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  • Request for feedback on an iPhone case design

    Discussion in 'Industrial design' started by kuwakuwa, Mar 9, 2011.

    1. kuwakuwa

      kuwakuwa Member

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      Hi guys how is it going.

      My name is Satoshi and I'm a mechanical engineer from San Diego. Nice to meet you all.
      My friend and I have been working on an iPhone case for the past 1.5 years and we have dreams of being able to develop this case, and breaking even on the investment. So far, its been anything but that, and its been a tough but educational road.

      So the question I have for you guys today is...
      What do you think about the concept we have, and which direction do you think we should go with our project?

      Our concept -
      An iphone case with a hidden rotating arm that lets you position your phone at both the viewing mode, and video mode. We actually created a mold and went into production with the 3GS version of this case.. only to sell less than 20 cases. OUCH! Right now we are running a Kickstarter campaign on the iPhone 4 version. We have 13 backers after 15 days, and half of them are our friends. double ouch!

      What do you think we should do?
      Add more function? Improve the aesthetics?
      Or maybe its good as it is and we are failing from a marketing standpoint?

      Some ideas we had for adding function - poking a 1/4" hole on the bottom to allow for mounting to a tripod. or modifying the arm to be like a swiss army knife.. perhaps a can opener / flat head combo.
      An idea for adding aesthetics was to render some nice colors and try to accentuate the "band" aspect of the case.

      Any feedback our thoughts would be great.
      Thanks in advance!
      Satoshi
      http://www.picmecase.com

      [​IMG]
      [​IMG]
      [​IMG]
      [​IMG]

      and an example of the render we are thing for aesthetic improvement
      [​IMG]
       
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    3. GarethW

      GarethW Chief Clicker Staff Member

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      Hi Satoshi - congratulations on going for it and doing something entrepreneurial! It's very inspiring. :)

      What materials are you using? the main body's an injection mouding, right? It's a little hard to tell from the pics - and forgive me if I'm totally wrong - but there appears to be some cosmetic issues and some sink (particularly noticeable over the larger faces). One thing I can say is that after working in consumer products for a few years is that cosmetics are king. You might get your toolmaker to improve on it (better polishing?)

      Shame to hear you only sold 20pcs. How competitive is your pricing, and how are you marketing? How crowded is the market for iPhone cases.
       
    4. kuwakuwa

      kuwakuwa Member

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      Hi Gareth thanks for the feedback and the support!

      The black case posted is a painted SLA.. and you are right we had some sink issues with the SLA.. which I didn't know could happen. We expect the final injection molded part to be sink free.. but now that you mention it, probably no-one that visits our site realizes that...

      As for the 3GS version (injection molded parts), we molded it out of Acetal. The reason we went with this was because we wanted to use the strongest material for the ratchet feature we have on the arm. However the Acetal was pretty hard to mold (distortion) and we'll probably go with Polycarbonate if we can get the iPhone 4 version funded. You can see what the 3GS ones ended up looking like here: http://www.picmecase.com/3Gs.html

      We priced the 3GS case at $19.98, and thought that we were competitive..
      However you might have the nail on the head with your inquiry into our marketing.. first off, we only offered the case in white and black, which may have hurt us. Secondly, we came out with the 3GS after the iPhone 4 came onto the market. Probably the worst move ever. Lastly, we were only about to generate a couple thousand hits over the course of the life of the 3GS case.. our campaign consisted of google adwords and advertising on iPhone photography sites.. which is relevant to our case, but just a facet of the many things it can do. We would have liked to have done more advertising, but it was pretty costly.

      When we launched our Kickstarter campaign, we thought that the exposure there would help us quite a bit. However we've realized that its still pretty hard to get something rolling even on a very popular site like that.
      Based on the difficulties we are having, we are kind of taking a step back and revisiting everything.For the longest time, we thought that it was our lack of marketing skills that was stopping us from succeeding.
      However now we are seeing trying to see if the product itself needs some improvements so that it could possibly market itself.

      It definitely helps to hear that "cosmetics is king".
      I think I'm gonna spend a bit more time on the rendering to better communicate what the final product will look like.

      Thanks a million!!

      ps. If you ask us, we feel like there are as many iPhone case options out there as there are grains of sand at the beach! It feels very crowded indeed. Not to mention that its fast moving, which also makes it challenging.
       
    5. seungkug

      seungkug New Member

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      Hi, kuwakuwa.
      I'm mobile phone mechanical design engineer with over 12 years experiences. Then last year, there was a project having similar function as yours. we called it 'Kick stand' then this was the hot issue from initial ID because of the concerns relevant reliablities since there is a high possibility to be brocken when press or pushed it inadvertently. Finally we decided to eliminated it. I just like to tell you about its potential risk. Thanks.
       
    6. kuwakuwa

      kuwakuwa Member

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      Thanks for the heads up.

