Long-delayed white iPhone 4 breaks cover in NYC, slips back into night

I’m not exactly dying for a white iPhone myself, but the promised white version of the iPhone 4 has been delayed for so long—four months and counting—that like many others, I’m just plain curious at this point. We put a man on the moon, but Apple can’t crank out a white iPhone? What gives?

Well, some curious bloggers got a few hints at a recent New York tech event—and as an added bonus, a glimpse at what appears to be the mythical ice-white handset itself.

Pocket-lint’s Stuart Miles and Geek.com’s Sal Cangeloso say they managed to get up close and personal with a white iPhone 4 after spotting it in the hands of a unnamed “jacket-wearing” gentleman on his way to the same press briefing that they were headed to.

After snapping a series of “covert” pictures (you can check out a slideshow right here), the bloggers approached the man, who (according to Geek.com) wasn’t an Apple staffer but “was able to call in a favor from one.” (Something tells me Steve Jobs won’t be happy to hear about this.)

OK, so … what’s the deal, then? Picking up the story, Pocket-lint says the man claimed that Apple’s Cupertino campus is “swimming with white iPhones” but that Apple’s suppliers are struggling to “match the white used in the manufacturing of the parts.” One telltale sign, claimed the informant, is that the home button on the white iPhone 4 doesn’t match the color of the handset’s front glass panel.

Apple iPhone 4

If that detail sounds familiar, maybe you’re thinking of this Engadget post from July that claims (via a Chinese-language newspaper) that the company tasked with making the glass for the white iPhone was “still working out the perfect combination of paint thickness and opacity” to match Apple’s standard of “absolute whiteness.”

Apple, of course, has kept vague about the white iPhone’s troubles, saying in a July statement only that the delayed handset is proving “more challenging to manufacture than we originally expected” and “will not be available until later this year.” Well … it’s now mid-October, and the year as we know it is rapidly drawing to a close.

Not that Apple’s going to suffer that much if it misses its self-imposed deadline for the white iPhone 4. After all, Apple’s stock just hit $300 on Wednesday—a record—based on the “runaway success” of the iPad and the iPhone (as one analyst told CNNMoney.com). And no one expects Apple’s earnings to go anywhere but up during its quarterly results call this coming Monday.

Still, the tale of the missing white iPhone—if, indeed, we’re talking about problems about making the color of its various parts match—says something about Apple’s reputed obsession with perfection, for better or worse.

As described in Cult of Mac’s recent, must-read interview with ex-Apple CEO John Sculley, current chief exec Steve Jobs is “a person that believed in the precise detail of every step … he was methodical and careful about everything—a perfectionist to the end.”

Guess that extends to the color of the white iPhone’s home button, too.

What do you think of Apple’s penchant for perfection: Is it the secret of Apple’s (undeniable) success? Or would you accuse Cupertino of prioritizing style over substance?

— Ben Patterson is a technology writer for Yahoo! News.

Follow me on Twitter!

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