We keep hearing rumor after rumor that Apple will be expanding its offering of iPhone service providers to include Verizon. But both companies stubbornly refuse to comment. Indeed, there have also been recent developments that cast doubt on a potential Apple-Verizon alliance. A few examples include Apple using AT&T for iPad data and Verizon's anti-iPhone commercials. A survey by an analyst at Morgan Stanley, however, indicates that Apple would be smart to bring Verizon on board.

Bizjournals.com reports that the analyst, Katy Huberty, found nearly 17% of Verizon customers would switch to an iPhone if given the opportunity. And the number might have been even higher than that if Apple hadn't allowed some Verizon customers to become content with Android-based devices. This is a huge segment consumers who lie out of Apple's reach entirely due to its exclusivity contract with AT&T.

According to Huberty, that 17% would result in nearly 7 to 8 million iPhones sold per year to Verizon customers. And this isn't just gravy for Apple. Since these are existing mobile phone customers, it would also mean 7 to 8 million fewer Blackberry, Android, and other smartphones sold.

These are very big numbers, and it's bizarre that Apple is able to ignore them. While alliances between device-makers and service providers are complex, Apple must consider expanding to Verizon if it hopes to keep the iPhone sales growth going. Considering the move would also likely result in many disgruntled AT&T iPhone users switching to (or back to) Verizon, it's hard to imagine that Verizon would have much reason to resist.