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Apple looks to recapture the magic

Apple is expected to announce, among other things, a revamp of its mobile iOS operating software at the WorldWide Developers Conference in San Francisco, starting Monday, June 10, 2013.

DADO RUVIC/REUTERS

Today is the first day of the rest of Apple's life.

The company that once owned the consumer smartphone market kicks off its annual developer conference in San Francisco on Monday. Normally, the WorldWide Developers Conference isn't where Apple makes its major product announcements. However this year the iPhone-maker heads into WWDC at the tail end of several product cycles and facing stiff competition from the likes of Samsung and Google. As such, the pressure is on to give consumers and investors something to cheer about.

The list of possible WWDC announcements is long and varied. Some analysts believe the company may use the conference to launch a new, low-cost iPhone targeted at the growing low-end smartphone market. Others say consumers may get an upgrade to the Mac computer lineup. In addition to hardware announcements, Apple may also announce a slew of programs and services, such as streaming radio and a trade-in promotion to encourage customers to upgrade to higher-end iPhones.

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Even if the big announcements – a new iPhone and a new iPad – don't come this week at WWDC, they are widely expected to arrive before the end of the year, and probably before the lucrative back-to-school shopping season.

Perhaps the most likely announcement at this year's conference will be an overhaul of the popular iOS operating system that powers most of Apple's mobile devices. The software recently came under the control of Jonathan Ive, the Apple executive responsible for the iconic design of the original iPod and iPhone.

"We look to see if Apple's industrial design head Jony Ive can port the talent he and his team have in hardware design to software design," said BGC technology analyst Colin Gillis. "The question we look to see answered is if the new iOS look is visually stunning enough to accelerate demand for the iPhone."

WWDC marks the unofficial start of Apple's newest product cycle. But unlike previous instances, Apple heads into this one facing more competition than it has had at any point since the launch of the original iPhone. Chiefly, that competition comes from Samsung, whose Galaxy smartphone line has leapfrogged the iPhone for market share supremacy in the United States, at least for now. But Apple is also dealing with a shifting smartphone industry in which low-cost phones are quickly improving in quality, and fewer and fewer consumers are willing to pay premium prices for high-end products. As such, Apple's summer of product launches may well be focused, for the first time, on price-conscious rather than status-conscious buyers.

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