Since I first set foot in Asia more than 25 years ago I've become highly aware of the many cultural superstitions – and perhaps the most pronounced of these revolve around colours. For example, in China and much of Asia, red represents good luck so the more red people have in their homes and businesses, the luckier they will be.
Another colour often present is gold – you'll see gold trimmings and gold-and-red striped wallpaper everywhere. I've visited during the Chinese New Year and observed parents giving their kids red envelopes with gold paper coins in them. In this tradition, the gold represents wealth and prosperity so naturally people want to be surrounded by it. And if you ever go shopping in Hong Kong, you'll see gold jewellery stores almost everywhere in the core shopping district of Chim Sha Chui.
Now Apple wants to capitalise on this custom. Some analysts expect the new brightly coloured iPhone 5Cs will thrive in emerging markets and especially in China, but I believe the gold iPhone 5S will become the biggest seller among China's growing upper-middle class. In fact, once it ships in China, I suspect it will become the most aspirational smartphone in the higher-end market.
There are many people in China who have money to spend and can't get it out of China. Currently, these people have been putting a lot of that money into real estate but demand for property in China is actually in decline; many anticipate China will have a real estate bust in the not-too-distant future. But give these spenders the opportunity to buy a gold phone and I believe they will jump at it. In China, you can't have enough gold in your life.
The 5C's bright colours are less focused on superstition and more geared towards young people. Even though its price is well over the typical level this younger audience spends on smartphones, these colours will be quite attractive to them. Not to mention the fact that local carriers have wiggle room on the actual selling price, depending on the longer-term value they get from these folks using their networks.
It is clear to me that Apple's gold phone was designed with a nod towards Asia and could actually help Apple regain some of its cachet lost to Samsung and others in this all-important emerging market. And although we did not hear any update at the event about a China Mobile deal, I believe something is still in the works and could be inked later this year. All this points to the fact that Apple covets the Chinese market and these aspirational and colourful phones are a strategic move in this growing market for smartphones.