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iPhone Accessory Makers Forced To Scramble

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NEW YORK (CBS NEWS) - When Apple revealed the design of the new iPhone 5, the companies that make Apple accessories started scrambling. For them, it was guesswork designing their new products — and guessing wrong could be disastrous.

As Apple was announcing the iPhone 5, the design team at Florida-based iPhone case maker Marware was anxiously holed up in a conference room; owner Edward Martin describes it as suspenseful. Martin said, “We’re watching the live blogs of the event. So we’re, you know, ‘Is it gonna be this? Is it gonna be that?’”

Even after the iPhone 5 was unveiled, only a select few, such as CNET’s senior editor Scott Stein, got to see and touch the device before it shipped to consumers. Accessory makers are no exception. “They don’t know the final design until the starting gun,” Stein said. “So, you are guessing, and you don’t want to guess wrong, and then when you find out everyone is scrambling, and you have very few days to do it.”

Nearly a week after the announcement, the clock was ticking. The Marware team was hard at work in what they call “The War Room,” tinkering with mock-ups of the actual cases and dispatching quality control inspectors to China where the cases are made, and doing it all based on rumors, never having touched an iPhone 5.

Marware designer Chris Piedra said that the company tries to get as much ready on the design before Apple releases the data on the new device. He added, “We then tweak what we have to tweak to make that design work with the new device.”

Marware is just one of many companies trying to grab a piece of the lucrative smartphone accessory market. But it can be a costly guessing game. Last year, accessory makers struck out huge when Apple announced a different iPhone than what the market expected. Martin said, “I know a lot of my competitors spent a lot of money, they made a lot of cases, and they had to all throw it away.”

This time, Marware’s team guessed right. The iPhone 5 is essentially what they expected it to be, save for a few minor tweaks — like the redesigned power connector. Still, the pressure is on. The small company has seen record-breaking online orders so far — people assuming Marware got it right.

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