Apple iPhone Exec Incompatible with Steve Jobs, Report Says

Apple iPhone executive Mark Papermaster's departure was initially assumed to be due to controversy over the iPhone 4's antenna rim design. But a Wall Street Journal article suggests Papermaster may have proven incompatible with Apple's corporate culture, and Apple CEO Steve Jobs.

Controversy over the iPhone 4-including issues involving its exterior antenna rim-led to the recent departure of Mark Papermaster, Apple's senior vice president for mobile devices. At least, that was the initial assumption by many media outlets. But a new report suggests Papermaster's tenure with Apple may have been more troubled.

The Wall Street Journal, quoting "several people familiar with Mr. Papermaster's situation," has ascribed the executive's leaving to a combination of "incompatibility" with the company's culture and issues with Apple CEO Steve Jobs. "Mr. Papermaster had lost the confidence of Mr. Jobs months ago and hasn't been part of the decision-making process for some time," the Aug. 8 article paraphrases those people as saying.

The departure seems especially ironic considering the battle Apple had to fight with IBM in order to recruit Papermaster in 2008. IBM argued that Papermaster's hire violated an existing noncompete agreement, setting off a corporate quarrel that lasted into 2009. Papermaster finally started at Apple in April of that year, making his term a mere 16 months.

An Aug. 7 article in The New York Times suggested that Papermaster was ousted after "a series of hardware problems, including some related to the iPod Touch." His interim replacement is Bob Mansfield, senior vice president of Macintosh Hardware Engineering. Mansfield reports directly to Apple Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook.

Customers and publications had complained that touching the iPhone 4's exterior antenna rim resulted in reduced reception, a phenomenon that eWEEK was able to reproduce in limited in-office tests. In response to the controversy, Apple eventually launched a free giveaway of bumpers that cover the antenna rim.

"If you purchase an iPhone 4 before Sept. 30, 2010, you are eligible to receive an iPhone 4 Bumper or select third-party case from Apple at no charge," reads a page on Apple's corporate Website. "For iPhone 4 purchases made before July 23, 2010, you must apply no later than Aug. 22, 2010; otherwise, you must apply within 30 days of your iPhone 4 purchase."

In order to apply, users need to download a special iPhone 4 Case Program application from the App Store, launch the application on the iPhone 4 and then select the bumper or case of choice.

Apple executives previously argued that the antenna-rim controversy was having no effect on sales of the iPhone 4.

"My phone is ringing off the hook [from] people [who] want more supply," Cook told analysts and media during a July 20 earnings call. "We're selling everything we can make." For the third fiscal quarter of 2010, Apple reported sales of 8.4 million iPhones, a year-over-year increase of 61 percent.

However, Apple's iPhone 4 issues have continued with its delayed white model, which won't be available until later in 2010. The company said July 23 the smartphone is "more challenging to manufacture than we originally expected."

Whether this particular manufacturing issue had anything to do with Papermaster's departure or not, Apple will likely remain tight-lipped about the ultimate causes.