Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Underground World of iPhone Accessories

iPhone 5 leaked digital technical drawing. (Obama Pacman)

       In Heather Kelly’s article for CNN, Timing is everything for iPhone 5 accessory makers, she analyzes the circus that comes in the days following Apple’s announcement of a new iPhone.  

With every new version of the iPhone new accessories are produced by companies to take advantage of the increase of customers who are looking to add a new look to their new phone.  Through data mining, ABI declared that, “75% of iPhones sold will have a case purchased for them at some point. Of all smartphone cases sold across brands, 38% are purchased at the same time as the phone, and 36% are purchased in the first three months.”  Accessory companies must capitalize on this three month period.  However, each company does this differently. 

A few companies are given the new iPhone specs directly from Apple to make an “Apple Approved Product,” but the vast majority of companies must wait like everyone else for the iPhone 5 to come out so that they can make their own rendition of a case or cover.  It is the companies that do not have all the pieces to the iPhone puzzle that rely heavily on information technology.  Many of these companies scour the web for little hints about the specs of the new iPhone.  Using a data mining of sorts for leaks, companies look to put together a puzzle without a picture to look at.  They rely on the 97 suppliers of different parts of the iPhone for information.  These suppliers who, “create raw materials and manufacture and assemble products” are required to sign nondisclosure agreements, but often, “snippets of information travel between factories or even units of the same company.” It is these snippets of information compounded by data mining which allow companies without Apple’s full specs to be able to start preproduction of their new iPhone accessories so that they are not completely behind the other companies who may have had months to perfect their covers and cases.

This leads to the next phase of the underground world of iPhone accessories.  Some companies use the “snippets of information” they obtain, to complete, “specs and mockups of the final Apple products months in advance.”  These companies create a prototype of new cases and covers based on leaks about the iPhone 5 that they have gathered from around the world.  These prototypes or “digital technical drawing[s]” can then be used by the company or sold to others to “create new products. 

Some companies refrain from participating in this spreading or intake of leaks because they find most of them to be from an untrustworthy source.  Dave Gatto, CEO of Incase said that his company did not take these leaks and specs into account in their preproduction process, "That's not the way that we operate...We'll get product when it hits the store, we'll be in line with everyone else." 

This is the underground world of iPhone accessory products and it shows how small and interconnected the world has become.  Only with today’s technology could a company create a prototype of a product, based on little bits of information from companies all across the world, months before the official product is even announced.

All quotations are from the source:

1 comment:

  1. I can see why manufacturing companies may see leaks for new and upcoming products as temping. Honestly, if I was an accessory manufacturer of smart phones, I would be scared after seeing those statistics. Apple has everyone hooked on their products, and “needing” to have the next. Because the company keeps their products a mystery before releasing them, the manufacturers have very little creditable information to go off of. I find this very risky for any manufacturing company, because the possibility of exponential loss due to faulty products is extremely high. On the other hand, if the companies decide to wait until they are certain about dimensions and functions, they will lose the possibility of a chunk in the 38% revenue made from cellphone case at the time of purchase of the phone itself. If the companies should wait, it would take them at least three weeks (of hype and excitement of the phone) to get their cases and accessories out in retail stores.
    Apple’s monopoly in the first three to four weeks of the new product arrival is crucial for their revenue. I was reading an article the other day that said, over two million people had pre-ordered the iPhone 5! Wow! These two million people, and the millions of buyers within the first couple weeks are all turning to Apple products or Apple approved products for their accessories.
    Anyway, in conclusion, I find the risk of going off of leaks is too risky for manufacturing companies. Not only do I find this risky, but also a little unethical. These cell-phone accessories are in a billion dollar industry; there is tons of money to be made. People will still be buying the phone a month, a year, a year and half after it is released. The people who are continuing to buy over periods of time will also need their cellphone cases. So, in my eyes, there is an ethical time and right time to manufacture these cases with a much less risk for the companies at hand.