The Unbearable Lightness of iPhone 4

The iPhone 4 was expected to be Apple’s big lynchpin of 2010, but it ended up having a few minor technical issues resulting in Steve Jobs going all Oprah on us and promising free bumpers.

Well, now they’ve hit another bump in the road. The white iPhone was scheduled to enter the market by the end of the month, but it’s being delayed because of light issues. The back light is escaping to the back of the phone, and this is causing some display issues.

Apple didn’t comment much on the matter, but did release this statement:

White models of Apple’s new 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. The availability of the more popular iPhone 4 black models is not affected.

Of course, that would be too simple an answer. A writer forBusiness Insider put forth a “conspiracy theory” (his words) that Apple wants to fix the iPhone 4’s infamous antenna problems before releasing the white ones. “Antennagate” led some tech analysts to suggest that Apple recall the phone, but why recall when you can give away little bumpers that are probably going to have a marginal effect on reception?

But I digress. So what else could explain the white iPhone delay? Tim Bajarin, President of Creative Strategies, suggested that there is a high demand for the white iPhone, and Apple doesn’t want to release them until they have enough in stock.

Now, in all fairness, the light issue is just a rumor, so it’s possible there are plenty of other technical issues keeping white iPhones off the shelves.

But since we’re already indulging in conspiracy theories, here’s a fun comment from the MacDailyNews blog.

Why does the WHITE iphone get to be late to market while the BLACK iphone gets all the flack about it’s antenna?? Racist Apple.

Hey, it makes as much sense as anything else out there. Or rather, as little sense.

Seriously, though, I’m not sure I buy the argument that this has anything to do with the antenna. If you study the timeline, it doesn’t make sense. The black iPhone 4 was released on June 24, and Apple announced on that very day that they had to delay the white iPhone release. This was weeks before anybody started saying anything about the antenna. How could they? It was less than 24 hours after its release.

We could pessimistically assume Apple realized there were antenna problems and decided to keep their mouths shut about it and focus on fixing the white ones in the meantime, and that scenario could be true, but it’s unlikely since they knew the iPhone was going to get tested by professionals.

Once the Consumer Reports review came out, tech bloggers everywhere started speculating on what Apple was going to do next. Steve Jobs had his press conference, and admitted there were antenna issues that needed to be dealt with.

(Apple’s actually taken steps to fight the negativity. Apple proudly displays on its website a test that they ran showing that the iPhone 4 antenna performed better than the Blackberry Bold 9700, the HTC Droid Eris, the Motorola Droid X, the Nokia N97 mini, the Samsung Omnia II, and the iPhone 3GS.)

But now that the antenna issues are common knowledge, it wouldn’t make sense for Apple to hide it as the reason for delaying the white iPhone 4 release. So unless their PR team consists solely of brain-dead chimpanzees, I think it’s safe to assume there’s some other problem Apple’s not telling us about.

For now, I’m sticking with the light.