NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Verizon ( VZ) and Apple ( AAPL) may still be dancing around a possible deal on the iPhone, but it seems inevitable that the courtship will lead to a meaningful smartphone relationship. On an earnings conference call earlier this week, Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg said there was " nothing different" to talk about with regard to the possibility of having the iPhone next year. AT&T ( T) has been Apple's exclusive U.S. iPhone partner since its launch in 2007, although that deal is set to expire in June. Cue a massive opportunity for Verizon, which could significantly boost its wireless revenue. "Diverse carrier support is a key element to driving global penetration of the iPhone," wrote Brian Marshall, an analyst at Broadpoint AmTech, in a note released Wednesday. "Therefore we believe the chances are high the iPhone will find its way onto the Verizon network in the second half of 2010." Apple already has exclusive agreements with T-Mobile, Orange and O2 to sell the iPhone in Germany, France, and the U.K., respectively. Later this week the consumer tech giant will also start selling its smartphone in the booming Chinese market through an exclusive deal with China Unicom. Even rival Sprint ( S), which has an exclusive deal to sell Palm's ( PALM) competing Pre, has acknowledged the iPhone's potency. CEO Dan Hesse recently described the device as the "Michael Jordan" of smartphones in an interview with Charlie Rose. Verizon, of course, has plenty of other weapons in its arsenal, including an expanded offering from Research In Motion ( RIMM) and the new Motorola ( MOT) Droid powered by Google's ( GOOG) Android operating system. The iPhone, however, is a massive vehicle for growth, as evidenced by AT&T's recent third-quarter results.
The smartphone helped the telecom giant post record subscriber growth, and AT&T activated 3.2 million new iPhone customers in the quarter. Ma Bell even managed to widen its wireless operating margin to 24.6%, up from 23.8% sequentially, despite the high cost of subsidizing between $300 and $500 of each iPhone sale. Broadpoint AmTech estimates that Verizon could sell around 14 million iPhones in calendar year 2011. Assuming average selling prices of around $500, this would equate to more than $7 billion of pro forma revenue, according to Marshall. The telecom giant, however, is unlikely to dangle the same financial carrot as AT&T. "We believe AT&T's 'sweetheart' carrier subsidy for the iPhone would be unattainable at Verizon," wrote Marshall. "Thus, we assume the general $300 carrier subsidy." Even with a lower Verizon subsidy, Apple would still benefit from the deal. Despite the iPhone's popularity, Broadpoint AmTech estimates that Apple owns around 3% of the total handset market, so there is plenty of potential for gaining share. Shares of Verizon rose 2.1%, to $29.81 Wednesday. Apple's stock shed 1.9%%, to reach $193.64, as the Nasdaq dipped 1.34%. -- Reported by James Rogers in New York