Motorola Smartphone Sales Beat Expectations, But What Happens When Verizon Starts Selling The iPhone?

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Motorola‘s smartphone comeback continues: The company announced this morning that it sold 3.8 million smartphones last quarter, ahead of Street estimates, which we’ve seen in the 3.5 million to 3.7 million range.

Mobile phone revenue came in at $2 billion, up 20% year-over-year, and the division broke even a quarter ahead of expectations, according to Morgan Stanley analyst Ehud Gelblum. (Its first time breaking even in 14 quarters.)

But Motorola has a big vulnerability: Its relationship with Verizon, whose “Droid” lineup is the strong point of Motorola’s smartphone business.

Soon — as soon as a few months from now — Verizon is expected to start selling Apple’s iPhone. (It just started selling the iPad today.) By then, Verizon may put less sales and marketing muscle behind the Droid, and focus on its new Apple lineup. So what happens to Motorola then?

Never underestimate the power of distribution in the mobile industry. Can Moto find another “Droid”-sized partner?

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