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Third-party iPhone 5 cases spotted in the wild -- again

Apple's next iPhone hasn't even been announced yet, but you can buy a case or two to protect it.

The rendering of the "iPhone 5" case from TVC-Mall.
The rendering of the "iPhone 5" case from TVC-Mall.

Apple's next iPhone hasn't even been announced, but that hasn't kept third-party case manufacturers from getting products ready to go.

Case in point (pun intended), this new crop of cases that have shown up on Shenzhen, China-based TVC-Mall. Spotted by jailbreak enthusiast blog Cydiablog (by way of Macrumors), these cases promise to fit Apple's next iPhone. That's complete with a rectangular cutout on the bottom, presumably where Apple's reportedly tweaked dock connector will be.

Buyers beware though. TVC-Mall, which makes accessories for numerous technology manufacturers, says there's no guarantee the case will work with Apple's next device.

"Notice: As iPhone 5 has not been unveiled, we can't guarantee this product can be used in iPhone 5," a large, red warning reads. "If you have any questions, please contact our friendly customer service representatives."

Readers might remember that this same thing happened ahead of the iPhone 4S last year. A crop of cases reared up that bore little resemblance to what would end up as the iPhone 4S' design. That included a relocation of the phone's mute switch, and a curved back, two things that didn't materialize.

As detailed in Forbes last year, numerous case makers who created molds based on rumored specifications got burned. That includes Hard Candy, which dropped a reported $10,000 on molds for wider, thinner iPhones that never came out. The reward, of course, is a potential windfall from sales by early buyers, who get the phone and want an alternative to Apple's Bumpers. For those manufacturers who wait, it can take weeks, or even months to get their first batch of cases out on the market.

Apple's current iPhone, the 4S, was announced and released last October. The company is expected to follow a similar fall schedule with its next model. Despite the "5" moniker making the rounds, that device will actually be Apple's sixth-generation model.