What the White iPhone 4 Says About the iPhone 5S

I knew Easter was late for a reason this year: The Great White iPhone 4 is finally here. Nearly a year after the launch of the original iPhone 4, plagued by delay after delay, tomorrow you can buy the phone that seemed like it might never exist.

Apple doesn't say a whole lot about why it took ten months to make the white iPhone available—though Steve Jobs and Phil Schiller tell Ina Fried, "It's not as simple as making something white. There's a lot more that goes into both the material science of it–how it holds up over time… but also in how it all works with the sensors." But the white iPhone 4 release this month still carries a fairly big statement with it: It seems less likely than ever that there'll be a brand new iPhone in June, as there has been every year for the past few years. Why introduce a new phone around the world, only to replace it in 6-8 weeks?

Apple appears fickle, at times, but it isn't. And despite the staggering miscalculation that led to a nearly year-long delay to produce the white iPhone in sufficient quantities to move hundreds of thousands, if not millions of units, Apple exercises remarkable precision when it comes to the planning and execution of supply chains and product launches. Whatever led to the delay of the white iPhone 4 was a mistake (or series of them). Launching it now isn't.

The white iPhone, glowing and precious, makes it more clear than ever that a brand new iPhone probably won't launch for at least a few more months. September, when Apple's traditionally refreshed iPods seems reasonable, giving the white iPhone at least five months on the market-plenty of time from Apple's perspective. The iPhone 4 picks up a reasonable life extension to boot, seeming fresher past the old customary expiration date, already boosted in part by the mid-cycle launch of the Verizon iPhone 4. (Nintendo long ago perfecting the practice of boosting sales and extending product lifespans through fresh color options.)

So! If you're going to buy a white iPhone 4, do so sooner, rather than later. And feel good about the fact you're buying year-old technology because it's more fashionable now. Just know it's probably not terribly long for this world. Which is kind of appropriate, really.

P.S. Functionally, we don't have the same concerns for the white iPhone as we do for the white iPad, because it doesn't have the same potential to be distracting, since it's less immersive—so no worries there.