Apple's white iPhone 4 features an altered camera aperture and proximity sensor, according to a preliminary teardown by a Japanese blog. If confirmed, that would support earlier rumors that issues with the camera and sensors were behind the device's repeated delays.
The Japanese blog Macotakara posted the images from their teardown, distributed widely in turn by Websites like Apple Insider. In those images, the white iPhone 4's camera aperture seems deeper-set within its frame than the one on the original iPhone launched last year. The proximity sensor has also been modified, although the Google translation of Macotakara made it unclear exactly how.
Japanese blogs aren't the only organizations examining the white iPhone in depth. Consumer Reports issued a brief research note May 2 suggesting that, contrary to reports over the weekend, the device's outer shell is the exact same depth as the original "black" iPhone 4.
"When we compared a white iPhone 4 with a black iPhone 4 in our Yonkers, N.Y., lab using high-quality calipers, we found they were both the same thickness (0.37 inches)," reads that report. "This supports Apple's asserting that the devices are the same size."
In what one online wit dubbed "Thicknessgate," the blog MacRumors posted images of the two iPhone 4 versions side-by-side, with the white one's outer casing slightly thicker. In the echo chamber of the blogosphere, that quickly led to rampant speculation that, in order to solve the rumored production issues, Apple had thickened the device's front and rear panels.
Some analysts feel the white iPhone 4 could give Apple a short-term sales boost.
"The purchase of consumer electronic devices is not always a completely rational decision, and people buy Apple products for many different reasons, including status, aesthetics, functionality, quality and -cool factor,'" Brian White, an analyst with Ticonderoga Securities, wrote in an April 27 research note. "In our view, this delay has created a certain mystique and scarcity value around the -white' iPhone 4 that we believe could drive incremental iPhone 4 purchases in the range of 1 million to 1.5 million units per quarter until the iPhone 5 potentially comes to market in September."
Apple released the white iPhone 4 April 28, following months of delays and speculation. It is available on both Verizon and AT&T in the United States.
In an April 27 chat with AllThingsD, Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide product marketing, suggested that building the white iPhone 4 had been "challenging" in terms of the "material science of it-how it holds up over time ... but also in how it works with the sensors."
Apple has never confirmed a specific reason behind the white iPhone 4 delays. In October, a "source with connections at Apple" told the blog Cult of Mac that ambient light leaked into the iPhone 4's case, affecting its ability to take "accurate pictures." Other reports suggested that Apple's manufacturing partners were having difficulties whitening the glass to the desired thickness and opacity. The iPhone 4 sandwiches its exterior antenna rim between two panes of chemically strengthened alumino-silicate glass.