"Beautiful Woman"

The spring
her step
turned to

-- A.R. Ammons

In December, Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) promised that the white iPhone 4 would finally roll out sometime this spring. It would have been a genius move in preparation for the expected summertime release of the iPhone 5 as Apple milked a few more dollars out of the truly faithful before coming around with another till just a couple of months later.

Well, spring has sprung and the white iPhone 4, like the unicorn and the free lunch, is still nowhere to be found. In fact, recent changes to Apple's online storefronts suggest that the model may have fallen off Apple's release schedule altogether.

According to numerous sources such as TechCrunch and SlashGear, signs of the white iPhone have all but disappeared from Apple properties. Images are gone, the old unit ID no longer corresponds to an entry in the product database, and the item looks dead.

That would give Motorola Mobility (NYSE: MMI), Samsung, and HTC a larger window of opportunity to push their next-generation smartphones with Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) Android or Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) Windows Phone 7 software on wait-weary white iPhone fans.

Then again, Steve Jobs usually means what he says and it would be very uncharacteristic for Apple to make promises it couldn't cash in. Updated website graphics happen all the time, and those old images of white iPhone 4 props were overdue for a refresh. Another update with images of the real deal, next to black brethren from both AT&T (NYSE: T) and Verizon (NYSE: VZ), wouldn't be difficult or overly onerous to pull off when the time comes. The current graphics are a truer reflection of present-day reality, after all.

As for the mystical, disappearing SKU numbers, it's probably fair to assume that a properly fixed-up version would have enough minor differences inside to qualify for a new database entry. Perhaps the white one exists somewhere in that store already, but it'd take a Phineas-and-Ferb team of reality-bending adventurers to find it before the actual release.

I think that's what's happening here, and that Apple still intends to release the white iPhone 4 well before the iPhone 5 sees the light of day. The iPhone 4 line might have to hold Apple fans over until the fall, after all, so why not fill out the product catalog?

You can also fill out your Foolish watchlist with lots of smartphone intelligence: click to add Apple, Google, and Motorola Mobility -- or all of them at once.