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It has been an annual publishing institution in the magazine industry since 1964 — one that singlehandedly attached fashion legitimacy to the bikini, and still serves as an arbiter to supermodel succession. But since you’re probably not here for a history or anthropology lesson, we’ll cut to the chase. The 2012 Sports Illustrated: Swimsuit Edition showcases eighteen of 2011′s best and brightest including favorites like Bar Refaeli, Cintia Dicker and Natalie Gulbis, along with fresh faces like Crystal Renn, Michelle Vawer and Nina Agdal. And of course the cover is graced by current it-girl Kate Upton as shot in Sydney, Australia. Was there ever any doubt?

Augmenting the already impressive spread, Sports Illustrated has joined DIRECTV to release a special edition “Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Viewer 2012″ app. Suited for both iOS and Android devices, the interactive app gives you the ability to further solidify your infatuation with each of the bikini-clad models by holding the phone over a range of the issue’s pages to see the photo shoot come to life in stunningly detailed video. You can download the app through the iTunes App Store here or from the Android Market here.

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