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Hands-on with the first batch of 'iPhone 6' cases (pictures)

Case maker Spigen sent us an early batch of their test cases for the iPhone 6. Here's what they look like.

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John Falcone

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1 of 17 Sarah Tew / CNET

The iPhone 6 is expected to be announced at an Apple event on September 9. And one thing's for certain: the new iPhone is getting a complete redesign with a larger screen. That means that the existing menagerie of cases -- which were largely interchangeable between 2012's iPhone 5 and 2013 iPhone 5S -- also need to be completely redesigned. (This photo shows the iPhone 5 sitting in a case designed for the theoretical iPhone 6.)

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2 of 17 Sarah Tew / CNET

But how do you design a case for a phone that doesn't even officially exist yet?

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3 of 17 Sarah Tew / CNET

The answer falls somewhere in between the realms of "educated guess" and "industrial espionage."

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4 of 17 Sarah Tew / CNET

Case manufacturers -- like Spigen, shown here -- will make prototypes and mock-ups based on leaked specs and rumored sizes.

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5 of 17 Sarah Tew / CNET

Companies may also attempt to get "real" specs from manufacurers in Apple's supply chain in Asia. (Whether the information is accurate -- or if they're getting the "final" sizes -- is anyone's guess.)

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6 of 17 Sarah Tew / CNET

Spigen sent us a batch of prospective cases designed for an iPhone 6 with a 4.7-inch screen.

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7 of 17 Sarah Tew / CNET

There are two basic models in various colors. The second one (shown in the center) has a round window intended to highlight the Apple logo.

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8 of 17 Sarah Tew / CNET

The entire design is risky, of course. If the final product has different dimensions in even a fraction of a millimeter, these test cases won't work.

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9 of 17 Sarah Tew / CNET

The first thing you'll notice is that these are designed for a more rounded phone than the past few iPhone models.

Shown from right, the slot left open here is for the sleep/wake button, which is rumored to move from the top to the side. (But Spigen hedged its bets, leaving the entire top edge of the case open.)

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10 of 17 Sarah Tew / CNET

The bottom leaves indents for the headphone jack (on the left) and the Lightning port (center).

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11 of 17 Sarah Tew / CNET

On the other side are spaces for the mute switch (the top) and the volume buttons (the longer opening below).

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12 of 17 Sarah Tew / CNET

The camera slot is large enough to encompass the camera itself and the double flash already found on the iPhone 5S.

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13 of 17 Sarah Tew / CNET

It's ringed in black, to eliminate any reflectivity.

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14 of 17 Sarah Tew / CNET

But is that space in exactly the right spot? And can it handle a camera that protrudes from the iPhone 6's thinner body, as some leaked photos have indicated?

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15 of 17 Sarah Tew / CNET

Like other manufacturers, Spigen makes a totally clear case -- perfect for folks who want to show off their gold iPhone 6 (presuming the new model follows the 5S color scheme).

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16 of 17 Sarah Tew / CNET

Presumably, case makers like Spigen and their competitors wait for the exact product specs before making final changes and cranking up the mass production lines.

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17 of 17 Sarah Tew / CNET

But with potentially huge rewards for first mover advantage, there are millions of dollars at stake for case manufacturers who get to market first.

We'll see who wins the case race after September 9. In the meantime, check out our favorite iPhone 5/5S cases that you can buy right now.

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