How hard is it to measure an iPhone?

May 3, 2011, 11:03 AM UTC

With a pair of high-quality calipers, Consumer Reports resolves a silly dispute

A good carpenter knows to measure twice and cut once, which is why you probably shouldn’t ask your average Apple blogger to build anything out of wood.

Case in point: The story that hit the blogosphere like a bad Donald Trump soundbite last week when someone notified MacRumors that their new white iPhone 4 didn’t fit into their old black iPhone 4 case.

The MacRumors piece, accompanied by photographic evidence of uncertain provenance, was picked up by more than three dozen bloggers who each gave it their own special spin. (Sample headlines: OMG the white iPhone is 2 microns thicker, White iPhone 4: beautiful, but thicker, iPhone: “Does this white paint make me look fat?”).

The story one writer dubbed ThicknessGate took a twist — and got new legs — when someone asked Apple (AAPL) senior vice president Phil Schiller via Twitter if it was true. “It is not thicker, don’t believe all the junk that you read,” Schiller tweeted back, prompting another flurry of headlines. (Typical blogosfare: Phil Schiller says white iPhone is no thicker than the black one despite proof.)

Unbelivably, nobody at this point had thought to actually measure the two phones.

Consumer Reports
, a publication that knows a thing or two about measurement. Using a pair of high-quality calipers, its research staff compared the white and black iPhones and found that they were both precisely 0.37 inches thick, as advertised in Apple’s specs. They also tested three different cases and found they fit perfectly well.

There are too many ironies here to count, but one of them is that it was Consumer Reports that did more than any other publication to fan the fires of AntennaGate last summer by declining to recommend the original iPhone 4. Apple’s leadership was furious about that decision and CR‘s PR staff had to field some angry phone calls from the highest levels of the company’s executive team.

This time, the publication did Apple (and Phil Schiller) a solid, although it still maintains that nobody should use an iPhone 4 — whatever the color — without shielding its external antenna with a case.

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[Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter @philiped]