Opinions are mixed as to the effect Apple's iPhone case offer will have on the huge third party accessory market

Apple’s free iPhone case offer to damage retail?

The industry is split on the potential damaging effect of Apple’s free iPhone case giveaway on the third party accessory sector.

At an impromptu press conference last month Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced the firm would be giving away free cases, which can solve the signal dropping issue blighting many of its smartphones.

Since many firms make much of their money on cases of this type, the news has caused alarm from some sectors of the UK market.

"The news that Apple is offering free cases as a way of glossing over the iPhone 4 signal loss fiasco is potentially disastrous for the third party case manufacturers," said Glen Rhodes product manager at Target Components.

"These cases normally retail on the Apple Store at £25, and with the legion of Apple customers preferring official merchandise over third party offerings as a rule, the third party sales of iPhone 4 cases will surely plummet. The only way that they will be able to compete is by offering innovative and unique case solutions for the iPhone 4, which will mean going back to the drawing board I expect!"

Mike Sanderson, general manager of Exspect added: "The decision to add a case for the iPhone 4 is a blow I have to admit, however I can’t believe that this is a long term solution or fix."

But others claim users will still want to buy higher priced third party cases despite Apple’s free alternatives. "I think it will have an effect on those potential customers who just want a basic protector skin for their iPhone, but for those who want something more custom or in different colours then they will still purchase accessories," said Steve Walsh, sales director at Meroncourt.

Jon Atherton, EntaTech’s commercial vice president added: "The iPhone cases that will be provided directly from Apple are designed to perform a single function, so iPhone users who want individual, stylish protective cases will seek the wider choice provided by other Apple accessory manufactures.

Conversely, some believe the move could actually be an advantage for third party vendors.

"The idea of there being one style of case, even if free, would probably not lead to much uptake on these," said Andrew Miles Marketing Manager of interactive ideas. "There is actually more chance in there being a surge of extra sales for third party cases now that the ‘cat is out of the bag’ about the advantage of having a case, with third party case makers being encouraged to take advantage of this situation."

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