Verizon Fell Behind AT&T In Q4 With 9.8 Million Smartphone Sales

In a note to the Securities and Exchange Commission, Verizon Wireless noted yesterday that it sold 9.8 million smartphones in the fourth quarter of 2012. In the brief release, Verizon noted that the total smartphone sales included, “a higher mix of Apple smartphones.” 

Unlike its top rival AT&T (which yesterday said it had sold in excess of 10 million smartphones last quarter including record numbers of iPhone and Android devices), Verizon has shown more historical balance between the two dominant smartphone operating systems. In the third quarter of 2012, Verizon sold 3.1 million iPhones out of 6.8 million total smartphones, good for 45.5%. Verizon did not give a total on how many iPhones it sold in its SEC note for this last quarter, but expect the number to be closer to a 50-50 split with Android. 

iPhone's Magic Powers

The question to be asked is why would Verizon mention iPhone channel sales in its SEC note at all? Well, right or wrong, the carriers (and hence, investors) tend to think of iPhone owners as more lucrative consumers. iPhone owners tend to be loyal, thus giving carriers guidance for how many net postpaid subscribers they will have years down the line. So, if I am a carrier, I want to show investors that I have a large amount of people using Apple products as a sign of the health of my business. 

As the rest of the fourth quarter smartphone sales from the top carriers in the United States come in, we are once again likely to see that Apple dominates the top of the American smartphone market. In Q3 2012, Apple controlled about 58.1% of U.S. smartphone sales for the three largest carriers (AT&T, Sprint and Verizon). Of those three, AT&T provides the biggest cushion for Apple, taking between 70%-80% of its total smartphone sales. As noted yesterday, AT&T likely sold more than 7.6 million smartphones last quarter. If Apple has a stronger 4Q with Verizon, the iPhone may break the 60% mark for control of U.S. marketshare among the big three. 

Research analytics firm comScore notes that Android still controls the overall U.S. smartphone market. According to comScore Mobile Lens, Android U.S. subscribers grew 1.1% between Aug. 2012 and Nov. 2012 to a total of 53.7%. Apple grew 0.7% in that same period to 35% of U.S. subscribers.