Commentary

White IPhone, Apple's Black Swan

Iphone

Apple's announcement Tuesday that the eagerly awaited white iPhone would be delayed again until spring means it could be trumped by that other mythic Apple device -- the Verizon iPhone -- expected to appear as early as January.

After the latest version of the iPhone 4 was released in June, the debut of the white edition was first pushed back to July, then to the end of 2010, and now to some time early next year.

Apple said in July that the white iPhone hardware had proved "more challenging to manufacture" than originally expected. But the company has never explained exactly why. Um, hasn't Apple already made millions of white MacBooks, iPods and earlier generation iPhones?

With Antennagate, some allowance might be made for the iPhone 4 being the first time Apple had tried incorporating an external antenna. But you'd think the process for mass-producing white hardware was pretty well set by now.

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Speculation about the problem ranges from difficulty creating the right shade of white for the iPhone 4's glass casing to an issue related to the smartphone's backlight. Naturally, it raises conspiratorial conjecture that this white-out could just be another clever marketing ploy by Apple to boost demand for the latest iPhone. Like the lost iPhone incident last spring, the lack of a white model generates free publicity in the form of headlines, rumors and steadily building anticipation.

Perhaps Apple has engineered the absence of a white iPhone 4 as its Black Swan Event, an unexpected occurrence that will rekindle interest and excitement around the white-colored products that have become so closely associated with the Apple brand over the years. The silhouettes in Apple's iconic iPod campaign launched in 2001 may have been black, but the device itself was white.

If nothing else, the widespread attention generated by the latest white iPhone delay -- covered across outlets from USAToday to Reuters to TMZ -- highlights Apple's preeminent place in consumer culture. How many other companies could cause national consternation over the color of one of its products? Especially in the midst of lingering economic woes, two wars and consequential mid-term election? Paid advertising for Apple at this point simply seems redundant.

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