How iPad Case Makers Make Cases Without iPads

Even without Apple's new tablet, case makers figure out how to make covers.

October 21, 2013, 3:55 PM
PHOTO: Hard Candy's ShockDrop for iPad 5 case pictured left, M-Edge's Stealth iPad 5 Case pictured right.
Hard Candy's ShockDrop for iPad 5 case pictured left, M-Edge's Stealth iPad 5 Case pictured right.
Hard Candy, M-Edge

Oct. 21, 2013 — -- Sitting in its warehouses in the U.S. and China, Gumdrop has more than 5,000 iPad 5 and iPad Mini 2 cases ready to go, in many different colors and designs. The Gumdrop Drop Tech version promises to protect your iPad from drops with a rubber shell; the Hideaway has a built-in kickstand; and the Hard Candy-branded ShockDrop has a screen protector included.

It's a nice selection of protective gear for the newest iPad. The only problem? The company doesn't actually know if the iPad 5 or iPad Mini 2 will look anything like they think and if the thousands of cases will even fit Apple's newest tablet.

They have made the products without ever seeing the new tablets.

And Gumdrop and Hard Candy aren't the only case makers taking a risk on making new iPad covers without seeing or feeling the new iPads, which are expected to be unveiled by Apple at an event on Tuesday, Oct. 22 in San Francisco.

Because of Apple's secrecy and the cut-throat competition in the case market, the companies that protect our gear feel mounting pressure to design and produce cases -- even before they have final and confirmed measurements from Apple -- so they can be ready to ship as soon as the tablets are announced.

Making an iPad Case Without an iPad

Just like we have pieced together what the next iPad might look like with rumors and leaked photos, case manufactures do the same.

Tim Hickman, who ran Speck cases before becoming the founder and CEO of Gumdrop and Hard Candy, explains that his company works directly with the factories in China that are making the iPads and iPhones to get the dimensions. The company gets ahold of the computer-aided designs (CAD) and then goes back and forth with the factories to make sure their case designs are on the right path.

"I'm pretty confident that our cases will fit the new iPads," Hickman told ABC News. "We work with the factories really closely. We aren't going to be really far off."

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Adam Ashley, the CTO of M-Edge, another company that makes cases for the iPad, says it works off a number of different sources of data, including the leaked photos and rumors, to design its cases before launch.

"We analyze the data -- the rumors and the photographs -- we compile this information and we meet with our product team to assess the confidence level," Ashley told ABC News.

Ashley said there are also a few tricks to making sure the case will fit without the exact measurements. The product designers will leave some room for error in the size of the case and also leave room for button adjustment. For instance, they may leave a larger opening for the buttons on the edge in case Apple decides to make adjustments.

Ashley and Hickman, as well as various other case makers, said Apple does not share the designs or dimensions of its products with any case makers before the official announcements. Immediately after the announcement Apple posts the dimensions of the products on its MFI program website. When reached by ABC News, Apple declined to comment on the specifics on its relationships with the case makers.

The Risks

But by the time those dimensions are posted by Apple, it can be too late for some of these companies.

M-Edge wouldn't reveal just how big of a hit it could take if the company wasn't prepared with the cases at launch, but said that the "impact of not having cases available at launch would be substantial." Gumdrop and Hard Candy claimed the same.

"It seems each quarter there is someone else trying to get in the game. Our retail partners like Best Buy and Staples really need product at launch, if you don't have product at launch some other company will," Ashley said.

M-Edge wouldn't share how much money it has invested in the new iPad cases, but Gumdrop and Hard Candy said it has more than a quarter of a million dollars riding on this.

In that sense the companies believe the risks associated with creating a case for a product they have never seen is worth it.

"If we are wrong we lose a bunch of money, but if we are right, we can make a lot of money," Hickman said. "It is still a gamble, but in this world, it is the game that is being played."

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