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The white iPhone: Does size matter?

Of course, after the rumors, everyone wants to know if the long-awaited white iPhone 4 really is thicker. That's why CNET took the handset to experts to find out.

We couldn't see any difference between the two iPhones in this photo. James Martin/CNET

Few companies other than Apple can inspire such burning questions in the tech world. And until they're answered, those questions orbit around the blogosphere at tremendous speed. When will Verizon get the iPhone? How much will the next MacBook weigh? Will the iPad ever get Flash?

In the last few weeks, however, one question has put the tech press on the the edge of its collective seat like never before. It wasn't about the capacity of the next iPod, but rather whether the long-elusive white iPhone 4 was thicker than its black counterpart. Apple fans demanded to know the truth in forums, and ugly rumors spread that your existing case or bumper wouldn't quite fit. The reported difference was miniscule ("roughly 0.2mm" as TiPb put it) and other outlets said that there was no difference at all. Yet, the chatter was loud enough for Apple SVP of Product Marketing Phil Schiller to tweet, "It's not thicker. Don't believe all the junk that you read."

That could have put the issue to rest, but we just had to see for ourselves whether the rumors were true. When we took it from the box we couldn't see any design differences outside of the white skin and the more visible proximity sensor above the speaker (on the black phone the sensor blends in with the bezel). We also tried a couple of cases and they fit without any problem, but even then we weren't satisfied. So we took two iPhone 4s and traveled a few blocks from CNET's offices to put the question in the hands of experts. TechShop is a membership-based workshop that has just about every tool and machine you can imagine, from laser cutters to a drill press. Our needs were basic--just digital calipers, a micrometer, and one of TechShop's "Dream Coaches" to run the test.

After a few minutes of waiting with bated breath, we found that the white iPhone is indeed thicker, but only by the tiniest amount. According to the micrometer, for example, the comparison was between 9.4mm and 9.308mm. No, it won't make any difference in usability--and your case or bumper will still fit--but our white iPhone was a bit fatter around the waist. Watch the video below for the full details.

Now there are a few things to keep in mind. Tools can vary in accuracy and the differences could be due to imperfections in the skin or even dust or a bit of grease caught between the tool and the phone. What's more, it's very possible for a manufacturing assembly line to turn out two models of the same product with slightly different measurements. You may get different results measuring your white iPhone and you may find no difference at all.

But whatever the reason, we're already told you that the 0.092 gap will make no difference in your everyday use. And that's the most important fact to remember. So if you're freaking out (and really, why would you?), there's no reason to do so. Rather, we suspect that most iPhone users couldn't care less. And in all seriousness, there's no reason that you should.

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