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iPhone 6S and 6S Plus cases and screen protectors: 5 things you need to know

If you're wondering what the differences are between "old" iPhone 6 cases and new 6S cases, you've come to the right place.

Mophie describes its upcoming Juice Pack Reserve as an iPhone 6 battery case but it also fits the iPhone 6S. David Carnoy/CNET

So you've just bought a new iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus and now you want to protect it with a case and maybe a screen protector.

But you've heard that the new iPhones are ever-so-slightly bigger than their predecessors. And then you see that some cases are designated as iPhone 6 cases while others get dual billing as 6/6S. What's the deal? Here's the quick skinny.

1. Many, but not all, legacy iPhone 6 and 6 Plus cases fit new "S" models.

Yes, the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus weigh a little more than their predecessors and are slightly bigger (we're talking fractions of millimeters), so there's been some concern that "old" iPhone 6 cases may not fit the new models. But the majority of the legacy cases do fit.

Where you might run into trouble is with a very stiff, tight case and waterproof cases such as the Lifeproof that demand a perfect seal. Lifeproof currently lists its iPhone 6S and and 6S Plus cases as "coming soon," so it appears the company will put out slightly modified cases for the new "S" series.

Mophie lists its new $60 Juice Pack Reserve battery case, which is due to ship in October, as an iPhone 6 case. However, the pre-production sample I received does fit the 6S. It's unclear when or if Mophie will designate it an iPhone 6/6S case, but I can tell you it works with a 6S. However, some legacy Mophie battery cases may not. You may be able to get a case on but the fit will be so snug you'll have trouble getting the phone out of the case (with most battery cases, which often come in two pieces, you slide your phone into base and then put the top or "cap" of the case on).

In the short term, many accessory makers won't change their iPhone 6 packaging and may use stickers to show iPhone 6S compatibility. When in doubt about compatibility, contact the company.

2. 3D Touch works with screen protectors.

One of the biggest new features in the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus is 3D Touch. With compatible apps, when you press firmly on the screen you get a Quick Action menu or you can peek into an email or a web page. If you were wondering whether 3D Touch works with screen protectors, the answer is yes. I've tried using it with film protectors, hard glass protectors and Speck's Faceplate. Integrated screen protectors such as the ones found on Otterbox's Defender Series cases also don't impact 3D Touch.

3. Switching apps with 3D Touch works more smoothly on slimmer cases.

With the 6S or 6S Plus, you can switch between open apps by pressing firmly on the left edge of your iPhone's screen and swiping right (your apps become a sort of carousel). With thicker, more protective cases that fully encapsulate your phone, the edge of the case -- which is often raised a bit -- goes right up to the edge of the display. You can still wedge your finger against the case and press on the left edge of the screen to active 3D app switching, but it works more smoothly with a naked iPhone or one that has a slim case on it.

4. It's a good idea to get a case that has good corner protection and raised edges.

While the new iPhone 6S and 6 Plus are more rugged than their predecessors, with a stronger "aerospace-grade" aluminum body and sturdier glass covering the touchscreen, they still aren't indestructible and we should still see plenty of shattered iPhone screens, particularly shattered iPhone 6S Plus screens.

Screens tend to crack because your phone falls on an exposed corner (any part of it, even the very top) or falls straight on its face. Therefore it's a good idea to get a case that has strong corner protection and a raised edge around the screen -- call it a lip -- to increase survival odds should your phone decide to fall flat on its face on a hard surface such as pavement.

Getting a wallet or folio-style case that has a built-in cover to protect your screen can help, but just be aware that some folio cases don't have great corner protection.

5. Beware of knockoffs.

A lot of the cases from well-known case manufacturers such as Speck, Otterbox, Lifeproof (now owned by Otterbox) and Mophie are fairly pricey. They will get discounted as we approach the launch of next year's iPhone 7, but if you see a deal on a popular case that seems a little too good to be true, it may very well be a knockoff. If you want a cheaper case, there are plenty of no-name Chinese brands out there that do a decent job of protecting your iPhone, but it's not a good idea to buy a cheap Mophie because it probably isn't the real deal and may die, or have its paint peel off after a few months.

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Apple iPhone 6S (32GB, space gray)
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