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iPad Air 2 goes for the gold

Following in the footsteps of the iPhone, the new iPad Air will be available in a golden edition.


iPad Air 2 buyers will be able to purchase the tablet in gold.

At its iPad launch event today, Apple revealed that the latest edition of its iPad Air will be available in three colors -- space gray, silver, and now gold. The original iPad Air had been available in just space gray and silver. But gold has been one of the choices for the iPhone 5S, iPhone 6, and iPhone 6 Plus.

Specifically, consumers will be able to choose an iPad Air 2 that has a gold or silver back with a white front faceplate or a version that has a space gray back with a black faceplate.

The new iPad Air will sell at $499 for the 16GB version, $599 for the 64GB version, and $699 for the 128GB version.

Why go gold? Apple may just want the same color choices available for both the iPhone and iPad. And it may be hoping a golden iPad will help pump up sales of the tablet.

The iPad remains both popular and profitable. As Apple's second largest moneymaker behind the iPhone, it contributes around 15 to 20 percent of the company's revenue. But the device isn't selling as well as it did when it was an exciting new product with little competition.

Android tablets have carved out a larger chunk of the market over the past couple of years. And tablets in general aren't the hot sellers they once were as more people increasingly opt for big-screen smartphones and phablets.

Further, tablets are unlike smartphones in one key way. Many smartphone users upgrade their devices every two years as per their carrier's standard contract. But tablets, at least the Wi-Fi only variety, require no contract. Therefore, consumers may feel less need to buy the latest model. People also are hanging onto their tablets longer. Some pass along their old tablets to family or friends. Whatever the scenario, it means fewer sales for tablet vendors such as Apple.

The iPad is also more of an evolutionary device. Apple tweaks each year's model with a beefier processor, some useful enhancements, and one or two cool new features. But at its core, the iPad has remained more or less the same since the original model debuted in 2010.

Around 14 percent of iPads still in use in the US are the original model, according to a report from Kantar Worldpanel. Around 32 percent are iPad 2 units. And only around 9 percent of iPads in the US are the iPad Air that launched last year.

In an October 1 story, Bloomberg said that Apple would add a gold color option to the iPad Air "in an effort to boost a category that's posted declining shipments this year."

Will a golden iPad be able to attract more buyers? Possibly.

When iPhone 5S sales initially kicked off in September 2013, buyers quickly scooped up the gold version, leading to heavier supply than demand. However, the gold color was rumored to be in short supply before the launch. Apple reportedly had to ask its manufacturers to boost production of components for the gold 5S.

And what of the gold iPhone 6? In a research note from September 22 of this year, Cantor Fitzgerald analysts Brian White and Isabel Zhu said that the 16GB gold iPhone 6 had sold out the quickest in the US, according to financial news site ValueWalk. The analysts also noted that the gold iPhone 5S was popular in China last year, and that popularity may have expanded to the US with the gold iPhone 6 this year.

The question now is: will the lure of the golden iPhone spread to the golden iPad?