For hints at Apple’s plans, read its shopping list

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One company used sensors to read body movements. Another recommended TV programs. Several others offered location and mapping services.

All of them had at least one thing in common: They were among the more than 20 relatively small companies Apple says it has bought within the last 15 months.

As fellow tech giants have reached billion-dollar deals in recent years to add significant new arms to their businesses — like Facebook buying WhatsApp for as much as $19 billion, and Microsoft buying Nokia’s handset business for more than $7.1 billion — Apple has ventured down a different path.

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