Thinner iPad coming? Inquiring case vendors want to know

Rumors of a thinner iPad 5 have the tech world ramping up for the speculation that always precedes the Apple launch event. Odds are the companies that make iPad cases are already scrambling just in case.
Written by James Kendrick, Contributor on
(Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet

ZDNet's Rachel King reports that the Apple event to unveil the new iPad (iPad 5 is the expected name) will be held on October 22. It is rumored that the iPad to be launched will be thinner, with a casing similar to the current iPad mini.

Of course, no one will be surprised if Apple springs a new iPad mini at the event, and it might have a slimmer form, too. Amid all this speculation of what Apple may unveil, third party case makers for the iPads will be greatly affected if the rumors pan out.

Apple has sold millions of iPads and that has resulted in a huge, thriving ecosystem of accessories for the tablets. Accessories take many forms and serve many functions, but none depend on the exact form of the iPad as do cases and keyboards.

Many iPad/iPad mini cases are designed to be form-fitting, so if the new tablets are thinner as expected then the companies that make them will have to rush to redesign their product lines. Major players — Incase, Logitech, ZAGG, and Belkin to name a few — have multiple cases and keyboards in their product lines. These companies will be faced with redoing those products to fit the dimensions of the new iPad(s). The geometry of the edges of the iPad can require a major redesign of their products, even if the dimensions don't change.

This won't be the first time if so. When Apple made the iPad 3 just a bit thicker than the iPad 2, accessory makers had to scramble as some cases would not fit the newer iPad 3. Cases tooled to an exact tolerance sometimes won't work when those tolerances change.

Apple may secretly provide the larger accessory makers with advance information about the new iPad(s), but as secretive as the company is, probably not. In either event, the companies will be scrambling once the exact form of the new iPad is known to get an entire line of cases ready for market.

These companies will have to support the old (current) iPad as it isn't going to disappear overnight after the iPad 5 launch. Perhaps they will simply let the existing inventory on retailers' shelves sell off, or maybe they'll continue to make the cases for the old iPad. Either way, they will have a lot of case models to sell and support.

On the flip side, a redesigned iPad will require new cases to fit it and thus new sales for these firms is a good possibility. New customers can be had by all, and existing iPad owners will need new cases. That's a big opportunity for third party case makers that should make the hurried effort to redesign a whole product line worth it.

If you plan on swapping your current iPad for the new one, be prepared to also replace that expensive keyboard case when you do. A redesigned iPad almost certainly means your current case won't work, and will also have to be replaced.

That means consumers better be careful when case shopping for the new iPad. Attention will have to be paid to the iPad models listed while shopping to make sure the case being offered will fit the new one. It will be common for case vendors to indicate which iPads a case fits and thus which ones it doesn't. No doubt there are a lot of products returned that only fit older iPads after a new model comes out.

Of course, buying a new case for the new iPad is part of the excitement for some consumers. The shiny new toy requires a shiny new case to wrap it in. Rest assured that design teams at all the major accessory makers are working late nights these days to bring those new cases to the masses.

You could say this is business as usual where iPad launches are concerned. The new iPad 5 will be praised by some pundits, and panned by others. Millions will buy them and many will criticize it while buying Android tablets. Amid the hubbub, case makers will be scrambling to get new cases and keyboards to market for those millions buying the iPad. And life will go on.

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