Verizon faced the same problem as rival AT&T (NYSE: T) during the last quarter: Apple’s iPhone 4S wasn’t ready until October. Still, the largest carrier in the U.S. signed up more new customers than its rival and beat earnings expectations as its customers continue to switch from older phones to smartphones.
Overall revenue for Verizon Communications (NYSE: VZ), which includes Verizon Wireless, was $27.9 billion, up 5.4 percent compared to last year and just ahead of analyst projections of $27.88 billion. Earnings per share excluding special items were $0.56, a penny better than analyst expectations of $0.55.
Verizon activated 2 million iPhones during the quarter, which was fewer than it did during the second quarter as iPhone demand appeared to slow worldwide prior to the widely expected launch of a new model in October. Yet it narrowed the gap between itself and AT&T in terms of iPhone activations: AT&T had a 900,000 unit lead in the second quarter in terms of activations, but a 700,000 unit lead in the third quarter.
iPhone demand across carriers will be very interesting to see now that four wireless carriers in the U.S. (AT&T, Verizon, Sprint (NYSE: S), and C Spire) are going to carry the iPhone 4S. But those numbers will have to wait until January 2012.
For now, Verizon can also report that it has 107 million total subscribers, up 6.5 percent. Thirty-nine percent of those subscribers are now using data-hungry (read: more profitable) smartphones, up from 36 percent of subscribers during the last period. The iPhone accounted for 35 percent of those smartphone users over just the six months that Verizon has been offering the device.