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Will Verizon Slay the iPhone?

I imagine the 62 million subscribers of Verizon Wireless -- a joint venture between Verizon Communications (NYSE: VZ  ) and Vodafone -- will sleep a little more soundly tonight. Surely they've fighting the urge for months now to succumb to the Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) iPhone, joining Darth Jobs and exclusive provider AT&T (NYSE: T  ) on the Dark Side. Now they need only wait until November to fork over an inordinate amount of money to Verizon for its own version of latest feature-rich media phone, the LG Voyager.

While the beans were spilled on gadget blogs days ago, Verizon Wireless formally launched four of its "must have" phones for the holiday season, including the supposedly iPhone-killing Voyager. The high-end lineup explains why Verizon happily paid Broadcom a license fee of $6 per phone to make sure those models with Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM  ) chips inside didn't stay locked up in customs.

While Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S  ) has already tried to upstage the release of the iPhone, consumers have been waiting for other carriers to take their best shots against the hit multimedia device. Verizon finally fired its salvo today, and in an interview, Verizon Wireless's chief marketing officer Mike Lanman even flatly stated that the Voyager " ... will kill the iPhone."

Yeah, right. Show Mr. Lanman to the padded room, please. Either Lanman is clinically delusional, or he has no reservations about making sensational statements that he knows have a snowball's chance of becoming reality. The Voyager will kill the iPhone as dead as the Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) Zune has buried the iPod.

Granted, the Voyager is a really slick device. It has certain features -- such as a QWERTY keyboard and truly broadband wireless access -- that top the iPhone. It even plays mobile television via Verizon's VCast service. But even though I'd expect the device to be a hit, it will definitely not kill the iPhone's popularity.

It will, however, help spruce up Verizon's current image as a reliable yet boring provider of wireless services. From its lack of the coolest Nokia phones in the 1990s to its miss of Motorola's (NYSE: MOT  ) hit RAZR a few years ago, Verizon has become synonymous with a bland product lineup. The improved offerings should go a long way toward snagging even more subscribers, while driving its industry-leading churn even lower.

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