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Jony Ive, the iconic designer behind Apple's iPhone, is leaving the company

Image: Apple CEO Tim Cook Delivers Keynote At Annual Worldwide Developers C
From left, Apple CEO Tim Cook and Apple chief design officer Jony Ive look at the new Mac Pro during the 2019 Apple Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) at the San Jose Convention Center in San Jose, California on June 03, 2019.   -   Copyright  Justin Sullivan Getty Images
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Apple said on Thursday that its chief design officer, Jony Ive, credited with the design behind the iPod and its successor iPhone, would leave the company and become an outside contractor.

Ive, who was a close confidant of the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, plans to step down this year to form a design company that will have Apple among its primary clients, the Cupertino, Calif., based company said in a statement.

While Jobs was at the company, Ive's influence at Apple was unmatched by almost any other employee.

"He has more operational power than anyone else at Apple except me," Jobs once told biographer Walter Isaacson. "There's no one who can tell him what to do, or to butt out. That's the way I set it up."

CEO Tim Cook said Ive was a "singular figure in the design world and his role in Apple's revival cannot be overstated, from 1998's groundbreaking iMac to the iPhone and the unprecedented ambition of Apple Park," the company's new headquarters.

Cook added that Apple would still work directly with Ive on "exclusive" projects.

Ive, a native of Britain, was made a knight in recognition of his design work in 2012. He joined Apple in 1992 after working for the company as an outside designer