Verizon: Who Needs the iPhone?

Verizon: Who Needs the iPhone?
To stay ahead of AT&T and Apple, Verizon is placing a big bet on Android smartphones and other new gadgets

By Spencer E. Ante

Can Verizon Wireless keep its spot as the leading wireless company in the U.S. if it doesn’t have the industry’s hottest phone?

Lowell McAdam, the company’s chief executive, is trying to make the case that it can. Two years ago, Verizon Wireless passed on the chance to become the exclusive U.S. distributor of the Apple (AAPL) iPhone and pushed Apple into the arms of rival AT&T (T). Since then the iPhone has become a megahit, helping AT&T close the gap with Verizon. In the most recent quarter, AT&T added 2 million wireless subscribers, bringing its total to 81.6 million, while Verizon Wireless added 1.2 million, for a total of 89 million.

Now, McAdam is launching a slew of products designed to keep Verizon ahead. In the fourth quarter the company is rolling out its largest new-product lineup ever: 14 devices, vs. half that number a year ago. Among those will be two netbooks and five smartphones, including the Droid phone from Motorola (MOT), a sleek device with a touchscreen and keyboard that runs on Google’s (GOOG) Android operating system. The new products are backed by an unusually aggressive marketing campaign. In one TV spot, Verizon takes direct aim at Apple with a series of “iDon’t” quips that explain all the things an iPhone can’t do. “The Droid can compete head to head” with the iPhone, says John Stratton, chief marketing officer of Verizon Wireless.

Check out the rest of my BusinessWeek story here, along with a video of me discussing the Droid launch. We’ve already got 44 comments on the story. Join the fray!

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