In an airy storefront along a tree-lined Palo Alto, California street, the Speck Products design team is faced with a unique challenge. Designing a case for Apple's mysterious, rumor-shrouded iPhone 5.
Arguably the most popular - and successful - smartphone and laptop case and cover maker, Speck is currently burning the 'midnight oil' to prepare designs for one of the world's most secretive products: Apple's iPhone 5. But it's not the first time.
Speck has done this before - very successfully. With each incarnation of the newest Apple products they've come up with smart, sleek cases and covers that combine quiet luxury with industrial simplicity that has Speck products stocked in Apple stores across the country.
Like many people, I discovered Speck while looking for the perfect shell to protect my laptop - my most recent Speck acquisition was a charcoal cae for my Air, picked up in Apple's Union Square store. I've grown to not just like my Speck cases, but really love them.
I think a lot of other gadget geeks feel the same way. Personally, I blame the first wave of iPods and their fun-to-accessorize form factor for spawning our collective obsession for having to buy even more stuff to go with our gadgets.
Turns out it's much more than a storefront, combining retail with design lab so the geeky-passionate design team can interact with customers face to face, pairing the creative with the customers - something I find refreshing in a Valley full of people pushing products that practically have disdain for users. For me, the icing on this cake was meeting a very happy staff behind the scenes at the indie company, and finding female CEO Irene Baran at the helm.
Speck's designs have scored high with everyone, and not just me - though especially with Apple fans. The 'Toblerone-style' iPad 2 case and stand is a must-see, equal parts gadget couture and uncanny entrepreneurial design. One of their most popular designs is their iPhone 4 case, with its low-profile ID and credit card holder and its built-in, retractable kickstand.
What intrigued me most, however, was trying to figure out how Speck can possibly design a case for a product like the iPhone before details about its super-secret specifications even hit the gadget blogs. Misplaced iPhone prototypes notwithstanding, that is.
I got a chance to ask Speck Products a few questions about what it's like to make a case for a heavily guarded secret. Jeanne Hultquist, Speck Products' VP of Marketing answered as much as she dared from their exciting environment of edgy design and gadget espionage.
Violet Blue:Does Speck have anything exciting in mind for the iPhone 5 that you can tell us about?
Speck Products: We have many, many ideas for the new iPhone 5cases, 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 iPhone5 in our hands that we can really get to work. So definitely look for us in the iPhone 5 line.
VB:Speck has been designing ahead of the curve for Apple products since the beginning. What's fun about designing for Apple gear?
Speck: Considering that Apple makes some of the mostinnovative devices on the planet which are 100% guaranteed to delight consumers, we revel in the glory of making cases that really complement and protect these devices.
And we also really enjoy seeing our customer’s reactions, which is why we opened our first retail store - really more of a lab - in downtown Palo Alto so we can realize first hand how people use their iPhone, iPad, MacBook Air, etc. cases.
Further, “new” cases seem to be everywhere, but it’s often “more of the same” and really nothing new at all. But Speck is different, offering more ingeniously engineered “industry firsts” for protection and functionality than anyone else in the case industry. Our award-winning co-molded CandyShell, the flip-back stand functionality on our iPad cases, and even our SeeThru & SeeThru Satin MacBook cases are living proof that our inspired thinking delivers better products that stand the test of time - and the onslaught of competition.
VB:How does Speck design a case for a phone or tablet that is shrouded in secret? Does it seem like a moving goalpost?
Speck: 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.
VB:When will your iPhone 5 cases hit the market?
Speck: 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 amonth 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.