Apple has just emptied their magician’s hat onto the table, and out of that silk showman’s topper spilled the brand new iPhone 4S. For some of us, the revelation of “just” a faster iPhone 4 was a disappointment… but it was much more than a disappointment to hundreds of case makers who had bet millions of dollars between them on a radical redesign.
Ah, the mythical iPhone 5. A slimmer, tear dropped iPhone with a larger display and a lozenge shaped capacitive home button. What a chimera. It first emerged as a report over at This Is My Next from Joshua Topolsky, the ex-Engadget editor who was also wrong about whether or not the iPad 2 would have a Retina Display. But he’s not the only one who was wrong about the iPhone 5, and for the last six months, it’s been persistently murmured about by tech bloggers, journalists and analysts.
What the hell happened? How were people so wrong?
No one bought the iPhone 5 hype bigger than case makers. Look at our report this morning about Hard Candy Cases, a company that was so convinced the iPhone 5 was coming that they already made fifty thousand of them before Apple’s “Let’s Talk iPhone” event.
They weren’t the only ones. Case-Mate also bet big on the iPhone 5. Even AT&T started getting iPhone 5 cases in stock in the last few days. Even our own David Martin managed to buy one at his local shop.
In fact, iPhone 5 case designs have been trickling out of China since at least July. China, more than anyone, bet big on the iPhone 5.
So here’s the question: how were so many smart people and companies fooled, especially considering the fact that just looking at the iPhone 5 concept should have been enough to convince smart people that Apple would never, ever build something that looked or felt like it.
The iPhone 5, as described, is heavier on one side the other, with completely lopsided upper and lower bezels. For a company like Apple to design something as asymmetrical as the iPhone 5 is just absurd idea. Apple’s obsessed with symmetry, which is why the iPhone 5 just looks weird once you look past the fact that it’s radically new. There’s a reason it looks so radical to our eyes. It’s because Jonny Ive would dismiss the design as ugly and stupid in a heart beat.
So what the hell happened? Why did everyone buy into the myth of the iPhone 5? We’re going to be speaking to case makers in the coming days and weeks to try to figure it out, but I have a little pet theory.
Late last month, we reported on a story coming out of China, saying that the reason Chinese case makers were so sure about the iPhone 5 was because they had managed to buy an “ill-begotten” (re: stolen) iPhone prototype directly from within Foxconn, giving them a head start of months on case making ahead of Apple’s debut.
So here’s the question: who has something to gain from tricking Chinese case makers into thinking they got their hands on a real next-gen iPhone prototype?
Apple’s an obvious first guess, but it’s unlikely, not least because leading consumers to believe a radically different iPhone with a bigger display and a thinner body would be a disastrous PR move if all you are planning on releasing is an iPhone that looks identical to last year’s model.
Foxconn’s another good guess. After all, employees leaking early details about upcoming Apple products is a major problem for the manufacturer. They could have been trying to muddy the waters and confuse the shady buyers outside Shenzhen’s walls who were paying big money for prototypes, but again, it sends the wrong message: why would Foxconn put out that they were designing a new super iPhone when the truth was so much more mundane?
So here’s my little guess. If you want to know who fooled all the China’s case makers, look no further than China’s case makers… specifically, the ones who have been happily plugging away at iPhone 4S cases for the last few months, seemingly oblivious to these “100% accurate reports” of a thinner, bigger iPhone 5.
Their competitors have now lost hundreds of thousands of dollars, where as they are already in stores, ready for purchase. And it was so easy: all they had to do was get someone to build a decent looking but non-functional prototype. If anyone caught on that that wasn’t what was being built within Foxconn, they would just shrug and say that the other devices were the iPhone 4S, a new “budget” iPhone. Punk’d!
We’ll see if this theory pans out, but right now, it’s my own personal favorite theory. What do you guys think happened? Let us know in the comments.