Speck Products Show Up Case-Mate In iPhone 5 Case Interview
Last week, Case-Mate became the first top-tier iPhone case designer to try to leverage the excitement surrounding the iPhone 5 by staging a publicity stunt, briefly revealing speculative iPhone 5 cases on their website. While Case-Mate themselves made no claims or confirmations about the iPhone 5, their own iPhone 5/4S teaser page led much of the tech community to proclaim Case-Mate as the first to confirm a new iPhone 5 form factor, as well as the rumor of an iPhone 5/iPhone 4S co-release.
Case-Mate is a major iPhone case designer, and because their products are distributed by top U.S. retailers such as Best Buy, Target, and WalMart, their move last week to capture the conversation — no matter how much of a publicity stunt it may have been — legitimized rumors that to this point were completely unfounded. This news story seemed to change the thinking that maybe the really big iPhone case designers do get a sneak peek of the new iPhone before everyone else. After all, Case-Mate is big.
But a revealing interview on ZDNET today with Speck Products’ VP of Marketing Jeanne Hultquist shows a different, more believable side of iPhone case companies — and that many of them are currently in a holding pattern until the iPhone 5 is released. Speck Products is a big designer as well — you can buy their iPhone cases at Best Buy, Target, and WalMart just like you can Case-Mate. But their story is a lot different.
In the interview, Ms. Hultquist stops well short of suggesting that they have any sense of what the iPhone 5 will look like: “We have many, many ideas for the new iPhone 5 cases, and are obsessed with what the possible designs might be. It’s the stuff that keeps our whole team up at night. However, we don’t have any inside information on what the form factor will be, so we have no idea what we will actually ship yet. It’s too early to tell. We watch the rumor blogs just like everyone else in this business. It’s not until we get real iPhone 5 in our hands that we can really get to work. So definitely look for us in the iPhone 5 line.”
There you have it.
So, what were we looking at when Case-Mate famously posted “new cases for the iPhone 5?” Most likely, they were “sketches” — some preliminary renderings for what a Case-Mate iPhone 5 case might look like for a tear drop-shaped iPhone 5, or one with a bigger screen. Ms. Hultquist at Speck gives us some great insight into this process when she explains how Speck works. When interview Violet Blue asks the question, “How does Speck design a case for a phone or tablet that is shrouded in secret? Does it seem like a moving goalpost?” she responds in turn: “We brainstorm on previous generations of products and keep it ready for when the new generation comes out but we really click into gear as soon as the device first goes on sale.”
If you have followed the progression of iPhone cases over the past few years, then you know that this comment rings true: most iPhone case companies reuse popular case designs from the previous generation of iPhone on the new model; brand-new designs usually do not debut with the new iPhone, but later on in the cycle. This is exactly what Case-Mate was doing with their own iPhone 5 case sketches; preparing them for several design possibilities.
Speck had one more interesting answer to the question of “when” they might release iPhone 5 cases: “That all depends on when Apple gets the iPhone 5 (assuming there is an iPhone 5) device(s) on the shelves, but looking at our track record, we typically are able to ship our cases for Apple products within a month of the device coming to market. Also, we are not the kind of case company that ships product that is untested and unproven, which often results in unhappy customers who have a wonky case. We take our time to make sure the fit is perfect, the button and camera holes are well-placed, etc. so that our customers continue to be loyal fans.”
Chances are, this is due to the fact that companies like Case-Mate and Speck already have preliminary iPhone 5 case designs in the works, which can be easily modified once they have the official specs of the new iPhone in front of them.
There’s no denying that the iPhone 5 community wants to believe that the fleeting images they saw from Case-Mate’s spectacle last week is a sneak peek of what’s to come in a couple of weeks, when we finally get a look at the iPhone 5 we have all been waiting for. But with Speck’s own level-headed, reasonable account of how a big iPhone case company handles the design process, iPhone devoteés now have to decide who they are more likely to believe — Case-Mate or Speck?