While on a trip to Shenzhen last weekend, our crew received a tip from an iPhone accessories supplier that an iPhone 5 prototype had gone missing from the Foxconn factory in Shenzhen Futian district.
This should explain why we are seeing a whole lot of iPhone 5 cases in China today. Head past the break for our full rundown! First, we want to show you an in-depth examination of the iPhone 5 cases we’ve got recently from China. Video below.
UPDATE: There is no iPhone 5. iPhone 5 cases are USELESS.
Ok, here’s what the supplier told us. The missing prototype is said to have been enclosed in a case to disguise it as a current-generation iPhone 4–which brings to mind the iPhone 4 prototype acquired by Gizmodo that was camouflaged as an iPhone 3GS. How Apple achieved that with the iPhone 5 is supposedly wider and longer than the current iPhone 4 is a point to ponder.
The store where we received the tip
It is said to be a test model with a finalized iPhone 5 chassis featuring the tear-drop design. However, the interesting thing about it is that it apparently houses what we assume to be slightly modified iPhone 4 electronics with components such as the A4 chip and even the same amount of memory.
With its past experience, one might think Apple would have been able to track that prototype down in a heartbeat. However, Apple was outsmarted. The person who had access to the prototype wiped the phone’s software, thus disabling the GPS hardware needed to track it down. It was then allegedly sold to one of the iPhone case manufacturers for RMB ¥20,000 (about $3,100). We were told that Foxconn was aware of the loss and had penalized internal management for the incident. We also heard from another source that the person who “lost” it was paid to do so. This case is similar to the iPad 2 leak reported back in June, where three men were jailed for stealing unreleased information about the Apple tablet.
What seems to strongly support the claim that an iPhone 5 prototype with the final chassis design has indeed landed into the hands of case manufacturers is that, weeks ahead of the iPhone 5 launch, we are already seeing a plethora of iPhone 5 cases for sale from many case manufacturers. Some even claim to have shipped “thousands” of these cases.
Compared to iPhone 4 cases, the iPhone 5 cases are slightly thinner, but are wider and longer. Detailed measurements have been taken using a similar case. All the cases also have the same tear-drop shape widely-rumored to be part of the final design of the iPhone 5.
Aside from this tapered design, the iPhone 5 cases are of almost the same thickness as existing iPod touch cases. When an iPod touch is placed in an iPhone 5 case, there is about 4mm of space along either side, and 7mm along the top and bottom edges.
Our white iPod touch sitting inside the iPhone 5 case
As we can see from the photos here and in our previous reports, the cases range from silicone soft covers to hard plastic and dual material cases. The simplest ones are of a single color while more elaborate ones have designs molded into or printed on them. Some of these cases can already be found on Taobao and Alibaba.
A few of the fancier ones include the silicone cases molded into the shape of a cute, one-toothed devil with horns; semi-transparent polycarbonate cases with a color gradient and 3D raindrop pattern; and hard transparent cases with plastic jewellery glued on, arranged in the form of cartoon characters and other intricate patterns. These fancy designs look similar to the iPhone 4 cases in the market.
As far as we know, producing a mold for silicone cases costs tens of thousands of RMB and a mold for hard plastic cases costs even more. From the sheer variety of such cases already available for purchase, we are very sure that one or more of these case manufacturers have access to what is believed to be the prototype of the iPhone 5 with the finalized design. It is not simply getting tipped on the dimensions and shapes of the next iPhone to make the molds.
One of our crew W.B. Goh contributed to this report.