The rumored 'gold' iPhone, and a brief history of ugly Apple products

Bling bling? Please, no.

Gold iPhone accessory, 2011.
(Image credit: ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images)

The air is beginning to crisp, the sun is fading a little earlier, and summer is winding into autumn. Which, if you pay any attention to tech blogs, means the meat grinder responsible for your yearly dose of Apple rumors is beginning to sputter out all kinds of chunky morsels as the release of the next iPhone draws near.

The latest report suggests the iPhone 5S, or whatever it ends up being called, will be available in an additional color to supplement the existing black and white models. Yes, a glittering, gold iPhone is said to be on the way.

While the plastic, budget-friendly iPhone that is rumored to be debuting alongside its big sib is thought to be available in a wide array of iPod-esque colors, many expected the higher-end 5S to come only in the white or black brushed aluminum that Apple's team of ardent minimalists can't seem to get enough of.

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MG Siegler at TechCrunch reports that, according to his sources, the golden iPhone won't be quite the blinged-out spectacle you're probably envisioning. It will be subtle: Less gold, more champagne.

In other words, more like the old gold iPod mini. (Incidentally, this model of the iPod mini was the shortest-lived, presumably because it was less popular.) The gold tone also apparently shifts depending on how light is hitting it. [TechCrunch]

It wouldn't be a stretch to produce either. iMore's Ally Kazmucha, who is familiar with Apple's manufacturing process, makes the point that gold is actually a much easier color to anodize onto aluminum than either black or white.

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.) [iMore]

But gold is flashy and gaudy, the go-to shiny thing used to communicate luxury by ridiculous rappers, trophy spouses, and Christmas ornaments. Is that tacky image really what Apple wants to communicate to its fan base of taste-makers? Of course, there are a few ways its marketing team can spin it.

  • "The iPhone 5S is the best phone. Period. Why settle for silver or bronze?"
  • The company's next big marketing push is "Designed by Apple in California." As Sieglerpoints out, California is "the Golden State." (Yes, you can groan.)
  • Gold is an extremely popular color in India, says Siegler — a market where Apple is trying to gain a foothold.

It's all fairly predictable. And as Jay Yarow at Business Insider notes, for all of Apple's signature "focus," the company has been known to experiment with colorful embellishments once in a while. After all, "Steve Jobs gave these ugly iMacs the green light."

(Via Wikipedia)

It wasn't just iMacs, either. Remember the "original iPad" — the Newton MessagePad?

(Via Wikipedia)

Or the ergonomic monstrosity of the clamshell G3 iBook?

(Via Wikipedia)

Or 2004's atrocious "U2 Edition" iPod?

(Via Apple Insider)

Then again, maybe the gold iPhone won't go down in Apple lore as a rare design misstep, especially if it looks anything like this mockup. But then again, I'd be surprised if it provided the Midas touch Tim Cook and Co. are looking for.

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