What's Behind the White iPhone 4 Release Date Delay?

Apple issued one of its typically short, enigmatic statements Friday, announcing that the release of a new white iPhone 4 is delayed until later this year. The news has no bearing on the current black model of the iPhone 4 which Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) continues to sell.

Apple statement said white models of iPhone 4 "have continued to be more challenging to manufacture than we originally expected, and as a result they will not be available until later this year."

This has been a known issue since before the launch. In the weeks prior to the iPhone's launch on June 24, it was reported that Apple would only launch with the black models because it was having undisclosed difficulty making the white one.

What the problem could be is not clear. Apple has been hit with a similar problem in the past. A few years back, it's white plastic MacBook was plagued with discoloration problems in the body. The low-end MacBook is the only model using a plastic body. The rest of the line is aluminum.

The problem likely involves the glass front and back of the phone, but that's not stopping some bloggers from smelling a conspiracy related to "antennagate," the design issue that results in the iPhone 4 dropping calls if the phone is held a certain way.

Apple's solution has been to give free rubber protectors to anyone who asks for one, but some sites are kicking around the notion that Apple is working on a fix for the antenna problem, which it will add to the new white iPhones. Another rumor, this one from The Street.com, says Apple has come up with a fix and it plans to roll into manufacturing shortly.

Van Baker of Gartner doesn't buy any of it. "I don’t think they would delay it for any reason other than they are having difficulties manufacturing this thing," Baker, a research director for consumer devices, told InternetNews.com.

"Every once in a while you hear they are creating scarcity to increase demand. Well that's a ludicrous position for any vendor to take. If you can make it and sell it, you make it and sell it. So I think it's genuinely a manufacturing problem," he added.

One reason why white is a problem is that with a black glass, imperfections are obfuscated, but with a white glass, problems might reveal themselves, Baker speculated. But it made no logical sense to hold back one color phone for a redesign.

"It could be that they are redesigning the phone, but that wouldn't cause them to hold back on just the white one. They'd hold back on everything or keep shipping everything until they get the design down and go from there. It doesn’t make sense to hold back one color while you're redesigning it. You're either selling the thing or you're not," he said.

Baker doesn't believe the antenna issue plays into the delay. "They seem to believe it's perfectly fine for most people and the evidence points to that being true," he added. .

Andy Patrizio is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.


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