iPhone 5s

Can't get hold of a gold iPhone 5s in the UK? We explain why it's so hard to get hold of the iPhone 5s, and offer tips on how to find and buy the iPhone 5s in the UK, including a new stock checker website. Read on if you are looking to buy a golden iPhone 5s. Updated, 16th October 2013.

Spoiler alert: if you’re looking for the silver bullet to get the gold iPhone 5S, you may still be out of luck. The coveted latest-and-greatest from Apple remains scarce on British shores. However, the website Stock iPhone 5S is keeping track of who’s selling the phones and just how long you’ll have to wait, so you may be able to.

(Bear in mind that there are other ways of keeping track of iPhone 5 stock levels, though, some of which are detailed below.)

The site does just as it says: real-time tracking of iPhone 5S availability from three online vendors, down to the phone storage size and, arguably most importantly, the colour.

For those feeling like the children clamouring to get into Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory for an unlocked iPhone straight from Apple, get ready to wait it out another two to three weeks, regardless of the desired colour, according to the Stock iPhone site.

iPhone 5s stocker checker website

Those willing to buy into a locked iPhone and contract don’t have as long to wait - in some cases. O2 shows a one- to two-week wait for the 16 and 32GB gold iPhone 5S, with double that for the 64GB model. 3 appears to have an across-the-board delay of 15 days for all 5S gold models, as well as for both the white and black 16GB models.

As of the afternoon of 15th October, O2 was the only vendor on the Stock iPhone site with any 5S models in stock: if you’re looking for the white 32 or 64GB white, you’re in luck. To everyone else, you’re better off signing up for Stock iPhone 5S’s email alerts, which are sent the moment your desired model is available.

iPhone 5s tariffs and pricing: Best Apple's iPhone 5s contract

Why is there an iPhone 5s shortage?

It's not unusual for a new Apple iPhone to be in short supply. Apple is the master of building anticipation prior to the announcement of its products. And the very nature of smartphone ownership combined with the cyclical calendar of iPhone announcements means that lots of existing iPhone owners wait for the new model before they upgrade. So demand is super high, and Apple's strict maufacturing standards mean it uses only a limited number of suppliers.

It's also entirely possible that Apple deliberately throttles the supply chain to increase demand. If you are reading this the chances are you are trying and failing to buy an iPhone 5s. Let's put that in context: you want to spend money on an expensive consumer item, you have the money, and yet you cannot make the transaction because there aren't enough to go around.

That is an extraordinary situation, and one that is almost entirely in Apple's favour. A sense of exclusivity and rarity means you are much more likely to buy a more expensive model if that is all that is on offer, for example. That means more profit for Apple. There's also no expensive stock lying in stores - one of the reasons Tim Cook got the top job at Apple was because Steve Jobs loved the way he ground down the supply chain to just two days from manufacturer to customer. This saves Apple money: nothing is wasted.

More important are the promotional and psycological aspects. Rarity implies value. It creates a story, and a desire. The rarest of them all is a golden iPhone, for goodness sake: Apple is one step away from offering a tour of a chocolate factory with every handset. And the longer you can't get one and you talk about it, the more you are promoting Apple's product. See also: iPhone 5S vs iPhone 5C comparison review: what's the difference between the new iPhones?

How to get iPhone 5s in the UK: the bad news

There are no shortcuts. There's no secret stash of golden iPhone 5ses that you can find if only you know the password. I've looked around every possible outlet and they are all saying 'October' or '28 October' as an estimated delivery date. Given that we are in October, this is less than helpful.

But the supply lines will run through soon. You will be able to get an iPhone 5s within the next few weeks, and we have 5 tips for getting hold of an iPhone 5s quickly. For more advice see our piece: iPhone 5s: availability, UK pricing.

How to get iPhone 5s in the UK: 5 top tips

1. iPhone 5s: Apple doesn't fall far from the tree

iPhone 5s Unless someone who owns an iPhone 5s is prepared to sell one for you (in which case see point four), the fastest way of sourcing an iPhone 5s of any colour will be through the Apple Store. Apple will always favour its own storem and understandably so. Why give away profit to a third-party.

So regularly check the Apple.com/uk website, but also regularly call up Apple Stores in your locale. If a batch of phones comes in you don't want to miss out.

Of course, Apple will sell you an iPhone only unlocked and SIM free. And that is almost always the cheapest way of buying a phone, albeit a way that requires you to stump up cash up front. To get an iPhone 5s on contract you need to go via a telco. In which case...

2. iPhone 5s: Check 'estimated delivery date' - is it true?

When you make a purchase your chosen vendor will give you an estimated delivery date. EE, for instance, currently says 28 October. Here's the thing: there's a very good chance that the vendor doesn't actually know the delivery date. At best it will be operating on promises from Apple, at worst it's a fingers-crossed guess.

Before making a purchase find out how much redress you have if the order doesn't appear anything like on time. Ideally you should speak to an actual human to get a feel for what evidence backs up the proposed date. And in a perfect world you should get a promise in writing.

Remember that you should be able to cancel an order if it doesn't turn up on time, just as you can if you are unhappy after receiving it. But make sure that is agreed before spending money.

The reason I mentioned EE is because that to me looks like a sensible claim - it *is* likely to be able to send you an iPhone 5s in three weeks. But I would take with a pinch of salt any claim by one vendor that it can get you the handset sooner...

3. iPhone 5s: Don't be pressured into an upgrade or contract you don't want

...especially if that is the lever to get you to pay more. When Apple does get stock, I bet you it will make sure that it has the 64GB £750 model in stock. The more expensive the product the more profit is made by manufacturer and vendor.

So they will always be keen for you to spend more. If you have been waiting for a product for a long time you may be tempted to go for the one that is in stock, even if it is not the one you really want. Or worse: you may commit to a contract because the telco can get you a phone cheaper than can Apple.

Stop. Think. Don't do it. You will get your phone sooner rather than later. Don't regret spending too much.

4. iPhone 5s: Don't pay more for second hand

The other route via which you could source an iPhone 5s right now is on eBay or another auction site. There's nothing wrong with this approach, albeit you have to be careful to ensure you are buying exactly what you think you are buying. But don't pay more to get a phone today rather than in three weeks. You will regret it in time.

5. iPhone 5s: Go for gold

Finally, the same point applies if you are really set on owning a gold iPhone. It may well take longer, but you will get your gold iPhone 5s if you wait for just a few weeks. So just because your local store starts stocking the other colours, don't compromise if you really want that golden ticket. See also: iPhone 5c review: Benchmarks, battery life, photo comparisons with iPhone 5.