      We've drop tested our case quite a few times and have had positive results.
      However you make a great point in that people will probably be concerned of that, so we will probably have to put together some video showing the limits of the case's function.

      Thanks!
       
    7. GarethW

      GarethW Chief Clicker Staff Member

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      Thanks to the link to the 3GS version. The case looks really good! It certainly looks like a totally credible product that should sell, although I'm not familiar with these kind of products, but my initial reaction is 20 USD per case is a little pricey. Is that what other cases normally sell for? I really wouldn't know. Is there still a market for the iphone 3 version or are people only buying the new shape now?

      Are you focusing on selling to customers direct or are you looking for retailers? It seems like a nightmare selling one or two here and there. It would be great to find someone to take a few hundred away in one go.

      Just a thought... have you looked at how much it would cost to buy a job-lot of iPhone cases from somewhere like made-in-china.com? That might give you some interesting info.
       
    8. EMDIntegration

      EMDIntegration New Member

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      Hi Satoshi,

      Well, I don't think the design of your case is the problem but rather your business approach. This project seems to be the typical "I'll design and build it first and then figure out if people want it" syndrome. Your comments below seem to answer your questions:

      "ps. If you ask us, we feel like there are as many iPhone case options out there as there are grains of sand at the beach! It feels very crowded indeed. Not to mention that its fast moving, which also makes it challenging."

      The first this you should do when you want to bring a product to market is to try and figure out if there is a demand. That is the whole point of business: filling a need. Why did you make this case? Was not having this feature a major inconvenience in your life? Or were you just bored and looking for something to design?

      Personally, I think the apple accessories market is saturated and I don't think you have solved any major issues. The 3G case seems bulky and I would have make it sleeker. I think the arm could break easily.

      My two cents, TL

      Another major issue is distribution. Have you tried pitching the idea to any mobile phone accessory vendors? Getting your product picked up is the way to sell lots.

      It seems like you are putting your brains to an area where the party is already crowded. Why don't you look for an area to apply your skills where there isn't a lot of competition? Easier said than done but that's the way to go.
       
    9. tganstrom

      tganstrom Guest

      Hi Kuwakuwa,

      I see you are 'test-marketing' your idea on Kickstarter.com. [basically getting a numerical value put on real future demand.] In a similar vein, I would recommend that you try out Quirky.com also. You are finding out how valuable marketing and distribution skills really are. The lessons are priceless.

      Best of luck!

      -Tim Ganstrom
      Masterful-design.com
       
    10. kuwakuwa

      kuwakuwa Member

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      Hi guys thanks for the great responses.

      I really think that Quirky site is pretty cool. Perhaps we'll entertain that after this Kickstarter campaign.

      As for why we did this project, it was because it was the only think we could think of that we thought had potential. ;) I really wish I had an idea for a product out there that everyone wants.. but I haven't been able to come up with that yet. Its cool, though.. its been a great learning experience, and we kind of got our feet wet with what works and what doesn't work work when trying to sell something.

      That being said, do you guys know what a good conversion ratio is for selling something?
      The case was recently featured on a Photography website called Photojojo and we had a lot of great responses, but about 30 sales from what we are estimating to be about 6,000+ views.. so maybe about a 0.5% conversion ratio at best.

      What kind of conversion ratio would you need, so that your product can be considered something that is in demand?
      I know thats a pretty open ended question that depends of profit margin and all that stuff, but that probably the biggest thing we wonder about..
      If we can have a 0.25% conversion ratio, but be visible to 1 million people, that could be 2,500 sales which would be freakin awesome.
      But the product doesn't sell itself and word isn't spreading to millions of people. Does a good product sell itself, or does one need to invest a lot of money to generate the visibility?

      Is this what people get an MBA for?
       
    11. Gregrlh

      Gregrlh New Member

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      Hi Kuwkawa,

      I applaud you for trying to come up with a viable product but I believe you will find that you are in an extremely competitive market. If anything you have gained knowlege on how difficult it is to bring a product to market. You are basially reinventing the wheel here. Your product thus far is not very refined. Take a look at other apple accessories. People who buy Apple products do so with a very keen eye on design and that's what drive sales.
      Look at all of the competition for ipod cases and see how yours compares. Do research on what people want from their cases. Do they want protection? Do they want to customize it to make it their own? What kind of features do they like? Do they want it in different colors? etc., etc.

      I am an industrial and mechanical designer and one of the first things they teach you in design school is to generate lots of sketches (paper and models) based on your research, then begin to narrow it down to the best possible solution. My suggestion is to get back to the drawing board and conceptualize what would be the ultimate case, check out the competition to see if they already are doing that and see if you have a chance. One more thing; before you commit to making a mold make a functional appearance model (rapid prototype) to see if you captured form and function correctly.

      Best of Luck.

      Greg
       

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