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Apple's 2012 iPhone was last project where Steve Jobs was "intimately involved"

A complete redesign of Apple's iconic iPhone rumored for an introduction next summer was the last project that Steve Jobs poured his heart and soul into from start to near completion, according to pair of reports.

Expected to debut "around Apple's Developer's Conference in summer," the next-generation iPhone will combine a slimmer profile and larger screen into an enclosure relatively the same width and height as the existing models, according to Rodman & Renshaw analyst Ashok Kumar.

"This was the last project that Steve Jobs was intimately involved from concept to final design," he said. "For that reason and cutting edge features this product will establish the high water mark for iPhone volumes."

Separately, an Apple employee speaking on the condition of anonymity claimed that the next handset was a complete redesign. "This is a very large project that Steve dedicated all of his time to," that person said. "He was not that involved in the 4S because his time was limited."

Nevertheless, Kumar expects the combination of the iPhone 4 and earlier model to combine for sales of 20.2 million units during Apple's fiscal fourth quarter ending September. That would put the Cupertino-based company just marginally shy of its record 20.34 million units shipped during the previous quarter.

"Repositioning the current iPhone 4 at the low-end and offering the iPhone 3GS free could help Apple gain market share at the low-end," he explained. "Apple is expected to exit the year with high teens smartphone share."

The analyst also expects Apple to shatter both quarters of iPhone performance during the company's fiscal first quarter ending December, predicting record shipments of 27 million units. In total, he expects Apple to sell more than 115 million iPhones between now and this time next year.

Kumar, who has a hit or miss (2) track record when it comes to predicting Apple's future product initiatives, added that he sees plenty of upside to his estimates for volume growth, especially during the holiday quarter given an international expansion of the iPhone 4S to 70 countries and woes faced by its competitors.

For instance, he noted that Samsung stated on Oct. 10 that it would delay the release of its new smartphone Nexus Prime as a mark of respect for the death of Steve Jobs.

"We believe that the real reason is that both Google Ice Cream Sandwich and Samsung are having software and hardware issues respectively with their next generation platform," the analyst said. "Apple will likely be a key beneficiary of any delay."

Demand also remains strong for Macs and iPads in the current December quarter, he add, which is expected to yield shipments of 4.6 million and 12.5 million, respectively.