Fast Company recently featured an article about a 17-year-old New Yorker who managed to get hold of white iPhone four casings, direct from the Chinese manufacturer Foxconn. Apple has delayed the release of the white iPhone 4 until spring 2011, so enthusiasts were prepared to pay almost 300 USD for the casings and instructions on how to swap them for the existing black casing. According to the New York Observer, the venture has made the young opportunist over 100,000 USD which he hopes will fund him through college. In the past Apple have been heavy handed with individuals and websites that leak their technology ahead of schedule, so we will see how they respond to this high school entrepreneur.
This raises a couple of interesting points. It is amazing that with a bit of technical knowledge and a steady hand, anyone can physically hack their smart phone. At the moment these hacks tend to be repairs or cosmetic modifications, but in the future what’s to stop enthusiasts from making changes to the components of the device, in addition to software hacks? Is this necessarily a bad thing? Perhaps it could lead to a radically new configuration that makes an impact on the mainstream market. Also surprising are the risks and investment that some consumers will take to be three months ahead of the curve in owning a limited edition handset. Like cars, shoes and handbags, mobile phones can be expressive fashion items, but currently the mobile retail experience doesn’t appear to cater for this, except for premium devices. These issues will be discussed at the MEX event on 30 Nov – 01 Dec 2010 as part of Pathway #6 on new form factors.