Robert Triggs / Android Authority
It’s no secret that Samsung and Apple now dominate the smartphone market, but if you want to talk about the best-selling phone of all time, you have to go all the way back to the pre-smartphone era. It was a time when Snake II was the biggest mobile game around, and camera phones were still relatively novel.
The best-selling phone of all time is the Nokia 1100, and despite shipping more than 250 million units since it was launched in 2003, most of you have probably never had one.
A phone for the masses
Although expensive luxury smartphones get the lion’s share of coverage in the mobile world, budget phones are what most people are using. Indeed, even the cheapest of modern smartphones can meet the basic needs of the masses, with solid performance and a decent feature set for a few hundred bucks.
Nokia understood this when it launched the Nokia 1100 in August of 2003. The durable little candybar-style phone was designed for emerging markets like Russia, India, and China. It’s not quite as durable as the legendary Nokia 3310, but it has additional dust protection and grips on the side for humid environments.
In Nokia’s own words in its official press release, the goal was to “offer first-time users reliable functionality, simplicity and value for money.”
What was a basic phone in 2003?
The Nokia 1100 was an uninspiring design when it first came out, but it still nailed the basics for most users. What kinds of features were people looking for? Well, here’s a quick list of what the Nokia 1100 had to offer:
- 96×65 monochromatic display
- Dustproof design
- Voice and text messaging with a 50-message capacity
- Storage for up to 50 contacts
- 36 pre-installed monophonic ringtones and the ability to compose seven original ringtones
- Replaceable battery with 400h of standby time
- Built-in flashlight, alarm clock, stopwatch, and calculator
- Snake II and Space Impact+ games
The phone remained popular throughout its 2003-2009 run. It made the news in early 2009 after a batch of Nokia 1100 phones could be hacked to send text messages from any number, opening the gates for all kinds of cyber fraud. Criminals paid upwards of $30,000 for the flawed devices, and it may have been the final nail in the coffin for the ultra-popular phone.
Other big sellers
While the Nokia 1100 tops the list, there are plenty of other phones that broke the 200 million mark. Second place is taken by the Nokia 1110, which is a very similar model that was released in 2005. It’s just a hair below its predecessor, with sales approaching 250 million.
If you want to talk about smartphones, the best-selling devices are the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, with a combined total of more than 220 million sales. These phones brought in a new era of “large” screens and really cemented Apple’s position in 2014. Remnants of the iPhone 6’s design can still be seen in all budget iPhone SE models today.
Of the top 10, Nokia takes up four slots, while Apple iPhones take the remaining six. Despite being the biggest smartphone manufacturer from 2010-2023, the only Samsung device to break the top 20 is the 2009 Samsung E1100 with 150 million sales. The classic clamshell Motorola RAZR V3 also breaks the top 20 with 130 million sales.
The rest of the top 20 is nothing but Nokia and Apple. Granted, all of the Nokia phones on the list are more than a decade old, dating to before Microsoft’s disastrous acquisition of Nokia’s mobile division in 2013. Sure, you can still buy Nokia branded phones from HMD, but the era of Finnish candybar magic has come and gone.
Alex Mitchell is your go-to expert for all things mobile. With a passion for the latest smartphones, apps, and mobile innovations, Alex provides in-depth reviews, insightful analyses, and breaking news about the ever-evolving world of mobile technology. Stay connected with Alex to navigate the fast-paced realm of mobile devices.