AT&T hasn't managed to land a punch in its fight with Verizon. (For background on their advertising and legal feud, read up here and here.) But AT&T's ally, Apple, has evidently swooped to its beleaguered partner's defense with an anti-Verizon spot. At least, that's how techno-pundits are interpreting this ad, which showcases the iPhone's ability to surf the Web and talk on the phone simultaneously:

Apple iPhone Ad - What Time's The Movie? from Arik Hesseldahl on Vimeo.

In case you missed the roundhouse kick, it's this question: "Can your phone or your network do that?" Whether it's a measure of tech writers' hunger for a fight, their innate predisposition to like Apple spot, or their preference for ads focused on features over mudslinging, many are treating this mild-mannered ad as an unmistakable rebuttal to the Verizon campaign. But will TV viewers even notice?
  • Escalating the War, writes Chris Matyszczyk at CNET. "Apple is bursting what it sees as the inflated stealth bombing that accompanied the launch of the Droid...But the fact that Apple has decided to address its rivals, however obliquely, suggests that one can look forward to more accusations, more bickering, and more attempted one-upmanship. 'Tis the season of goodwill, after all."
  • 'Apple Hits Back at Verizon,' says Joshua Topolsky at Engadget. "From where we're sitting, it looks like between this new round and AT&T's Luke Wilson-manned comparison spots, both the phonemaker and carrier are fully stepping into the ring. Way to get their attention, guys."
  • 'Apple Joins AT&T/Verizon Spat,' says John Paczkowski at Digital Daily. "Verizon's merciless razzing of AT&T has finally elicited a reaction from Apple....it's hard not to view the new commercials as Apple coming to the defense of its exclusive carrier partner."
  • Ads Are Awesome, Though I Don't Care for the Feature writes Jared Newman at PC World, praising the ad's understated tone. "In writing, this is called 'show, don't tell.' Instead of merely saying why AT&T's network is superior, as Luke Wilson did in AT&T's ad, Apple actually shows us how simultaneous voice and data can be useful to iPhone owners." But, he says, "Personally, I'm still not too enthused for the feature."
  • ...But the Ads Don't Stand Up to the Anti-PC Campaign, says Darrell Etherington at the Apple Blog. "In my opinion, these ads fare very poorly when compared to their Mac counterparts. The "Get a Mac" series of ads manages to target an Apple competitor cleverly, and in an entertaining fashion."