Is Ma Bell Marrying a Robot?

With the stock down close to 3% as I write this, investors clearly dislike the fourth-quarter results AT&T (NYSE: T  ) reported this morning. They might be overreacting.

Ma Bell reported $31.4 billion in revenue and $0.55 in adjusted earnings per share. Analysts were looking for $31.47 billion and $0.54, respectively.

Not a bad quarter, right? Unfortunately, AT&T's postpaid wireless additions fell from 745,000 in the third quarter to 400,000 in Q4. Analysts and investors alike appear to be wondering whether the drop was due to customers anticipating the release of Verizon's (NYSE: VZ  ) iPhone.

If they were, the impact on AT&T was minimal. CEO Randall Stephenson noted that the company had 442,000 tablet additions in the fourth quarter. Even so, investors should expect continued emphasis on Android devices. Stephenson all but blew a kiss to new Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) chief executive Larry Page in comments sprinkled throughout the earnings call.

"We're bringing Android into the mix very aggressively," Stephenson said, referring to both handsets and tablets. His message? Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) doesn't determine the size of AT&T's opportunity.

Ma Bell seems to be getting serious about its steamy affair with the robot. Who'd have thought that was even possible a year ago? What the courtship will mean is less clear, but AT&T guided to "mid-single digit" or better earnings during 2011. Wall Street was hoping for at least 9% net income growth. So be it.

I'm guessing that both estimates are meaningless. Thanks to new devices from Motorola Mobility (NYSE: MMI  ) , HTC, and Samsung, among others, Android is growing at a blistering pace. 4G technologies are only now arriving. When consumers and business customers get their first tastes of HSPA+ and then LTE, a wave of earnings-boosting upgrades could follow.

But that's just my take. Now it's your turn to weigh in. Would you buy AT&T at current prices? Use the comments box below to let us know what you think. You can also rate AT&T in Motley Fool CAPS.

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Interested in more info on the stocks mentioned in this story? Add Apple, Google, Motorola Mobility, AT&T or Verizon to your watchlist.

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Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Rule Breakers stock-picking team. He owned shares of Apple and Google at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool owns shares of Google and Apple, in which it has also written puts. The Fool is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. Its disclosure policy can't hear you. Could you please speak up?


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