Are tech accessories the next big opportunity in luxury?

Ah-Lun, a young woman born after 1998 in Shanghai, switched to a new phone less than three months ago and has already purchased 35 phone cases. “For me, the phone case doesn’t just protect the phone. It’s more like a fashion element – different phone cases can match different outfits, “she said Daily Jing.

The number of consumers like Ah-Lun who like to collect phone cases is growing globally. But since much of Chinese daily life is impossible without mobile technology, the industry is particularly profitable. These cases are, after all, another way to show boat status.

According to data from the American market research firm NPD Group, 75% of smartphone users use cases; this means that of the 1.4 billion smartphone shipments made in 2021, about 1 billion buyers also buy cases. Even more encouraging, public data Tmall, owned by Alibaba, reveals that the “stickiness” of phone cases in China is high, with more than 10 million users purchasing more than 12 cases per year.

Meanwhile, market research firm Counterpoint Research found that Chinese phone users have extended their replacement cycle from 18 months to 28 months, meaning people replace their phones less often. However, they still need to express their personality through different styles of phone cases. Here, Daily Jing explore the growing business of phone cases.

From local opportunity to global opportunity

While many shoppers’ impressions of phone cases may be reminiscent of cheap and cheerful models, Jame Technology, the parent company of the Defense technology accessory brand, became the first company in China to go public on the back of phone cases. On the first day of its IPO in 2020, Jame Technology’s total market capitalization reached $ 1.4 billion (9.635 billion yuan).

At an average of around $ 29.7 (200 yuan) per piece, Defense’s anti-drop technology taps into the phone user’s pain point: anxiety about falling and breaking their precious smartphones. When it comes to design, the tech-savvy firm stands in stark contrast to another leading player, Casetify, a tech accessories brand founded in 2011 by Hong Kong-based Wesley Ng and Ronald Yeung |.

What started on Instagram as a phone case printed with shopper photos is now a global brand selling premium, customizable accessories. Trendy designs are Casetify’s MO, and she continues to grow her arsenal of light and fancy cases by collaborating with everything from the Met to the NBA to Peanuts. According to Ng, Casetify is profitable and sells more than three million phone cases per year. Last year, it raised a Series A funding round of tens of millions of dollars from C Ventures, the millennial-centric and Generation Z venture capital firm co-founded by Adrian Cheng.

Casetify’s collaboration with The Met complements the art museum’s masterpieces. Photo: Casetificazione

Luxury brands have also joined in making stylish phone cases and other tech add-ons. As early as 2014, Moschino creative director Jeremy Scott’s McDonalds phone case entered this segment and was soon spotted in the hands of many prominent influencers. In 2016, Louis Vuitton launched its Eye-Trunk case series for the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, inspired by their famous Petite Malle bags, followed by an exclusive case for the Huawei P30 series in 2019.

A case for all

According to the report from market research firm Technavio, the phone case market is expected to grow by $ 11.74 billion (about 78.1 billion yuan) between 2020 and 2025. However, headphone cases are also available, computer cases and other accessories for smart products the rise.

In 2010, Bottega Veneta created a specific case for Apple’s iPad, featuring the brand’s signature Intreccio braided design. Headphone cases have also become a favorite with luxury brands in recent years, with Dior, Gucci and Prada all promoting high-end designs.

Years later, Chanel got people talking by launching two pearl leather AirPods cases in June 2021. These were made from sheepskin and feature the classic Chanel double C logo in sparkling rhinestones. But its high price of nearly $ 2,970 (20,000 yuan) has put many off. Netizens jokingly said: “Headphone case is more expensive than headphones, so what protects what?” The Parisian house has also launched different materials and styles of cases, such as embossed calfskin, raffia and embroidered crochet bonnet sets, just to name a few.

Chanel AirPods Pro case in white lambskin. Photo: Chanel

Ultimately, the demand for technological accessories will always go hand in hand with devices that are designed to beautify and protect. For today’s Chinese consumers, luxury isn’t dictated by a price tag; objects that reflect one’s taste and style are more important and sought after. Phone cases (and headphone cases), like clothing, have become a popular way for younger consumers, especially to express themselves. It is only a matter of time before luxury brands and niche players invest further in the segment and allow for more personalization.