Rival smartphone makers are no longer afraid of Apple

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There was a time when Apple was the undisputed king of mobile. Since the release of the first iPhone in a barnstorming speech by Steve Jobs, the company went from strength to strength, dropping better models every year, and absolutely dominating the high-end mobile market.

Apple sold out of the launch shipments of the brand-new iPhone 5s in under two days, and sales of the iPhone have maintained Apple's profits despite a recent drop in iPad sales. But since Steve Jobs' death, Apple's competitors have been getting bolder. With the launch of the upcoming iPhone 6 coming in September, a number of high profile rivals have been snapping at Apple's heels with aggressive marketing, attack ads and a general lack of respect for the venerable giant of mobile technology. Here are a couple of hints that Apple's competitors are sensing a weakening of the giant.

Sony's Xperia Z3 launch

Back in the days of the Harry Potter films, it was conventional wisdom that you didn't release a new blockbuster film on the same weekend as Harry Potter. Don't release it in the same week or month, either. Why? Because no one will come to see it. The sheer amount of people piling into the cinema to find out how Harry beats Voldemort this time will suck all impetus and impact out of your release.

Once upon a time, the same was true of the iPhone. But no longer. Rumors have been flying for months that Apple is prepping a September release for its upcoming and highly-anticipated iPhone 6 -- but this year, they're not alone. Rumors have also been spreading of Sony's intentions to release their flagship Xperia Z3 in September, and a source close to Sony even confirmed that the electronics giant is planning to release their new phone the week before Apple's presumed launch date.

Considering the Xperia Z2 outclassed the iPhone 5s in just about every metric, this could be a real worry for Apple.

Which phone will ultimately do better? Only time will tell -- but one thing's for sure: this is a bolshy move by Sony, and shows just how confident Apple's competitors are getting.

Samsung attacks iPhone 6 before it even launches

Samsung's marketing machine has already armed and fired the advertising cannons at the iPhone 6, two months before the phone is set to even launch (it's not even being made yet -- though production lines should crank up soon, according to reports).

Anyway, Samsung's ad concerns the fact that Apple is making devices which much larger screen sizes (4.7in and 5.5in), and finally joining the world of Android devices including the Galaxy S5 which have had these 5in-odd screens for a long while now.

The ad (which you can view above) shows two friends sitting down, one an iPhone owner, the other with an S5. The iPhone guy is excited by the bigger iPhone screen story, but the S5 guy is unimpressed, and the Samsung commentary notes that the "next big thing is already here" with the 5.1in full HD screen of the Galaxy S5.

Microsoft goes after Siri

Poor Siri! Microsoft has released one of the first adverts promoting Windows Phone 8.1 and it has chosen to place a greater emphasis on the shortcomings of a competitor, rather than its own qualities.

The ad pits Cortana against Apple's Siri and -- surprise, surprise -- makes Microsoft's own digital assistant look far better than its rival's.

"Cortana, when my wife calls, remind me to tell her 'happy anniversary,'" the narrator tells his Lumia 635. The low-end phone agrees to the task, before Siri (speaking through the iPhone 5S) replies, "Oh no, I cannot do that".

The narrator then asks Cortana to remind him to buy roses when he next approaches a flower shop. Microsoft's digital assistant again obliges, while Apple's concedes, "I can't do that either".

Finally, the 635 delivers a traffic alert to its owner, who thanks it and picks it up. The iPhone then declares, "Now that is a smart phone".

This quite a far cry from when Apple was conducting attack ads of its own, such as its famous "1984" ad (below), in which the then upstart took a swipe at IBM, which was already a tech superpower.

So is Apple an aging giant? Are its competitors smelling blood in the water, and circling like hungry sharks? Let us know what you think in the comments section below, and vote in our poll too.

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