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Rivals 'catching up with Apple'

Apple's reign over the smartphone market faces an uncertain future as rivals are catching up with the technology giant, according to industry experts.

The firm's share price has slipped below 500 US dollars for the first time in 11 months as investors reacted to reports suggesting its latest iPhone is falling further behind alternatives running Google's Android software.

The slump comes as electronics giant Samsung reported that global sales of its Galaxy S smartphone series have passed 100 million since the first model was launched less than three years ago.

It reached the milestone faster than its competitor - it took about four years for Apple to sell more than 100 million iPhones.

Experts said the future remains uncertain as Apple struggles to retain its grip on the market.

Ernest Doku, telecoms expert at price comparison site uSwitch, said the flexibility of the Android operating system had seen it adopted by many manufacturers, including Samsung, allowing them to offer a huge range of devices across the market.

He said Apple's last two releases had been a "change of tack" for the manufacturer: "Traditionally Apple has been associated with carving their own path in the technology market, going their own way, creating devices that are very much premium. With the iPhone 5 and the iPad Mini, these devices did reflect a manufacturer that was on the defensive."

Describing Google's "Trojan Horse" approach with its Android operating system as "incredibly successful", he said: "Every manufacturer is taking it on board and turning it into their own unique smartphone experience.

"Samsung have been able to flood the market with a swathe of phones at different price points, different specifications with manufacturers able to adopt it and adapt it and create all sorts of devices. Android has a multiple of uses and it's definitely enabling manufacturers to lower their costs and deliver decent devices and functionality at previously unheard of prices."

Fred Huet, managing director at telecoms specialist Greenwich Consulting, said people may be turning away from Apple, but manufacturers could also be wary of relying solely on Android as it becomes bigger and bigger. He said: "Because Android is going with many more handset manufacturers, obviously the level of innovation that all these different manufacturers, and the R&D money they can put in, is much bigger."

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