The days constituting the last week have been more than a bit blurry around these parts, so I didn’t think twice when a package arrived from Hong Kong this morning with this inside: Uniea’s U-Suit for iPod nano (3G). “Wow,” I thought, somewhat passively, “it’s the first case for the new iPod nano.” You know, the one we featured in this news story five days before the nano was unveiled. The one that some people were doubting, with comments such as, “This is fake,” “These are definitely fake,” and “I don’t think this is real.”
Yeah, it’s real. Uniea shipped them out to us last week, and they’re here today, fitting the new nanos perfectly. Not “closely,” but “perfectly.” And they look just like the pictures posted before the nano was announced, minus the brown version that was in the brochures we received.
Once I’d finished taking a few pictures, my brain finally got around to asking the obvious question: “how is this possible?” All of the industry’s major players were firing up copies of Photoshop last week to announce their “new iPod cases,” which won’t be anywhere near stores for the next month. Uniea had pictures of its cases on August 30th or so, and real things out two days after the nano hit stores.
Some people have suggested that Apple is leaking pre-release info itself. The 9to5Mac people seem to have someone inside Apple who feeds them “spy shot” images of new iPods before they’re released. And rumor sites are becoming more accurate by the month on new Apple products, even quoting anonymous sources directly within the company. Though we could see this as part of an Apple marketing strategy, even that’s sort of hard to believe given how concerned Apple seems to be about SEC regulations these days: letting personnel selectively leak secrets about its hottest upcoming products would violate long-standing rules on how broadly companies must disclose material, previously non-public information. Given the penalties, would Apple really want to selectively leak secrets not to the company’s most loyal partners, but rather to unknown Chinese case vendors and rumor sites?
Though there could well be someone inside Apple leaking images, we’re inclined to think that at least some of the leaks are coming from Apple’s Chinese factories, too—the ones that make the iPods themselves, or the ones that make cases for Apple, like the iPod nano Armband that showed up in stores this weekend. Such leaks from China would explain how Chinese case vendors were ahead of the pack on the new nano—not just on its rough looks, like the images that emerged weeks ago, but also on the correct body dimensions necessary to actually get working cases into our hands so quickly. Given that the spy shots nearly pre-empted (and arguably detracted significantly from) Apple’s event last week, it’ll be interesting to see whether such leaks stop, or whether they’ll continue.