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Wednesday, April 24, 2013, 10:23 am PT (01:23 pm ET)

AT&T activates 4.8M iPhones in March quarter, trails Verizon in customers added

Apple's iPhone remained a hot seller on the United States' second-largest carrier, but the last quarter saw AT&T slipping further behind Verizon in terms of growth and sales.

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Reporting its earnings on Tuesday, AT&T revealed that it had activated 4.8 million iPhones in the quarter, with Apple's handset accounting for 80 percent of AT&T's 6 million total smartphones. AT&T, the original exclusive home of the iPhone in the U.S., sold more Apple phones than did rival Verizon in the quarter, but Verizon moved more overall smartphones with 7.2 million units activated.

That lag persisted across other metrics between the two carriers, as AT&T added only 296,000 new contract subscribers while Verizon added 677,000. AT&T's figure includes 365,000 customers activating tablets, and the 296,000 figure actually conceals the fact that the carrier lost 69,000 phone customers in the quarter.

AT&T's 4.8 million iPhones sold is a sharp but expected drop from the holiday quarter, which saw the carrier activating a record eight million iPhones. It is up, though, from the quarter prior to that, which saw AT&T selling 4.7 million iPhones in the wake of the iPhone 5's launch.

Also this week, Sprint reported its own results for the March quarter, revealing that it sold 1.5 million iPhones in the three-month span. While AT&T and Verizon are adding subscribers, Sprint saw a net loss, with 560,000 customers leaving the nation's third-largest wireless provider.

In all, Sprint, Verizon and AT&T accounted for a total of 10.3 million iPhones in the March quarter. That's more than a quarter of all iPhones sold by Apple during that period, as the company revealed on Tuesday it sold a record 35.1 million handsets during the same period.

During the quarter, Apple's iPhone grew at a slower rate year over year than the smartphone market as a whole, which saw 30 percent growth. Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook admitted on Tuesday that he'd like to see his company do better.

"We do want to grow faster," Cook said. "We don't however, view it as the only measure of our health."