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The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights:AT&T, Verizon Communications, Sprint-Nextel, Google and Apple

CHICAGO, Jan. 10, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Zacks.com announces the list of stocks featured in the Analyst Blog. Every day the Zacks Equity Research analysts discuss the latest news and events impacting stocks and the financial markets. Stocks recently featured in the blog includeAT&T Inc (NYSE:T), Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ), Sprint-Nextel Corp. (NYSE:S), Google Inc. (Nasdaq:GOOG) and Apple Inc. (Nasdaq:AAPL).

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Here are highlights from Wednesday's Analyst Blog:

AT&T Smartphones Reach 10M Landmark

Telecom biggie AT&T Inc (NYSE:T) set a new record with the sale of 10 million smartphones in the fourth quarter of 2012. The company held a record of selling 9.4 million smartphones during October–December 2011.

The last quarter of 2012 also witnessed highest sales of Android and Apple smartphones. On average, the company sold more than 110,000 smartphones daily, including Android, Apple and Windows devices. With this high sales figure, the total smartphone sales of the company in 2012 is expected to reach 26.7 million, a bit higher than the earlier forecast of 26 million.

Wireless carriers like AT&T place smartphones on shop shelf at high price as customers get attracted to the devices that run on advanced technologies and offer smooth networking experience. The operators shell out heavy subsidies to the handset manufactures to offer the mobile phones to customers at a discount under two-year contract plans.

San Antonio, Texas based AT&T will release its full fourth-quarter 2012 financial results on January 24, 2013 after the close of trading. The Zacks Consensus Estimates for the fourth quarter and 2012 earnings currently stand at 48 cents per share and $2.38 per share, respectively. The estimates reflect a respective year-over-year growth of 15.1% and 8.2% for the fourth quarter and 2012.

We maintain our long-term Neutral recommendation on AT&T – the second largest provider of wireless services in North America after Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ). The company, currently, retains a Zacks Rank #3, implying a short-term Hold rating on the stock.

We remain optimistic about AT&T's growth prospects, driven by subscriber accretion, higher smartphones adoption, LTE mobile broadband network, iPhone sales and U-verse expansion that will lead to improved revenue growth.

The company's foray into cloud computing and hotel WiFi businesses is expected to lead to better profitability. Other positive attributes for the company include a strategic realignment initiative and healthy financial profile. However, persistent access line losses, competitive pressures and regulatory issues will likely weigh on the stock in the coming days.

Sprint Unveils Android Application

Third largest telecom carrier in the US Sprint-Nextel Corp. (NYSE:S) has launched a music and video application for smartphones running on Google Inc.'s (Nasdaq:GOOG) Android-based operating system. The latest application from Sprint's stable is going to distinguish its application portfolio from that of its rivals. 

The latest application known as Entertain Me is located within Sprint Zone on some select Android-based smartphones running on Sprint's network. The application allows searching for online music, through partners Spotify and Shazam and also access video-on-demand services via SprintTV and Movies.

Sprint's TV and Movies, which is powered by MobiTV, provides access to 15 different channels that telecast primetime shows including live NBA and MLB games. On the other hand, Spotify provides customers privilege to search from a list of almost 20 million songs. Entertain Me also includes contents like Sprint Music Plus, Slacker, iHeartRadio and Rampus.

Sprint customers can watch and listen to anything they want to with the company's recently launched Everything Data plan – priced at $79.99. The plan allows unlimited web browsing in Sprint's nationwide network.  

Downloading and utilizing of application by smartphone users is rapidly increasing. The average number of applications on US consumer devices soared 28% in 2012. The unprecedented use of application by smartphone customers will force application developers to come up with many more applications.

According to research firm IDC, at the end of 3Q 2012 Android holds a global smartphone market share of 75%, way ahead of second place occupied by Apple Inc.'s (Nasdaq:AAPL) iOS platform, which has penetrated only 14.9% of the smartphone market. 

Sprint wants to capitalize on this exceptional growth as higher sales of Android based phones, as it will likely translate into higher use of its applications. However, we believe to gain mass acceptance, the application should be upgraded to run on other operating systems.  

We maintain our long-term Neutral recommendation on Sirius XM Radio. The company holds a short-term Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).

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Continuous coverage is provided for a universe of 1,150 publicly traded stocks. Our analysts are organized by industry which gives them keen insights to developments that affect company profits and stock performance. Recommendations and target prices are six-month time horizons.

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