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Friday, April 22, 2011, 07:00 am PT (10:00 am ET)

Apple's iPhone draws more new customers to AT&T than Verizon

About 22 percent of customers who bought the iPhone on Verizon last quarter switched from another carrier, while about 23 percent of AT&T iPhone buyers were new to that company.

The launch of the iPhone on Verizon brought fewer than 500,000 new customers to the carrier in less than two months of availability in the first quarter of calendar 2011, according to Reuters. But on rival network AT&T, more than 800,000 new customers joined because of the iPhone.

Still, Verizon topped AT&T in terms of total net subscriber gain, adding 906,000 new customers. AT&T, meanwhile, only added 62,000 net subscribers during the same three-month period.

The race between AT&T and Verizon is of great interest, because AT&T lost exclusive access to the iPhone in February, when Apple's smartphone launched on Verizon's network. Verizon revealed on Thursday that it activated 2.2 million iPhone handsets last quarter, when it was available for purchase for less than two months.

AT&T, meanwhile, activated a record 3.6 million iPhones in the March quarter, an increase of 33 percent from 2010. Those numbers suggested that AT&T was largely unaffected by the launch of the Verizon iPhone — an outlook bolstered further by the news that the iPhone brought more new customers to AT&T than to Verizon.

The data could also contrast polls that suggested a significant number of AT&T iPhone customers planned to switch to Verizon. A poll conducted late last year found that 26 percent of AT&T iPhone customers said they would switch to the rival network.

Also potentially a factor in gaining new subscribers could be the entry-level $49 iPhone 3GS. Apple's least expensive handset remains exclusive to AT&T, while Verizon's entry-level model is the $199 16GB iPhone 4.

Verizon's network has a much larger 3G footprint in the U.S., and AT&T customers have repeatedly complained about dropped calls. But Verizon's CDMA network also has slower 3G data connection speeds than AT&T on average, and its network cannot allow simultaneous voice and data connections.