It seems as though Case-Mate started a firestorm with its little publicity stunt yesterday. I call it that because whether its depiction of the iPhone 5 was accurate or not, I’m sure the company enjoyed the extra traffic.

The iPhone mockups in Case-Mate’s photos looked an awful lot like the iPad 2, and some folks didn’t like that. In fact, our very own Jeff wrote a piece about the images. But love ’em or hate ’em, the design can’t be too far off. And here’s why…

Since late July, we’ve been seeing “purported” iPhone 5 cases turn up all over the web. There has been several colors and textures, from multiple manufacturers, and they all look exactly alike.

They suggest that Apple’s upcoming smartphone will sport a bigger screen with a wider frame and slimmer profile. The cases even seem to be thinner towards the bottom, compared to the top, in an apparent ‘teardrop’ shape.

Funny, we’ve been hearing about the teardrop design since April, when Joshua Topolsky of The Verge reported that he had seen what the iPhone 5 looked like. So far, everything he mentioned (including the gesture-enabled home button) has stuck around.

Now, about those cases. I wanted to find out more about the manufacturers that were putting out these next-generation iPhone cases. A quick trip to helped me locate 4 companies claiming to have iPhone 5 accessories available.

Within a couple of clicks (I know, not real in depth-sleuthing) I located addresses for BOYUVISION, Huike Communication Accessories, Able Joy enterprises, and Napov Technology. Out of the 4 manufacturers, two of them were located in China.

Why is that significant? Well everyone knows that Foxconn, who plays a big part in producing iPhones and iPads for Apple, has a huge factory in Shenzhen, China. And Google maps places the two case-makers within 10 miles of the Foxconn plant.

Surely employees from companies that close together are bound to cross paths at some point. And if not, where did they get the design CADs – out of thin air? I doubt it. My next question is if the manufacturers weren’t confident in the accuracy of their cases, then why have they already made thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of them?

We’ve heard from The New York Times and countless other sources that Apple’s next smartphone will feature an all-new design. I’m not saying the Case-Mate photos were the real deal, but come on. All of the gossip points to the same thing.

As far back as March, Japanese tech site Macotakara posted this photo of what they believed to be an accurate depiction of the iPhone 5. They even noted that the device would resemble the design of the iPad 2 a bit. Interesting:

I’ll admit that there’s a chance that the molds these cases were made from was meant for the next-generation iPod touch. But otherwise, I’m thinking they are fairly accurate. And for those who don’t like the new design, you’ll likely have a new iPhone 4 with an A5 processor to lust after. Sounds like a win-win to me.