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Apple’s e-mail invitation shows a big “12,” for Sept. 12, casting a shadow in the shape of a “5.” We've manually increased the contrast to make the shadow clearer. (Apple)

Apple’s e-mail invitation shows a big “12,” for Sept. 12, casting a shadow in the shape of a “5.” We've manually increased the contrast to make the shadow clearer.

(Apple)

Here comes iPhone 5: Apple event on Sept. 12 Add to ...

Apple Inc. distributed invitations to an event in San Francisco on Sept. 12, setting the stage for what is widely expected to be the release of the iPhone 5.

The typically cryptic invitation said “It’s almost here”, sported a number 12 – corresponding to the date of the event – and cast a large shadow of the number 5, a clue that the fifth version of the popular smartphone could be in the pipeline.

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Apple’s iPhone launches are among the most-watched events on the tech industry calendar. The latest version of the company’s main product – generating more than half its revenue – may sport a larger, higher-end screen, sources have said.

The new screen could measure 4 inches from corner to corner, one source has said, an increase from the 3.5-inch display that has been held constant since the smartphone began selling in 2007 and revolutionized the mobile industry.

Some analysts say the larger screen may be a response to rival Samsung Electronics, whose larger, Google Android phones have helped it become the world’s biggest smartphone maker.

Speculation had also arisen in past months that the company might offer details about a smaller version of its iPad, but the emailed invitation offered no hint of that on Tuesday.

The event will take place at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, the preferred venue for the unveiling of past products such as the iPad.

The new iPhone will hit store shelves in time for the crucial holiday season. Shares in the company edged 0.6 per cent higher to $669.44.

Even before it hits store shelves, Apple’s new phone is cannibalizing its old one. The world’s most valuable technology company recently reported a rare quarterly earnings miss this week, in large part because many of its regular customers aren’t buying its current line of iPhones. They’re opting instead to wait for the iPhone 5, which is widely expected to be released this fall. Until then, Apple’s iPhone sales are slumping.

This isn’t the first time consumers have stopped buying Apple products because they are waiting for newer, better iterations just around the corner. Indeed, Apple’s near-clockwork schedule of upgrading its hardware lines – especially the iPhone and the iPad – has habituated consumers to expect new models around the same times every year.

But several factors exacerbating this year’s pre-upgrade sales drought. Even though the last iPhone upgrade – the iPhone 4S, released in October as an upgrade to the iPhone 4 – featured myriad improvements, some Apple fans were expecting more. As such, they decided to wait to upgrade to the iPhone 5, rather than buy the current model and break their contracts.

With files from Globe reporter Omar el Akkad.

Follow us on Twitter: @GlobeTechnology

 
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