently for theirs to arrive ↩︎

  4. my first new car purchase in over a decade and my first ever in my home country ↩︎

  5. I use my laptop for slightly more hours on weekdays however I do much less personal and less diverse things with it and can’t take it everywhere with me ↩︎