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SEATTLE (AP) — When Apple Inc. launched an updated iPhone at its annual gathering of software developers last June, its biggest competitor was the iPhone that Apple had introduced the year before.
That won’t be the case at this year’s conference, which opens Monday. Now the next version of Apple’s touch-screen phone has to outdo a slew of rival gadgets — including one that comes out this weekend — that emulate or improve on some of the iPhone’s best features.

Much is riding on Apple’s ability to appear well ahead of its competitors. Apple’s shares have jumped 73 percent since March — even in the absence of revered CEO Steve Jobs, who is on medical leave — largely because of high expectations for the iPhone. Just two years after entering the fray, Apple enjoys a 19.5 percent share of the smart phone market, according to IDC, and investors are betting on a continued run of success.

“Apple, from a practical standpoint, has consistently tried to stay one to two years ahead of the competition on both the hardware and software levels,” said Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies and longtime Apple analyst. – Read More

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