Forget Mobile Payments, Gold iPhones Are The New Global Currency

Gold Champagne iPhone 5S from TLDToday

The money side of Apple is nothing out of the ordinary for anyone who follows investor news and views. The idea, however, that Apple products — specifically the iPhone — may be considered a form of hard currency in themselves is something a little bit different.

That’s the premise of a recent post by Bloomberg News reporter Vernon Silver, however, who claims that in recent months he’s been using unlocked iPhones to pay his bills.

“It started by accident in December, during a business trip to New York. I live in Rome, where domestic work comes cheap and technology is expensive. An unlocked, gold, 32-gigabyte iPhone 5s that costs about $815 with tax in the U.S. goes for €839 (about $1,130) in Italy, roughly a month’s wages for workers who do laundry, pick up kids from school, or provide care for the elderly. When one worker heard I was visiting the States, she asked me to pick her up an iPhone in lieu of the equivalent cash for work she’d done.”

From there, Silver began using the internationally fluctuating value of the much-demanded iPhone to pay for services using hardware as currency. “I no longer thought of the phones … as appliances. They were more like gold bars,” he writes.

The idea that luxury goods may adopt the form of currency in a globalized world is nothing new. As Silver points out, a few years back it was French Louis Vuitton bags which were being sold in Asia for inflated prices — while the early 1990s saw a similar trend with Levi’s jeans transported by Americans in Easter Europe. But the fact that today’s most desired objects includes the iPhone (and specifically the gold iPhone 5s) speaks volumes about the regards with which Apple is held — regardless of what Wall Street might have to say about it.

Of course, it’s worth pointing out that, unlike cash, the peak value of iPhones only lasts until the product line receives an upgrade.

A recent infographic shows how much the value of iPhones vary around the world.

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About the author

Luke DormehlLuke Dormehl is a UK-based journalist and author, with a background working in documentary film for Channel 4 and the BBC. He is the author of The Formula: How Algorithms Solve All Our Problems, And Create More and The Apple Revolution, both published by Penguin/Random House. His tech writing has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, Techmeme, and other publications. He'd like you a lot if you followed him on Twitter.

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