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Will 'emerging market' iPhone electrify Apple?

Customers and employees celebrate the debut of the iPhone 6s in September 2015 in an Apple Store in Palo Alto, California.

SILICON VALLEY -- Apple is preparing to launch a smaller, less-expensive version of its iPhone early this year. The U.S. tech giant is apparently positioning the model as a tool for boosting sales in emerging markets, where its standard phones are often out of reach of the average consumer.

     By cracking markets dominated by lower-priced phones, the company also hopes to win over new customers for its ballooning content business.

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