Matt Smith's End of the Spectrum

Melbourne-based writer and journalist. Purveyor of finally crafted radio plays. A Muppet of a man.

Apple cancels a white Christmas

A version of this article appeared in the Green Guide in The Age on 11th November, 2010.

When the Model T Ford was unleashed upon America a hundred years ago, it surged in popularity. The public couldn’t get enough of these time saving wonders, but for a long time, it was only available in black. This was mostly due to production reasons – the black paint apparently dried faster and kept the production line moving. Henry Ford is quoted as saying “any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black.”

This must be how Steve Jobs is feeling.

It can’t be easy being Steve Jobs sometimes. In some ways he’s a victim of his own success – he’s built a cult company the likes of which Windows could never match despite having more users worldwide. Apple prides themselves on having standards that are high, and push the envelope when it comes to quality. So when he actually lets down the people who ‘love him’, it must get a little hard.

Now that he’s delayed the white iPhone 4 again, things aren’t looking good.

When iPhone 4 was released in June, Steve Jobs proudly stood on the stage, waited for the applause to die down, and told an adoring audience that there’d be two colours available: black and white. Black iPhones were available immediately, but unfortunately white iPhones would just be a little delayed.

After being delayed three times, they’ve now quietly vanished from the Apple store completely. There’s been no announcement, there hasn’t been a further delay. Unofficial sources from within Apple have mentioned a number of reasons for the continued delays – the famous antenna reception debacle, problems with plastic related to the white colour and light infiltration, and most recently, a marketing decision based on a predicted début on the Verizon network early next year.

The functioning presence of the white iPhone 4 has become Apple’s worst kept secret: Steve Jobs stood there on stage proudly brandishing one. We’ve occasionally seen it pop up like a yeti at an Apple event, held high taking photos in the hands of an Apple employee. On stage in his Melbourne show, I saw the great Stephen Fry coyly pull one out of his pocket, the only example of the model officially released outside of Apple HQ. We didn’t just imagine it.

The continued delays rather than an outright cancellation is a strange move –  iPhones have a shelf life of a year before they’re replaced by a younger, sexier model, and if the previous track record continues America will be seeing iPhone 5 released in June 2011, with Australia to follow in a matter of months. The iPhone 4 will quickly become old news, and at a rapidly discounted price – hardly a profitable move for Apple to take.
While everyone might be enamoured now with their shiny iPhone 4, it was this time last year when the iPhone 3GS was the best thing out there – and a year before that it was the clunky iPhone 3 that was wowing the world. These iPhone 3 models are still out there, hanging on by the skin of their two-year contracts with scratched faces and chipped exteriors. A fate that the white iPhone 4 will now never see.

The rumoured reason for continuously delaying the white iPhone are camera issues – apparently the white shell is letting too much light into the device and causing issues when a photo is taken (although that sounds rather strange, almost like a white iPhone has film inside). Another rumour has it that there’s a colour mismatch between the device’s glass and home button – so maybe it’s an endless delay for décor reasons.

Whatever the reason, if Apple comes out and ‘fesses up on the delays, it will be another strike against it in a rocky year. It’s accidentally left a prototype iPhone in the bar, had antenna issues, and now this. I’m not entirely surprised that they’re apparently trying to quietly sweep the white iPhone 4 under the carpet.

The delay of the white iPhone 4 could count against Apple at some point – in the US, 5.2 million black generic models have been activated in the last quarter alone – the market for a white variety is shrinking rapidly. Despite this, some dedicated Apple fans are continuing to wait. ‘It’s the desire to have something different and iconic,’ Sharon Rae, managing director of Fashion Forecast Services admits. ‘I myself parted with extra money for the white iPhone 3GS last year. It had no difference from the black model other than its colour.’

Apple has yet to announce a new release date for the white iPhone 4, but there is little doubt that those awaiting its release will be getting a white Christmas from Steve Jobs.

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This entry was posted on December 1, 2010 by in technology and tagged , , , , .
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