Most Verizon Customers Likely to Buy Apple IPhone

More than half of all Verizon subscribers would likely buy an iPhone if Apple's device was supported by their current provider, a recent survey of U.S. consumers claimed.

According to Michigan-based market research firm Morpace, 51% of current Verizon subscribers said they were either "somewhat likely" or "very likely" to purchase an iPhone if Verizon offered Apple 's smartphone . The results were based on a poll of 1,000 American consumers conducted from July 15 to July 20.

Morpace's results were nearly identical to those collected last May by ChangeWave, a research company that specializes in forecasting future spending trends. ChangeWave's poll of more than 4,000 U.S. consumers found that 53% of Verizon subscribers were somewhat or very likely to purchase an iPhone if the carrier obtained rights to the device.

AT&T, which has been Apple's exclusive iPhone partner for three years, remains the device's only sanctioned mobile service provider in the U.S.

Morpace's figures -- and its implicit confirmation of ChangeWave's earlier estimate -- comes hard on the heels of yet more Internet buzz that Apple will soon release an iPhone that works on Verizon's CDMA network.

The newest speculation was sparked by the Daring Fireball blog, which last week pegged a January 2011 launch for a Verizon iPhone, two months earlier than forecasts by some Wall Street analysts, who have bet on a March debut.

Morpace's poll also revealed that nearly a quarter of current AT&T subscribers said that they would probably switch to Verizon if the latter offered the iPhone. Morpace attributed the strong showing -- AT&T customers were more likely to drop their current provider for Verizon than subscribers to either Sprint or T-Mobile -- to the persistent undercurrent of complaints about AT&T's network performance.

Those complaints started almost immediately after the iPhone's launch three years ago, and periodically rise and fall in volume and intensity. Apple has regularly defended its U.S. partner.

However, AT&T seems to be laying the groundwork for an end to the deal. In its latest filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the telecomm giant said that the loss of any exclusivity arrangement would "not ... have a material negative impact" on revenues.

But Morpace's poll hinted at different results if Verizon gets the iPhone.

More than a third of current iPhone owners told the research firm that they have put off upgrading to the newest iPhone 4 because they're waiting for the smartphone to become available on a rival carrier.

Some believe that Apple would greatly benefit by adding Verizon to the iPhone's stable. Brian Marshall, an analyst with Gleacher & Co., has estimated that Verizon could sell up to 11 million iPhones in 2011.

The move might also put Apple in a better position in U.S. smartphone sales, where it now lags both Google 's Android and Research in Motion's BlackBerry operating systems for market share.

Morpace published the survey results last week ( download PDF ).

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@ix.netcom.com .

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