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AT&T trounced Verizon in iPhone sales, but that didn’t help when it came to posting a profit.

AT&T sold 8.6 million iPhones in the fourth quarter of 2012, a significant chunk of its record-breaking 10.2 million smartphones sold, the company reported today. Verizon, meanwhile, only sold 6.2 million iPhones during the quarter.

Despite plenty of record figures, AT&T still ended up posting a $3.9 billion loss during the quarter, due to expenses from benefit plans and weather issues like Superstorm Sandy. That’s better than a year ago, when AT&T saw a $6.7 billion loss after the T-Mobile takeover fell through. The company reported revenues of $32.6 billion, up .2 percent from last year.

Verizon posted a $1.93 billion loss for the quarter due to similar reasons, but AT&T’s loss may still be disheartening to investors. The company is doing many things right — its wireless revenues are up 5.7 percent, and it added 780,000 new subscribers — but it can’t avoid dealing with expenses that eat into profit.

On the bright side, AT&T is now sitting with $4.9 billion in cash, and it saw $7.9 billion in profit for the full year 2012 (up from $3.9 billion a year ago). The company also paid out $10.2 billion in dividends during 2012 and repurchased $12.8 billion worth of shares. Smartphones accounted for a whopping 89 percent of contracted phone sales.

AT&T’s new subscription plans are growing strong, with 6.6 million customers on Mobile Share plans, account for around 10 percent of its subscriber base. The company had 2.2 million accounts on Mobile Share plans with three devices per account (hence the 6.6 million figure). Mobile Share customers are also pretty data hungry — more than a quarter subscribe to 10GB or larger plans. Customers with unlimited plans accounted for more than 15 percent of new Mobile Share subscribers.

Looking ahead, AT&T says it plans to expand 4G LTE to 250 million people (a figure we’ve heard before) and grow revenue by 2 percent. The company will be focusing on new platforms over the next few years, including Digital Life and connected cars, which will “represent billions of dollars of new revenue for us,” AT&T chief executive Randall Stephenson said during the company’s earnings call today.

Photo: Devindra Hardawar/VentureBeat