Apple to finally deliver white iPhone 4 Thursday

'Expect Apple fever in China,' says analyst, who predicts up to 1.5M white iPhones sold this quarter

White iPhone
The white iPhone 4 goes on sale Thursday.

Apple will start selling the long-delayed white iPhone 4 on Thursday, the company said today.

The new iPhone 4 will be available in the U.S. and 27 other countries, including Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan and the U.K., at prices of $199 for the 16GB model and $299 for the 32GB smartphone with a two-year service contract.

"The white iPhone 4 has finally arrived and it's beautiful," said Philip Schiller, Apple's head of marketing, in a statement today. "We appreciate everyone who has waited patiently while we've worked to get every detail right."

Apple originally announced the first-ever white iPhone last June, when it launched the iPhone 4. Within days, however, it acknowledged "challenging" manufacturing issues and said it would be delayed until late July. It later revised that to the end of 2010.

Since then, the white iPhone has become an almost mythical device, with its imminent release repeatedly foretold.

The immediate availability of the white iPhone in multiple markets, especially Greater China -- which Apple defines as the People's Republic of China, Hong Kong and Taiwan -- will give Apple a bump in sales, according to one analyst.

"Expect Apple fever in China," said Brian White, an analyst with Ticonderoga Securities, in a research note to clients today. "We believe the 'white' iPhone will prove very popular in Asian geographies, especially China and Japan."

In an interview earlier this week, White argued that the new model would provide "a bit of a tailwind" for sales in the second quarter, particularly in China, where he said "white anything is popular" among consumers.

Today, White estimated that the white iPhone 4 will boost sales of Apple's smartphone by 1 to 1.5 million units per quarter, at least until the next-generation iPhone appears.

Most experts, White included, now believe that Apple will depart from its usual iPhone refresh window of June-July, and debut a new model in September instead.

"This will give some people the excuse to buy an iPhone ahead of the iPhone 5," said White on Monday. "Buying consumer electronics devices is not always a completely rational decision. People buy Apple products for many different reasons, including status, aesthetics, functionality, quality and the 'cool factor.' The delay of the white iPhone has created a certain mystique and scarcity value around it."

Apple will sell the white iPhone at its retail stores, some authorized resellers, and through its online store beginning Thursday. AT&T and Verizon outlets will also start selling the smartphone tomorrow.

Although the current iPhone 4 ships to customers within 24 hours of ordering online, it's unknown whether the white model will be immediately or quickly backordered.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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