Case makers gear up for iPhone 5S and 5C launch

Apple's new iPhones haven't been announced yet, but cases are already available for them, with plenty more on the way.

Spigen's Tough Armor and Neo Hybrid cases now come in packaging that's labeled 'iPhone 5S/5.'
Sarah Tew/CNET

Not a day seems to go by without some new leaked image of an iPhone 5S or 5C part, which has taken a lot of the mystery out of what Apple will unveil on September 10. But that's a good thing for accessory makers who want to have cases ready to go at launch (if you remember, Apple didn't have any cases in its stores when the iPhone 5 launched, which frustrated a lot of consumers).

In fact, some are so confident that the leaks -- and their own intel -- are accurate, they've already started to release cases ahead of Apple's announcement.

CNET's live coverage of Apple's September 10 event

I've already received Spigen cases in packaging labeled "iPhone 5/5S." And other case makers, such as BoxWave and Hard Candy, have been sending e-mails to the media with their iPhone 5S and 5C offerings and have offered to ship samples shortly.

If the leaks are indeed accurate, very little is expected to change with the chassis of the iPhone 5S, which should mean that you can use many cases designed for the iPhone 5 with the iPhone 5S. However, the key sticking point involves the area around the camera and flash. The 5S is expected to have dual LEDs for the flash (instead of a single LED) and if a case's camera cut-out isn't done right it may affect the new flash system.

This is one what one case maker, who wished to remain anonymous (for fear of angering Apple), told me:

"All the info we've received points to the 5S having nearly the same form factor as the 5, with the exception of the flash opening on the back. We think that cases without beveled flash openings (holes with straight/vertical edges versus beveled/angled edges leading to the flash opening) may have issues with the new, larger (expected) dual-LED flash. A straight/vertical angle for the flash opening may interfere with a larger flash, whereas cases with beveled flash opening edges should allow for the new 5S flash to operate without difficulty. We're not expecting to need to make any tweaks to our iPhone 5 cases."
The $39.95 Hard Candy HarvestCraft Slider for the iPhone 5C comes with 1 top and 3 bottoms (black bottom isn't pictured because Hard Candy accidentally sent a black bottom for the 5S). Sarah Tew/CNET

As far as the 5C goes, it's expected to have a plastic back and come in multiple color options. It'll be interesting to see how strong the demand is for cases for the 5C versus the 5S. I suspect 5C owners will be more likely to go without a cover, even if the phone isn't any more durable than the 5S. Perhaps people have a psychological block about covering up a mobile product with a colorful back; in fact, several case makers have told me that their iPod Touch cases don't sell well. True, the Touch is very thin, and putting a case on it makes it seem almost double its size, but I like the color theory.

My suggestion to potential 5C owners who want to show off their color choice but would also like a little added protection: Buy a slim translucent case. Here in New York at least, clear is the new black.

Translucent may be the way to go for the iPhone 5C -- this simple Crystal case ($12.95) is from BoxWave. BoxWave