Damage insured with alum’s iPhone case

Brandon Zeris, Features Editor

With the first cell phone case to fully insure iPhone 4 and 4S’s, 2005 UPJ graduate Mike Kane said his product will change the cell phone case market.

Although the product is still in initial production phases, Kane, CEO of cellpig.com, said he has high hopes for the future.

“This is the first case ever to guarantee the phone inside it. Other companies have warranties that guarantee their case but not the actual phone inside. People will no longer need to buy monthly insurance from (cell phone) carriers.

“With every product we sell, we are basically buying you an insurance plan to back your iPhone. The only thing we require is a $50 handling fee.”

Kane said customers must register their case, cellhelmet, within 30 days to be eligible for coverage. Once registered, customers are guaranteed to have their iPhone repaired or replaced.

Once a replacement is issued, one must buy another case to receive further coverage.

Kane said the plan, backed by Global Warranty Group, does not cover water damage but covers every other damage type.

He said making the case waterproof would have compromised the fundamental vision of the case – sleek and functional.

“Water damage only accounts for 17 percent of iPhone 4 claims, according to a SquareTrade report. Why would we add bulk to the case, compromising the functionality of the phone, for such a small percentage?”

Kane initially wanted to develop an indestructible phone case, but said it was a difficult task.

“We thought about making a case with titanium or other metals, but it would have been extremely bulky, so we decided to use a polyurethane and insure the phone inside instead.”

Kane said producing a bulky case would make it difficult to appeal to his target market, 24 to 35 year-old women.

“We didn’t want an ugly, bulky-looking case, so we looked at ways to make a strong case that’s attractive.

“With the case, you get different colored back-plates which you can swap out to match your outfit,” Kane said.

With a product vision in place, the next decision was to decide on a manufacturer. Kane said he elected to go with a local company.

“The entire product is manufactured near Pittsburgh,” Kane said.

“Our mold (for the case) is currently being produced just outside of Pittsburgh, in Latrobe, by SunStar Inc.”

Though outsourcing is cheaper than manufacturing domestically, Kane said it was an easy decision to produce the case, cellhelmet, in Western Pennsylvania.

“Shipping costs and customs cost a lot, so it was pretty close. It costs us more to manufacture here, but we wanted to keep it in the U.S. That was important to us.”

Kane also said the majority of other, similar, companies are outsourcing production.

SunStar Inc. President Mike Berry said outsourcing has been problematic.

“We’re seeing some things come back to production in the U.S., but it’s pretty scattered.”

Because of recent shifts to foreign production, Berry said it’s encouraging to see companies choose American-made products rather than foreign.

“It’s very nice to see (a company produce locally). We don’t export overseas too much these days, and you see a lot of things being produced in China and Mexico.

“Before they switched to China, we did a lot of things for Sony.”

Although the idea may seem foolproof to some, at least one person thinks Kane may run into some problems.

Mobile Phone Pros sales associate Drew Claar said Kane’s project is risky.

“We sell about 400 or 500 types of iPhone cases here, and I’ve never seen a company insure the phone inside it. That’s a big risk since phones (off-contract) can cost $500.”

Kane said he was surprised that the case would be the first of its kind.

“It’s a pretty novel idea. I’m surprised it has never been done before.”