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AT&T to market Android smart phones

The CEO of AT&T Inc. on Thursday said the company will start "very aggressively" marketing smart phones based on Google Inc.'s Android software now that it will no longer be the exclusive carrier for Apple Inc.'s iPhone in the U.S.

So far, Verizon Wireless, AT&T's chief competitor, has been the biggest supporter of Android. But it will start selling the iPhone on Feb. 10, and is likely to shift resources away from Android.

Motorola on Wednesday said it's already seeing a drop-off in sales of its Android phones in Verizon stores, as customers are holding off, waiting for the iPhone.

In effect, AT&T and Verizon Wireless are set to swap strategies in the high-stakes smart phone market, with AT&T turning to Android and Verizon to the iPhone.

"We're going to be a heavy participant in the Android market this year, so you're going to see a significant shift in mix" of the phones sold by AT&T, CEO Randall Stephenson said.

AT&T, the nation's largest telecommunications company, also provided an earnings forecast for the year that disappointed analysts, and said it signed up a net of just 400,000 new customers on contract-based wireless plans in the last three months of last year. It was the lowest quarterly number in at least five years.

Shares of AT&T, which are part of the Dow Jones industrial average, fell 60 cents, or 2 percent, to $28.13 on Thursday.

Stephenson said the company expects to continue to add contract-based subscribers this year, partly thanks to significant network upgrades last year. Complaints about dropped calls and other network problems have haunted the company for years.

"We're really starting to feel good about the network situation. We're making a lot of progress here," the CEO said.

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