iPhone 5 cases hit AT&T stores, suggest design changes

Case Mate's iPhone 5 designs were live on their site briefly in September before the company pulled them.

AT&T (s t) retail stores are reportedly taking delivery of iPhone 5(s aapl) cases a little early, according to a new report. Photos obtained by MacRumors show boxes of new cases allegedly delivered to one AT&T store late Thursday. The cases feature a tapered back design and what appears to be a mute switch opening on the opposite side of the phone relatively to where it’s currently located.

A tapered back redesign is in keeping with some other early case leaks we’ve seen from Chinese accessory makers and other vendors, although separate rumors have suggested we’ll see a new iPhone that closely resembles the previous generation. One theory is that Apple will unveil two new models of iPhone on Tuesday during its special media event, one of which is a modest evolutionary upgrade of the iPhone 4 as a low-cost option, and the other a complete redesign.

The cases could be fake or based on an uninformed, just-in-case ordering decision on behalf of AT&T or this store in particular. Some have pointed out that the packaging seems unrealistic, but AT&T retail is known to repackage products from accessory-makers in generic packaging. And considering how close we are to the iPhone 5’s reveal — Apple is holding an iPhone launch event on Oct. 4 — it’s more likely that important partners like AT&T would be privy to some knowledge of the next iPhone’s actual design.

Personally, I think we’ll see redesigned hardware, and the tapered look seems to be garnering the most support. For Apple to wait 16 months just to introduce a minor refresh would not go over well with consumers, as we’ve seen from recent survey results.