Did Mark Papermaster, Apple iPhone exec, leave over 'Antennagate'?

Mark Papermaster, who came to Apple to oversee iPhone hardware, left the company this week.

Paul Sakuma/AP
Apple CEO Steve Jobs defended the iPhone 4 at a press conference to discuss antenna issues July 16. Mark Papermaster, the former chief of Apple's iPhone hardware division, left the company this week under a cloud of suspicion.

Are a few million free iPhone cases enough to get you fired from Apple?

That's something Mark Papermaster and the folks at Apple know and the tech world is wondering.

Mr. Papermaster, the former head of hardware for Apple's iPhone, left the company this week, the New York Times reported. His departure comes little more than a year after his arrival at Apple from IBM, which sued to try to prevent him from joining a competitor.

In Pictures: Apple's iCandy

The split comes after a flap over design complaints about the iPhone 4, released in June. The phone will lose reception and "drop" a call if held a certain way, some users found, a claim backed by Consumer Reports, which in July said that it could not recommend people buy the device. That led Apple to hold a press conference where CEO Steve Jobs announced a plan to issue free phone cases to mitigate the problem.

The free case program is expected to cost the company $175 million, and at its announcement, many in the tech world wondered whether heads would roll over the apparent design flaw.

Apple and Mr. Jobs have defended the iPhone 4's design. Jobs spent much of the press conference where the free cases were announced pointing out the antenna quirks of other mobile devices. And he accused the press of blowing the problem out of proportion. But Papermaster, in charge of the iPhone 4's hardware – including its wrap-around antenna, was not present at the July 16 event. His replacement, senior vice president of Mac hardware engineering Bob Mansfield, was at Jobs's side.

Jobs is notoriously meticulous in his involvement with his company's products – former employees report that he is a prodigious micro-manager. And the iPhone is one of his favorites – at its introduction in 2007 he called it a "revolutionary product that changes everything."

Papermaster's biography was removed from Apple's executive profiles page Saturday afternoon.

In Pictures: Apple's iCandy

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