Apple's Top iPhone Hardware Executive Exits

iPhone 4 antenna
iPhone 4 antenna

Mark Papermaster, Apple's (AAPL) senior executive for iPhone hardware, has left the company, leaving behind a firestorm of controversy surrounding the iPhone 4 and its antenna problems, according to theNew York Times.

Papermaster, a former long-time IBM (IBM) executive who joined Apple 15 months ago, oversaw the computer maker's iPhone and iPod hardware engineering teams as senior vice president of hardware engineering. According to the report, Papermaster's Apple troubles extended beyond the iPhone 4.

Papermaster encountered static long before the iPhone 4 launched in late June. According to the Wall Street Journal, the hardware executive had lost the confidence of Apple CEO Steve Jobs months ago and stopped participating in much of the iPhone 4 decision making process (something that may work in Papermaster's favor should he want to distance himself from the antenna woes).

Papermaster's experience at buttoned-down Big Blue also didn't translate well at Apple's blue jean offices, the WSJ reported. At Apple, executives are expected handle every minor detail of a project as opposed to delegating tasks to someone else. Add to that a layer of office politics that Papermaster reportedly lacked skill in navigating.

Executive Shuffle

The iPhone 4, while heralded for its crisp screen and video chat features, has been hit hard with complaints surrounding dropped calls and poor reception problems attributed to its unique antenna design that's incorporated into a metal band that runs along the outer edge of the phone. Apple recently launched a limited offer of free iPhone 4 bumpers to rectify the problem, after a Consumer Reports review confirmed Apple's bumpers could do as a workaround.

Consumer Reports
, however, still is not recommending the iPhone 4 until a permanent fix for the reception issue is addressed.

The iPhone 4's antenna problem wasn't the only glitch. Production delays resulted in not one but two rescheduled launch dates for the white iPhone 4.

Bob Mansfield, a senior vice president of Macintosh hardware engineering, will take over Papermaster's responsibilities, the report noted. Apparently Mansfield is no stranger to the iPhone 4, having played a role in developing its A4 chip, Retina display and touch screens.

Meanwhile, it'll be interesting to see if Papermaster returns to IBM. When he was preparing to jump to Apple, Big Blue weighed in with a lawsuit over Papermaster's noncompete clause that eventually was resolved.

This story was updated at 12:40 on August 9, 2010.