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Apple's shadow looms large as rivals gather at Berlin electronics expo

BERLIN -- Berlin's gigantic IFA consumer electronics fair opens this week, with the shadow of Apple looming large even if the iconic U.S. brand traditionally snubs the event.

IFA, one of Europe's biggest showcases of the latest electronic gadgets, is scheduled to open on Sept. 5 and run until Sept. 10.

But news that Apple will stage a mystery unveiling of its own on September 9 is likely to upstage any of the announcements made by its rivals at the Berlin show, analysts said.

Mobile phone makers “increasingly announce more things at the IFA than in the past, because they want to unveil their products before Apple gets all the attention of the media,” said Ian Fogg, analyst at IHS.

Famously secretive Apple has offered scant clues about a possible new product in emailed invitations to the Sept. 9 event.

But rumors about Apple's plans have been swirling for months, with many observers convinced a new-generation iPhone with a larger screen is on the horizon.

Some analysts are expecting Apple to unveil an iPhone 6, marking a move into the “phablet” sector, a cross between smartphone and tablet that is proving particularly popular among mobile gamers in countries such as South Korea and China.

But Apple might also unveil an “iWatch,” a wrist-worn device that links wirelessly to its iconic iPhones or iPads.

The U.S. giant's rivals are hoping to deliver the goods in their snap-fire counter-offensive, with South Korea's Samsung in particular — the pioneer of both the phablet and the smartwatch — hoping to hold on to its number one position.

Phablets and Smartwatches

Samsung is Apple's archrival and it looks set to unveil as early as Wednesday a new version of its giant-sized smartphone, the Galaxy Note 4.

It was at the IFA in 2011 that Samsung unveiled its first-ever phablet, creating a new market segment into which competitors quickly followed.

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