Verizon Deal Could Give Apple's IPhone Its Breakout Moment

WSJ Report Comes as Android Picks Up Steam

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Once again, news has bubbled up that the Verizon iPhone is imminent. For Apple, the timing couldn't be better.

In a possible sign that iPhone has reached its saturation point among mobile subscribers willing to commit to AT&T's network, the platform's overall U.S. smartphone market share has leveled off at just less than 25%, according to ComScore data of the three months ended with August. That's down a fraction over the last period, the three months ended with May.

Meanwhile, Google's Android is the fastest-growing smartphone platform -- up almost 7 points -- and has fared far better in acquiring new users than Apple or Blackberry over the last half.

Android was the most popular smartphone purchase in the last six months, with 32% market share, according to Nielsen, while Apple's iOS and Research in Motion's BlackBerry tied for second at about 25% each. That's despite two big-splash handset launches from Apple and RIM in that period, with the iPhone 4 and Torch, respectively.

Today, The Wall Street Journal reported Verizon, the wireless leader, will sell the iPhone early next year; AT&T has been the exclusive carrier for iPhone since it launched in 2007. For the past couple years, AT&T has been besieged by bad PR as many users have complained about service interruptions (something the telecom has attributed to bandwidth-guzzling iPhones running on its network).

Since rumors that AT&T would lose exclusivity on its flagship smartphone began to circulate over the past year, the No. 2 wireless carrier began to hedge its bets with deals with other devices. In August, AT&T partnered with RIM for the first touchscreen BlackBerry, the Torch, and has backed advertising for the device, which is exclusive to AT&T.

AT&T will be supporting Microsoft's big-budget move into the smartphone market, Windows Mobile 7, in some capacity. While the software will be available on a variety of devices on a number of carriers, according to a Microsoft spokeswoman, Microsoft and AT&T are co-hosting next week's launch event in New York. It is also understood that AT&T will float ads for upcoming Mobile Windows 7 devices later this year.

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