Tim Hickman, founder and CEO of Gumdrop Cases, has made it a tradition to announce cases for major Apple products ahead of their launches. He's currently batting 4 for 5, only whiffing badly in 2011 when another of his companies -- Hard Candy Cases -- released an iPhone 5 case in advance of the iPhone 4S launch and it didn't fit. It wasn't even close.
Now Hickman is stepping up to the plate again, trotting out new cases for the iPad 5, which he expects Apple to unveil at next week's 2013 Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco. Rumors and leaked images of a new "large" iPad with a trimmer design have been circulating for months, but the time frame for its launch remains up in the air. Initially, some Apple watchers thought the company would unveil the product at this year's WWDC, but other reports had the launch being pushed to this fall.
If the rumors are accurate, the fifth-generation iPad will share the iPad Mini's thinner bezel and weigh around 25 percent less than the iPad 4, which looks identical to the iPad 3 but has a faster processor.
Hickman wouldn't say who his sources are, but he's confident enough in them to start producing new cases for the iPad 5 and put them up for preorder. In fact, a press sample of the $59.99 Gumdrop Drop Tech is due to arrive later today, and we'll update the post with new pictures once we get it. Gumdrop is also manufacturing the Gumdrop Bounce ($34.95) and Gumdrop Drop Tech Designer Series ($59.99). They're scheduled to ship on June 10. (It's worth noting that sometimes cases built on leaked specs don't fit absolutely perfectly, but presumably Gumdrop will allow customers to return cases if they don't fit perfectly.)
Of course, one could argue that Hickman and Gumdrop win whether Apple introduces the iPad 5 or not. After all, publicity is publicity. But there's still some pride -- and money -- involved, and Hickman was pretty embarrassed with what happened with the iPhone 4S launch (he chalked it up to faulty intelligence and perhaps even some diversionary tactics by Apple).
While I don't know what Apple is going to introduce next week, I think he's got a decent shot at being right. It would be logical for Apple to release the iPad 5 ahead of the iPad Mini Retina (or whatever it calls a Mini with a higher-resolution display), so the two products don't compete with each other out of the gate. Apple is more likely to introduce the Mini Retina in the fall along with a next-generation iPhone -- or iPhones.
Except for iOS 7 and quite possibly some updates to Apple's computer lineup, it's unclear what new Apple products we'll see next week. But there's one thing we can count on: if Apple does debut the iPad 5, we'll see dozens of other iPad 5 cases introduced within hours of the launch.
You can bet the farm on that.
Update: CNET has received the cases in New York. Please click on the slideshow to view images of them compared with the iPhone 4 and iPad Mini.