The Case for Cell Phone Cases and PopSockets

There’s a lot of focus on apparel in Merch by Amazon circles, but for everyone who has skin that needs covering, chances are they have a phone that needs covering, too.

Merch by Amazon doesn’t have as many accessory choices as other print-on-demand manufacturers. There are tote bags and then there are a select variety of phone cases and handles called “PopSockets.” That said, just as printed t-shirts say a lot about the person wearing them, so does their choice of phone accessories.

Why Cell Phone Cases?

If you’re a Merch by Amazon designer and you’re itching to go beyond apparel, you may be frustrated that MBA only offers cell phone accessories and tote bags. After all, the larger POD manufacturers offer hundreds of different items to customize.

One reality is that, much like the t-shirt and tote bag, the cell phone case is a simple every day item that people choose to reflect their interests, tastes, personality, etc.

The other reality is that the cell phone case market is enormous.

A graph of a phone case Description automatically generated with medium confidence

Yeah, so we didn’t need to fill in the X’s – they had us at “bazillion dollars in ten years”

A very recent report by Spherical insights stated that the global mobile phone protective case market size was valued at USD $25.7 billion in 2023, and expected to reach $44.5 billion in 2033. That’s already huge and projected to almost double in size within the next decade.

The bottom line: this is your chance to get into a market that will double in size within the next ten years. And all you have to do is make something that appeals to someone with a cell phone. Which is pretty much everybody.

We don’t trade in hyperbole here, but really…how often does an opportunity like this come along?

Phone Cases: Which Ones?

There are countless varieties of cell phone cases out there, from cheap one-layer covers to book style wallets to intimidating matte black “military grade” hardboxes.

Amazon makes the choice simple by offering one option. It’s a sturdy two-part protective case that offers additional drop protection without added bulk. The outer shell is polycarbonate plastic that is easy to decorate, offering full bleed, edge-to-edge sublimation printing. The TPU rubber insert makes it easy to attach the decorated cover to the phone while offering additional shock absorption.

The phone models covered are very limited. As of this writing, there are only 19 iPhone silhouettes, going backward from iPhone 14 to the iPhone 7. Android users are less fortunate, with only Samsung models supported; even so, there are only 10 of those phone profiles available. Worse, the latest model supported is the Galaxy S20 series, which is a whopping four models behind the most current.

A phone case with a face on it Description automatically generated A phone case with a pumpkin Description automatically generated A phone case with a skull in a police hat Description automatically generated

That said, having designed cell phone cases before, I can attest to the fact that attempting to create something for EVERY phone user is an exercise in futility. Even the most versatile non-Amazon print-on-demand manufacturer only selects a certain number of profiles to offer. If Amazon chose these models, there are probably some good reasons behind the decision – as the world’s largest online store, they have data to support what the bestselling models are, and these are probably them.

In addition, the template provided is a one-size-fits-all mechanical with specific areas blocked out for average Samsung and iPhone “safe zones”. As you’ll recall from our blogs about bleed, trim and safety, the “safe zone” is not just an imprint area; it is the area within the trim that is less likely to get cut off if the print head shifts during production. Once you design with that in mind, Amazon’s design template will automatically center the art in the safe zone, no matter which model you’re designing for.

A comparison of the same size of a phone Description automatically generated A different design of a phone case Description automatically generated with medium confidence

The image needs to be 1800 x 3200 pixels and in PNG format to be applied to the phone case. Keep the critical design elements in the “safe zone” and that’s all you need to know. Amazon makes this as easy as designing a t-shirt.

Here’s the best part: once you upload the artwork, Amazon automatically resizes it to the models they offer once a customer selects the model to purchase. Almost all the other POD manufacturers require a separate template for each individual model you’re designing the cover for. Without exaggeration, that could take hours or days, depending on which models you want to offer. Not so at Amazon.

Below is an example of how Amazon automatically resizes the design to fit the model, using the MBA (now known as “Amazon On Demand”) logo to demonstrate comfortable placement in the safe zone.

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PopSockets: The Paper Clip of Cell Phone Handles

In 2012, a Philosophy professor named David Barnett had an idea for a simple, removable and collapsible handle for an iPhone that could also store wired headphones. In 2014, he started selling them on a proprietary website. That year, he sold 30,000 units. In 2017, 35 million PoSockets were sold. In 2018, they sold 60 million. Over 100 million PopSockets have currently been sold.

Don’t ever let anyone say you Philosophy degree is useless. Especially if your philosophy is Volo vendere vilia products ad populum multum (look it up, I don’t get paid to teach Latin).

A pink and black popsocket with a skeleton on it Description automatically generated A close up of a pop socket Description automatically generated A close up of a popsocket Description automatically generated

PopSockets are pretty much the default standard for cell phone users, and about as loved and hated as Crocs. They’re seen in virtually every Instagram models’ mirror selfies – and therefore more visible than the cell phone cover itself, as it sits over the fingers.

And truthfully, a better handle is hard to find. They’re comfortable in the hand, they collapse almost flat against the phone case, they double as stands, and they’re easy to replace if worn out or damaged (which they inevitably are, yet another reason to jump on these).

The design area is small (485×485 px) and can be designed quickly. Subtracting the time it takes to upload and write listings, this is the fastest way to put product up on your MBA store.

What the Cell Are You Waiting For?

Phone cases and PopSockets are yet another way people express themselves or for you to express yourself. And Amazon makes the process so simple that any MBA designer should take advantage of the opportunity.

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