Bloomberg: Apple’s slowing growth now worries case makers

Caseless iPhone 5

People love to accessorize their mobile devices. Indeed, the multi-billion dollar industry for gadget accessories has been thriving for years now on the seemingly unstoppable popularity of Apple’s mobile devices. The accessory industry had really started to take off a decade ago, after the iPod came out.

It boomed following the iPhone and iPod touch introduction in 2007, with tablets such as the iPad having become the latest lucrative market for case vendors out there. So, what do you do if you’re an established case maker in Asia at a time when Apple’s growth has been slowing?

As you fortunes are most certainly closely tied to Apple’s, priorities change as you start giving more attention to non-Apple gadget makers, namely to Samsung but also to a bunch of local vendors who produce inexpensive smartphones and tablets…

Bloomberg ran an interesting report alleging that Apple’s falling market share in China is forcing thousands of local accessory makers to give more attention to products that fit mobile phones and tablet computers made by Samsung and local brands like Huawei and ZTE.

Apple’s smartphone share in the 1.33 billion people market is currently hovering in the single-digit range and the iPad’s share halved amid lack of product updates.

On the other hand, targeting non-Apple devices is easier said than done as the switch comes at a cost due to a wild range of form factors and shapes.

One case maker, who used original designs and licensed art including Snoopy, has invested in new plastic moldings that cost as much as 20,000 yuan ($3,300) for each new model.

At the same time, it faces lower prices as cases for cheaper domestic handsets sell for about a third of the 300 yuan paid for an iPhone cover.

Apple’s streamlined family of products and screen sizes make case makers’ life much simpler by keeping their production costs down.

The article quotes protective case maker Magic Kingdom’s CEO Vincent Kwok as saying that focusing on Apple “is too dangerous,” although premium case makers like Jison Case say they’re sticking with Apple because its users are willing to pay big bucks for high-quality cases versus folks who buy low-cost handsets.

“We sell for the iPhone because the price is higher,” Zhang said. “Phones from Xiaomi and Samsung sell at lower prices. We made some cases, but the sales were no good.”

When was the last time you bought a case and how much did you pay for it?

More importantly, is this report another sign that Apple no longer has fresh ideas or are case makers simply blaming Apple for the slowdown felt everywhere amid a broader consumer electronics slump?