- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 24, 2012

NEW YORK (AP) - Samsung Electronics Co. has been running ads touting its Galaxy S III phone as its “next big thing.” Now it has something bigger.

The S III released a few months ago has a screen that measures 4.8 inches diagonally, making it bigger than even the iPhone 5, which is Apple’s largest phone yet. This week, Samsung is releasing the Galaxy Note II, a smartphone with a 5.5 inch screen.

Aside from the larger screen, the Note comes with a stylus and runs the latest version of Google’s Android operating system, Jelly Bean.

Samsung and Apple dominate with nearly half of the worldwide market for smartphones.

In recent months, Samsung’s ads have been poking fun of Apple, suggesting that the iPhone 5 was merely playing catch-up with Samsung’s products. However, a federal jury in California awarded Apple $1 billion in damages after finding that 26 Samsung products ripped off Apple’s technology at the heart of its iPhones and iPads.

The Note’s launch on Wednesday came a day after Apple unveiled a smaller iPad and a faster full-sized one. Apple also refreshed its line of Mac computers on Tuesday, while Microsoft will hold an event Thursday focusing on Windows 8, a major update to its lucrative operating system.

These are some of the gadgets to expect for the holidays:

_ APPLE DEVICES:

Apple has done well selling its full-sized tablet computer, which has a screen that measures nearly 10 inches diagonally. The iPad dominates the worldwide tablet market, accounting for 70 percent of all tablet shipments in the second quarter of this year, according to IHS iSuppli. But companies such as Amazon.com Inc. and Google Inc. have made in-roads selling tablets with smaller, 7-inch screens and lower price tags.

On Tuesday, Apple said it will start shipping the iPad Mini next week. It will have a 7.9-inch screen, making it slightly larger than those smaller rivals but about two-thirds the size of a regular iPad.

The iPad Mini starts at $329, well above the $159 starting price for Amazon.com Inc.’s Kindle Fire and $199 for Google Inc.’s Nexus 7. Both have 7-inch screens. The Mini will be just $70 cheaper than the 2011 iPad 2, which is still available.

Unlike its rivals, Apple will make a version of the iPad Mini that can access cellular networks from AT&T, Verizon and Sprint. That version will start at $459, compared with $629 for the full-sized cellular model.

Apple is also refreshing its full-sized iPad, giving it a faster processor and faster Wi-Fi capabilities. It will go on sale next week as well.

Meanwhile, Apple unveiled a 13-inch version of a MacBook Pro with sharper, “Retina” display, complementing the 15-inch version unveiled in June.

Apple also updated its iMac line. Some versions will sport a hybrid storage drive that combines the speed of flash memory and the capacity of regular hard drives. They will go on sale in December.

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