When Apple unveiled the new gold iPhone 5s earlier this month, late-night comedian Conan O'Brien quickly mocked the device's bling factor in a hilarious video.
But on Friday, as the new iPhones went on sale around the world, demand for the gold model was serious.
Most of the shoppers waiting in line outside Apple's flagship store in Palo Alto, California said they wanted the gold 5s, but were told by Apple employees early in the morning that this version had sold out.
"A bunch of people got here at 8 a.m. and Apple said no more gold phones," said Victor Szczerba, co-founder of start-up Yeti Data. "About a third of the people just walked away. There was a high abandonment rate."
A lack of supply of the high-end iPhone 5s models may crimp first-weekend sales for Apple at a time when Wall Street is questioning the company's strategy amid rising competition in the smartphone market.
Szczerba and his Yeti colleague Kevin Cox ended up getting the "space gray" iPhone 5s, because Apple had run out of both the gold and silver models by the time they got in line at 7:50 a.m. PT.
Ashish Gupta, an executive at Applauze, a ticketing and events app that competes with eBay's Stubhub, has been to every iPhone launch and on Friday morning he surveyed people waiting line outside the Palo Alto store.
Apple gives out cards to each shopper in line showing what iPhone model they are waiting for - to make sure people don't wait for ages and then get inside to find the model they want has sold out.
Gupta counted the cards at the front of the line and found that the iPhone 5s gold model was the most popular. But Apple handed out no more than 50 cards for this model. After that, there were no more available to sell, he noted.
The popularity of the gold iPhone suggests that consumers are yearning for a new form factor, Gupta said. The gold color makes it clear that the owner has the new iPhone, whereas other models may look too similar to the old iPhone 5.
"The techies know the new 5s is amazing. But for the masses there needs to be something more obvious," he added.
Indeed, a group of five San Jose State University students waiting in line at the Palo Alto store said they all wanted the gold 5s, but had to get the gray model instead.
"Gold is more unique - not a lot of people have an iPhone like this," said Brian, one of the students. He declined to give his full name.