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Google vs. Apple: The Battle for Verizon

Though international markets are increasingly important growth areas for both Apple and Google, the U.S. is still vitally important – and perhaps nothing illustrates that better than the drama that will begin to unfold on Thursday.

Verizon Wireless
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Verizon Wireless

We can call it the Battle for Verizon.

Verizon is the largest U.S. carrier, with 93 million customers – slightly more than AT&T . It’s the best loved of the major carriers, according to the most recent Consumer Reports survey. And it’s underpenetrated in smartphones: Though Verizon is the larger carrier, it has just 27 percent of U.S. smartphone share, according to comScore, compared to AT&T’s 38 percent.

What’s at stake for Apple and Google on Verizon?

Let’s take Apple first.

Apple sold 16.2 million iPhones last quarter at an average selling price of more than $600 – and roughly a quarter of those were in the U.S. on AT&T. That’s a huge percentage, so you’ve got to imagine that continued U.S. expansion is key to Apple’s growth, since the iPhone is now the company’s single most important profit driver.

And Google ?

The company has said that mobile advertising is one of its key growth areas – that’s the whole reason why it’s giving its ad-laden Android OS away for free. North America continues to be Google’s primary ad market, and smartphone users are a must-have demographic in the market. For Google’s model to succeed, it must grow in the U.S. – and that means holding onto its position at Verizon.

After Thursday, everyone will be on the lookout for some indication of how long it takes Apple to log its first million iPhone preorders on Verizon – next Thursday, the 10th, is when we’ll get the lines outside stores to pick them up. You know I’ll be there taking stock.

Questions? Comments? TechCheck@cnbc.comAnd you can follow Jon Fortt on Twitter @jonfortt

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