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) -- The


(VZ) - Get Verizon Communications Inc. Report

iPhone, a story


first uncovered

nearly a year ago, is still a rumor, but analysts continue to forecast sales of


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iconic phone when it launches at the nation's largest wireless carrier sometime next year.

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster is among the most recent to offer his best guess. In a research note Wednesday, Munster predicts Apple will sell 9 million iPhones at Verizon next year. And by Munster's math, Apple will sell a total of 63 million iPhones next year, a 36% increase over his 46.3 million target for 2010.

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Munster's estimates are within the current range of his analyst peers. BMO Capital is looking for 60 million iPhones to be sold next year. Merrill Lynch is expecting 10 million Verizon iPhones to be sold, with Apple selling 63.3 million iPhones in total next year.

Investors have been eagerly factoring in the

Verizon iPhone's impact on Apple

, sending the shares up to yet another record high Monday. Wall Street is very tuned into the prospect of the most popular phone teaming with the largest network and its 92 million subscribers.

Recent reports that Verizon may be stocking up on iPhones ahead of a January launch have helped fuel the hype. So has the abnormally

low number of smartphone upgrades at Verizon and other carriers

, which suggests consumers are feeling the gravitational pull of something big -- like the Verizon iPhone.

Still, there's a

nagging disconnect

to the whole Verizon iPhone story. Skeptics continue to point out that while a CDMA iPhone 4 in January is certainly achievable, it breaks from Apple's cycle of introducing a new iPhone every summer.

And then there's the whole missing piece to the

Verizon 4G

network. Verizon announced the launch of the long term evolution (LTE) network in a few dozen cities, but did not include a 4G phone in the announcement. That seems to set the stage for Verizon's upcoming 4G presentation next month at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Device introductions in January typically precede device launches mid-year.

Meanwhile, we'll keep tallying up the Verizon iPhone sales estimates as analysts' numbers pour in.

--Written by Scott Moritz in New York.>To contact this writer, click here: Scott Moritz, or email: follow Scott on Twitter, go to>To send a tip, email: