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With about a week to go before it rolls out a cheaper version of the iPhone, Apple Inc. is reportedly developing a smart phone with a large screen that could measure as much as six inches.

This would be quite a leap from the current four-inch display on the current iPhone 5 handset and appears to heat up the battle over smart phone screen size. Just two day ago device maker Samsung Electronics Co. unveiled its Galaxy Note 3 smart phone which has a 5.7-inch display.

Apple appears to be shifting gears in a bid to stave off pressure from rivals like Samsung offering hybrid phone-tablet devices carve up the market, according to a report from financial publication the Wall Street Journal.

Apart from unpacking a lower-priced handset this year, the Cupertino Calif.-based technology company can follow a multi-size, multi-device strategy. Apple often tests different device configurations before committing to a product.

The screen size of the two iPhones that the company is expected to unveil next week are likely to be the same as current models though.

Last year, Apple released its iPhone 5, which had a larger screen than the model it followed. However analysts said that increasing the size of the display was not enough to win over consumers who are increasingly turning to Android phones.

Apple is also facing fresh challenge from Japanese electronics company Sony, which released its new Xperia Z1 smart phone. The company’s flagship handset comes with a five-inch full HD display.

Price is also dragging the iPhone brand. The handset starts at $650 without carrier subsidy while makers such as Samsung offer models priced at $100 in countries such as China, Indonesia and India.

Japan appears to be a bright spot in Apple’s horizon. The country’s largest mobile carrier, NTT DoCoMo Inc., today announced that it will start carrying iPhones this fall. DoCoMoo which previously resisted offering the iPhone, has more than 60 million subscribers in the country.

Capturing emerging markets is key Apple maintaining growth. The company’s world-wide sales fell 14 per cent in the second quarter from 19 per cent the same period last year.

By contrast, Samsung’s share rose to 32 per cent from 30 per cent over the same period.

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