Just after Tim Cook finished his unveiling of the latest versions of the Apple iPhone Tuesday, my e-mail inbox started filling up with pitches for accessories for the new models. It happens every time.
“Adopted Unveils Leather Collection for iPhone 5 & iPhone 5s” read one headline. “Seidio Rolls Out its Signature Accessory Line for the Newly Announced iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c,” read another.
Eager to seize on the buzz from the launch of a new smartphone or tablet – be it an Apple, Samsung, BlackBerry or other brands – accessories makers waste no time in trying to take advantage of that buzz.
And there’s considerable money to be made in doing so. ABI Research put the value of the smartphone accessories market at $20 billion in mid-2012 and it is forecast to grow to $36 billion by 2017.
Although sales of feature phones – aka basic cell phones – are declining, the feature phone accessories market still accounted for $12 billion in 2012, ABI reported. Further, feature phone owners spent an average of only $28.17 per phone on accessories, while smartphone owners spent twice as much, $56.18 per device.
Typical accessories are cases, which are designed to protect the phone in case it’s dropped, give the phone some kind of unique fashion flair or, if nothing else, to help you distinguish your phone from others in a pile of phones on a table.
That $20 billion in sales potential is on display at any retail store where they sell phones or at the carriers’ stores – AT&T, Verizon, etc. – where they sell phones and service contracts. And walk through just about any shopping mall in America and you’ll pass a couple of those kiosks totally devoted to smartphone cases.
And accessory vendors can make some nice money in this market. The Adopted line of iPhone 5s cases features a leather case matched with a metal frame to hold it in place for $39.95, while offering a leather folio – a case that also adds a cover over the iPhone screen – at $59.95.
Meanwhile, Seidio emphasizes ruggedness and phone protection in its models introduced to coincide with the iPhone 5s and the 5c releases. The Surface (which, coincidentally, shares a name with the Microsoft Surface tablet computer) is a slim case “designed for everyday use” to protect the phone from little bumps and scratches. The case sells for $29.95 for both new iPhone models. You can add a holster for holding your phone on your belt for an extra $20. Another Surface model includes a kickstand for placing the phone sideways on a flat surface for viewing videos. It is priced at $34.95 or $54.95 with the added holster.
The Seidio Convert line is billed as a more ruggedized case for environments in which you might drop the phone on a hard surface and is priced at $54.95, or $74.95 with the holster.
Considering that the base price for the iPhone 5c is just $99 in the U.S., you might want to consider whether to spend nearly as much on the case as the phone.
Adopted and Seidio are just two of multiple phone accessory makers trying to get a piece of the smartphone action. Go online just about anywhere and you’ll find scores more vendors.
But the smartphone case market is just one of the latest examples of products that were originally intended to be functional – a watch, a car, a purse, a phone – and evolved into fashion statements and spurred an industry to make devices unique and personalized.