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Glassgate: Apple Stops Selling Slide-On iPhone 4 Cases

iPhone 4 in Mophie case
(Image courtesy of Cult of Mac)

Following rumblings in recent weeks that Apple is facing yet another iPhone 4-related challenge with “Glassgate,” it appears the company has pulled all slide-on cases for the handset from their retail stores over concerns about dirt causing scratches and cracks.

Cult of Mac has filed an exclusive report on what’s being called “Glassgate” — potentially the next headache for Apple over their wildly successful iPhone 4 after the company finally put their previous “Antennagate” troubles behind them. The new problem involves slide-on cases for the handset, which can cause trapped dirt between the case and the device to create scratches or even cracks in the glass.

The report finds that at least one manufacturer certified for Apple’s “Made for iPhone” program has already had “hundreds of thousands” of battery pack cases pulled by Apple Retail, just as the holiday season kicks into gear — a huge problem considering that Apple’s 317 retail stores is considered the biggest outlet for many such accessory makers.

“Glassgate is a real problem,” said the unnamed source. “Apple is not approving slide-on cases right now for its stores. If they didn’t have a glass back, they wouldn’t have a problem.”

The term “Glassgate” was first coined by Ryan Block with Gdgt, who noted that the glass back on the iPhone 4 is not made from the same super-strength Gorilla Glass used on the front of the device to fend off scratches and other mishaps. Snap-on cases don’t appear to suffer from the same problem as the type that slide onto the device.

“They’re evaluating every case, one at a time,” said another source whose company is considered a popular third-party case maker for Apple’s products. “They’re being very vigorous. We’re still waiting for a final verdict.”

Among the slide-on case products currently banned from Apple’s retail stores is Mophie’s Juice Pack Air, which apparently had “monster” orders from Cupertino in excess of 100,000 units. The cases continue to be sold direct from Mophie’s website as well as in AT&T stores nationwide.

Tim Hickman, the CEO of accessory maker Hard Candy, claims that “Glassgate” is problem of perception, rather than reality — although it should be noted that Hard Candy cases are not sold in Apple Stores, so their business remains unaffected by Cupertino’s current ban.

“I’ve shipped 22,000 units and not heard a single complaint,” the iPod and iPhone accessory veteran said. “If there was a problem, we would have heard about it by now. I’m very suspect that there’s a real issue here.”

So how about it, dear readers? Any issues with your slide-on iPhone 4 cases? Sound off in the comments either way.

Follow this article’s author, J.R. Bookwalter on Twitter