Apple seems to have deleted the white iPhone 4 from its online store.
While images of the pale smartphone haunt the rest of the company's Website-for example, "white" is still listed as a color option on the iPhone's Technical Specifications page-visitors no longer have the option to pre-order the device, or even stare glumly at a "Not yet available" tag. Instead, Apple offers only the iPhone 3GS and original iPhone 4, in 16GB and 32GB editions.
Apple has repeatedly pushed back the release date for the white iPhone 4, most recently to spring 2011. "We're sorry to disappoint customers waiting for the white iPhone again," Apple spokesperson Trudy Muller told Reuters Oct. 26, but explanations for the delay remained unforthcoming. The company has previously alluded to manufacturing challenges with the device, while offering few other details.
According to Inside Steve's Brain, by Leander Kahney, Apple has occasionally wrestled with manufacturing issues related to its products' aesthetics. For example, color issues also affected production of the first iMac.
"To make the iMac classy instead of chintzy, the team decided to make the computer's shell transparent," Kahney wrote in the book, which describes how Apple CEO Steve Jobs engineered the company's comeback in the late 1990s. "But, initially, they encountered problems with spotting and streaking-the clear plastic cases weren't coming off the production line uniformly clear."
To fix the issue, an Apple team visited a candy factory, "where they learned about [the] mass-production tinting process" that makes sweets a uniform color. That helped inspire a solution for the iMacs.
Kahney's book also described Apple production techniques that occasionally involve a higher degree of technical difficulty. The "twin-shot," for example, bonds two plastics in a mold to create an iPod front that "appears to be made from two different materials-but there are no visible seams connecting them."
Apple's issues with the white iPhone 4, however, remain secretive. Last summer, tech blog Engadget quoted from a story in the 21st Century Business Herald, which claimed "the factory's still working out the perfect combination of paint thickness and opacity" for the white iPhone 4 covers.
This week, the blog Cult of Mac offered another explanation, courtesy of "a source with connections at Apple." According to that unnamed source, ambient light leaks into the white iPhone 4 case, hampering the device's ability to take "accurate pictures." The blog's Oct. 27 posting detailed Apple's last-minute discovery of the issue and its attempts to isolate the camera sensor.
The iPhone 4's body incorporates two panes of chemically-strengthened aluminosilicate glass, rimmed by a stainless-steel band. Some pundits have suggested that Apple's difficulties come with trying to color that glass white.
Coloring issues aside, Apple continues to sell the original iPhone 4 in massive quantities. The company shipped some 14.1 million iPhones in its most recent quarter, a year-over-year increase of 91 percent. But will the white iPhone 4 eventually make a mass-market appearance, or will it remain a ghost?