Everyone Looks Fatter In White, Including The iPhone

Consumer Reports, not necessarily a fan of the iPhone 4, has reacted to news it’s slightly thicker than its sleeker-seeming black sibling. Spoiler: It’s really not.

white iphone fat


Consumer Reports, not necessarily a fan of the iPhone 4, has reacted to news it’s slightly thicker than its older black sibling. Spoiler: It’s really not.

The white iPhone 4 has been nearly a year brewing, thanks to difficulties in manufacturing the thing to quality without spoiling the performance of its proximity sensor and camera units. Still, it’s here now and Apple‘s even managed to spin it into a positive PR story. That positive spin took a tiny blow last week when some reports suggested that as part of the fixes to get the white unit ready, Apple had to ever-so-slightly beef up the thickness. It was only by a mere 0.2mm, but that may be enough to upset some cases and peripherals made to tight size tolerances.

Apple’s Phil Schiller was the first official from Apple on the scene with a response, and it was characteristically smooth and simple: “It is not thicker, don’t believe all the junk that you read.”

Skeptics point to seeming photographic evidence the white iPhone is fatter:

But now Consumer Reports has weighed in. It doesn’t like the iPhone 4, thanks to the antennagate fiasco (despite the fact the effect wasn’t actually as bad as anyone thought, and that every other type of phone CR approves of exhibits the same thing), but in this case it used highly precise digital calipers on shop-bought iPhone 4s and discovered they’re both exactly 0.37 inches deep, which is precisely what Apple said they would be. We’ll forgive CR for using the clunky inch as a measure here, because 0.2mm is 0.0079 inches–a couple more digits of precision than CR’s measurement in inches reports–because that should’ve been enough to trip the digital calipers to read “0.38” inches instead.


CR also tried “several cases” they’d bought for the black iPhone 4, and they all fit well–even one with hard plastic sides that would be less tolerant of a thicker device. CR promises to test the white version, concentrating on the camera.

Though we’re all used to our high-tech gizmos being finished to a degree of precision that a 1960s NASA engineer would be impressed by, that’s not necessarily always the case. Apple knows this and on its iPhone tech specs page notes “Actual size and weight vary by configuration and manufacturing process.” Everything being equal, the latest non-fiasco probably won’t impact the millions in extra sales the white iPhone is likely to push.

Chat about this news with Kit Eaton on Twitter and Fast Company too.

The Great White iPhone: How Apple Spun A Tech Fail Into A PR Win
Most Innovative Companies 2011: Apple

About the author

I'm covering the science/tech/generally-exciting-and-innovative beat for Fast Company. Follow me on Twitter, or Google+ and you'll hear tons of interesting stuff, I promise. I've also got a PhD, and worked in such roles as professional scientist and theater technician...thankfully avoiding jobs like bodyguard and chicken shed-cleaner (bonus points if you get that reference!)