Black magic

“You can have any colour you like, as long as it’s black.” Henry Ford would have been proud, except of course that’s not actually what Mr Jobs said – he promised black and white. Seems reasonable enough. Previous iPhone models had been available in both shades of mono, and lets not forget the “perfect harmony” that Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney sang about – wherever there’s ebony, ivory shouldn’t be too far away.

Not everything in life is black and white however, but when it comes to the iPhone 4, I think it most definitely is – we will never see a white iPhone 4. There you are, in black and white. Or perhaps not. Although there are no official explanations as far as I can tell for the latest delay until next Spring (!), previously Apple had stated that the white iPhone was being delayed as it was “more challenging to manufacture than we originally expected”. So what’s up?

What could possibly be so challenging for Apple, a company that can draw on the collective knowledge, experience and skill of the world’s best engineers, technicians and designers, that they can’t actually solve the problem and get the white iPhone to market? Could it be that there is a fundamental design problem with the iPhone 4? We already know that it’s “not perfect”, but putting to one side the whole antenna issue, could it be there was a(nother) major oversight during the product development phase, and are the design-conscious Apple guilty of putting form before function? I think the answer is clear. Literally.

The original iPhone had an aluminium back with subsequent models using plastics. The sleek new iPhone 4 design incorporates a glass back, and – clearly – that’s the problem. I’m no scientist, and I’m not a betting man, but I think it’s a fair assumption that the white glass back isn’t anywhere near as opaque as the black one, and as such, light leakage is wreaking havoc with the BSI-CMOS sensor, and compromising camera performance. If so, that would probably be quite challenging to rectify, given the reflective and refractive properties of glass and proximity of the LED flash to the lens. Ironic really considering that the much improved camera was a key feature for those upgrading to the new model, and that the black iPhone 4 is actually a pretty decent camera, for a phone.

Of course, I could be wrong, but I’m not the only one to have come to the same conclusion, so at least if I am wrong, I’m not alone. Also, I reserve the right to re-write this post in the interests of saving my embarrassment if the delays turn out to be nothing at all to do with light leakages from the glass back panel.

Meantime, I have disassembled my own iPhone 4, and am experimenting with the application of a coat or two of my own special formula Tartan iPaint to the glass back. So far, results seem to corroborate my theory – the coating is definitely having a negative impact on my photographs….

Getting serious for a moment, I’m very happy with my black iPhone 4, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Apple have decided to go back to the drawing board and rectify the embarrassing antenna issue as well as whatever really is up with the white paint. Time will tell whether or not we will ever see a white iPhone 4, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we see the next generation iPhone announced ahead of time, with a few improvements, tweaks and fixes thrown in for good measure.

Of course, you’ll be able to buy the iPhone 5 in any colour – as long as it’s black.


2 thoughts on “Black magic”

  1. Its interesting to recall that all ipods were only available in white for a long long time. Take that Henry! So what happened ?

    I think its a reflection of how close to the bleeding-edge Apple sails in product design. In my past experience of product design and manufacture of technology products, final verification of all functionality, fit and finish is complete well before announcement. In Apple it appears the design cycle can iterate frequently through a project’s lifecycle up to and perhaps beyond that critical final verification date. Its Apple’s strong design influence at work.

    This delivers stunning product quality, design etc, but also risks not walking the talk eg R/F grounding antennae reception issues, symptomatic ?

    Perhaps nobody went beyond the theory that white casing would have no influence on the phones (camera’s) functionality. The devils in the detail and i bet Apple has new checklist lines in its Design Verification Tests. Lessons will be learned – internally.

    I guess the iPad Rev2, will have been through the mill if its casing changes.

    1. Something, somewhere, went wrong with the Design Verification Testing (DVT) for sure. I remember reading a while back about a case that disguised the iPhone4, making it look like a 3GS (i.e. rounded, plastic back) for testing in public places. No wonder they didn’t pick up on the antenna problem. Maybe when it came to the camera, they just simply didn’t do the same testing on the white model, assuming it would perform the same as the black model. Part of me thinks this is exactly what happened, and the other part doesn’t want to believe that’s what happened.

      Hopefully lessons have been learned – I’d be very surprised if they haven’t pulled their socks up and sorted out their DVT problem 😉

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