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Monday, October 26, 2009, 06:20 am PT (09:20 am ET)

iPhone helps AT&T continue subscriber gains on Verizon [u]

Verizon and AT&T have both reported their latest quarterly earnings, and the strength of the iPhone has continued to help AT&T close the gap on the market leader.

Update: In a conference call following Monday's earnings report, Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg said his company would welcome the iPhone on its network if Apple is interested, according to Digital Daily.

“This is a decision that is exclusively in Apple’s court,” Seidenberg said. “Obviously we would be interested if they thought it would make sense for them to have us as a partner. And so we will leave it with them on that score... We want to broaden the base of choice for customers, and hopefully along the way, Apple, as well as others, will decide to jump on the bandwagon.”

In its earnings reported Monday morning, Verizon said it now has an estimated total of 89 million subscribers, after adding 1.2 million customers during the September quarter. Last week, AT&T announced it added 2 million wireless subscribers during the same period, bringing its total base of customers to 81.6 million.

AT&T's 2 million customer increase was the highest third-quarter gain in company history. Officials said nearly 40 percent of the 3.2 million new iPhone activations were customers new to AT&T. That means of the 2 million new customers, roughly 1.28 million were iPhone users.

To put the total in perspective, more new customers came to AT&T for the iPhone than the total number of new subscribers gained by Verizon with all handsets during the September quarter.

Verizon's revenue saw a year-over-year increase to $27.27 billion in Monday's earnings report, but profit fell to $2.89 billion, or 41 cents per share. In the year-ago frame, it was $3.2 billion, or 59 cents a share.

Despite coming in much lower than AT&T, Verizon's 1.2 million new subscribers was ahead of analyst expectations of about 1 million.

As AT&T has continued to gain on Verizon thanks in part to exclusivity of the iPhone, the CEO of the nation's second-largest wireless provider also discussed the prospect of the iPhone becoming available on other carriers. Ralph de la Vega said during a question and answer session that he believes his company's portfolio will remain strong after the iPhone is no longer exclusive.

"We have a legacy of having a great portfolio... that will continue after the iPhone is no longer exclusive to us," de la Vega said. "We think we will continue after the iPhone... to drive (results)."

To combat the success of the iPhone, Verizon has turned to the Google Android mobile operating system. Google and Verizon intend to create, market and distribute products and services featuring Android-powered phones.

Verizon, in recent weeks, has also become aggressive in its advertising, directly mocking AT&T and Apple in a TV spot that compares the two providers' coverage maps. With a play on Apple's famous "there's an app for that" commercials, Verizon's twist declares "there's a map for that," to explain AT&T's inferior network coverage. In addition, a commercial for the Motorola Droid on Verizon's network also spoofs Apple's iPhone ads.