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Mobile Accessories

How the iPhone 6 will (and won't) shake up the accessories market

The arrival of any new iPhone opens the floodgates to a torrent of new accessories and cases. Here's what to expect as Apple gets set to launch its next iPhone -- or iPhones.

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The new iPhone is rumored to come in two sizes, which will leave case makers scrambling to produce products. Amazon

A new iPhone -- or iPhones -- is almost upon us, and with it will come a possible sea change in the market for iAccessories.

Unlike 2013's iPhone 5S , which worked with almost all of the 5's accessories and cases, the iPhone 6 will be a totally new breed of iPhone that will work with some add-ons and not others. Here's how we think its arrival will and won't affect the massive ecosystem of iPhone accessories.

Likely changes

  1. Form factor
  2. If rumors are to be believed, Apple has not just one, but two iPhones coming, a 4.7-inch and a 5.5-inch model (we're talking screen size here). While nothing's a sure bet until Tim Cook leaves the stage on Tuesday, new cases and screen protectors for both models are already up on Amazon, though most aren't available for delivery until after Apple's launch event on September 9. The new iPhone or iPhones will also supposedly be slimmer than the current iPhone 5 and have rounded edges.

    If, as expected, Apple serves up iPhones with bigger screens, the market for folio-style cases could really take off, particularly for the phablet-sized 5.5-inch iPhone. I've seen folio cases used to good effect with the Samsung Galaxy S5 and Note 3 and think it's a good idea to totally cover these larger screens, which run a higher risk of cracking even with short falls.

    Another change may involve the design of the camera. Again, if the the leaked images prove accurate, the camera may protrude slightly from the phone, which would alter case designs (you'd want the case to be thick enough to prevent the phone from resting on its lens).

    Obviously, any iPhone docks that are specifically designed to work with smaller iPhones would be in jeopardy, but some would remain compatible, particularly those that are designed to work with both iPhones and iPads.

  3. NFC
  4. One of the features Apple is rumored to be adding to the next iPhone is near-field communications or NFC, a wireless technology that can be used for mobile payments or easier pairing with accessories (it's sometimes referred to as tap-to-pair technology). There are plenty of accessories, such as Bluetooth speakers and headphones, that incorporate NFC (NFC handles the pairing, Bluetooth handles the audio streaming). Hopefully, those existing products would work with the new iPhone.

What might change

  1. The screen material
  2. There's been some talk that Apple will move to a uber hard that's more scratch-resistant. We have our doubts we'll see it in this crop of iPhones (the Touch ID button is made out of Sapphire glass), but a Sapphire screen would probably put a damper on the screen-protector market. Rumor has it that the so-called iWatch will have the Sapphire screen but not the new iPhones won't get it yet.

What likely won't change

  1. Touch ID
  2. Both phones will likely have this feature, which creates a challenge for rugged cases that cover the iPhone's Home button. Several rugged case manufacturers such as OtterBox or LifeProof use a special membrane to cover the home button in and retain Touch ID functionality. It works better than you'd think, but isn't perfect.

  3. Bluetooth, Airplay and Wi-Fi
  4. All existing wireless accessories (speakers, headphones, etc.) should still work as is.

  5. Headphone jack
  6. Rumors of Lightning headphones notwithstanding, we expect the 3.5mm jack to survive, so all of your existing wired headphones, headsets, and patch cables should still work.

  7. Lightning jack
  8. No physical changes are expected, so existing cables and some Lightning docks should still work.

Everything will become much clearer on Tuesday (Sept. 9), so check back then and we'll have the full skinny on all the new accessories and cases, as well as the iPhones themselves.

Join CNET for live coverage of Apple's event on Tuesday, September 9, starting at 8:45 a.m. PT/11:45 a.m. ET.