20 of the world's top selling phones

UPDATED. Samsung and Apple phones may today rule the smartphone market roost today, but the most popular phones and smartphones were in fact sold almost a decade ago. Here are some of the top selling mobile phones since the the start of the new millennium.
By Zack Whittaker, Contributor on
1 of 21 Zack Whittaker/ZDNET

The best selling cell phone since 2000 is...?

The golden age of feature phones is all but over, but their presence on the post-millennium market helped rake in more revenues than most best-selling smartphones of today. The reality is that while Apple can sell 47 million iPhones in a quarter and Samsung can sell 20 million Galaxy smartphones, just ten years ago the figures were just as high but were limited to just one phone model.

One relic of the feature phone past was able to sell more than 200 million of just one phone model since its launch. Today, not one single iPhone model was able to even come close to that figure.

Here's a run down of the most popular cell phones and smartphones in the post-2000 market.

Figures are approximate. (Data sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, PDF)

2 of 21 CNET Asia

LG Shine: ~8 million

LG's second installment in the Black Label Series managed to sell around 8 million devices during its heyday in 2008. Thanks to the handset's release in South America and Europe, the slider-phone maker sold 5 million in just one year alone. By the time it was discontinued it had sold around 8 million.

3 of 21 Zack Whittaker/ZDNET

Motorola Droid Bionic: ~13 million

Motorola's delayed touch-screen smartphone got off to a bad start, after delays and some owners complaining of audio troubles when it was eventually released. Still, sales shot through the roof after just a few months. It's estimated that 13 million Droid Bionic smartphones in two years. However, sales could've been better if the device wasn't locked into a Verizon exclusive deal in the U.S. market, but those who did buy it were able to use the carrier's 4G LTE network. 

Image: Motorola (via CNET)

4 of 21 Zack Whittaker/ZDNET

BlackBerry Pearl: ~15 million

BlackBerry's slimmed down enterprise-focused phone got off to a good start. In many cases, within the first few days many retailers had sold out without the BlackBerry maker needing to pull the strings on any significant marketing campaign. In 2009, RIM sold its 50 millionth BlackBerry smartphone, selling 7.8 million smartphones in one quarter alone. The Pearl remains one of the most popular BlackBerry smartphones that has come out of the Canadian smartphone maker. 

Image: CNET Asia

5 of 21 Zack Whittaker/ZDNET

Sony Ericsson K750/K750i: ~15 million

In just over a year, Sony Ericsson is estimated to have sold around 15 million K750 mobile phones. Not quite smartphone, not quite feature phone; it was a high-end device that appealed to many. So many in fact that it amounted around 15 million during the time it was on sale. In one quarter alone, Sony Ericsson sold close to 14 million units; with the K750/K750i taking one of the prime spots in the top five list of best selling global phones. The company sold more than 103 million phones in 2007, showing just how popular the company in its day.

Image: Sony Mobile (formerly Sony Ericsson)

6 of 21 Zack Whittaker/ZDNET

HTC Thunderbolt: ~16 million

Sales soared due to the excitement during the run-up to the device's launch, so much so that it broke record sales of one phone vendor. Wirefly reported that sales were 400 percent higher than any other pre-sale device. In just two weeks, Verizon sold 260,000 units.

Though it was rumored the device was selling faster than Apple's iPhone -- a rumor that was subsequently squashed -- but the HTC smartphone is believed to have sold 15 million units by the end of 2011, with another million during the last calendar year.

Image: Sarah Tew/CNET

7 of 21 Zack Whittaker/ZDNET

Samsung E250: ~30 million

Thanks to huge popularity in emerging markets, not limited to Africa, Samsung sold more than 30 million E250 handsets since it first launched in 2006. It was also extremely popular in Samsung's home country of South Korea, where it sold in the region of 20 million handsets in less than a year. The handset included a VGA camera and FM radio, and the battery lasted for days. One of the main reasons behind its success was that it was extremely cheap, costing only around $150. 

Image: GSM Arena

8 of 21 Zack Whittaker/ZDNET

Apple iPhone 3GS: ~35 million

A minor update to Apple's breakthrough iPhone 3G, the Cupertino, Calif.-based technology giant may have sold as many as 35 million iPhone 3GS' since it first launched in 2009. Apple doesn't break down its iPhone sales by version, but according to analysts and preliminary sales of 1 million in the first weekend, sales remained high even into the December 2011 holiday season.

Image: Apple

9 of 21 Zack Whittaker/ZDNET

Samsung Galaxy S III: ~50 million

During the iPhone 5 and Samsung S III race to the top of the sales charts, Samsung breezed through the 30 million mark in September 2012. Then, Samsung came back to reporters only two months later to say that it had pushed through the 40 million mark. Three months later, the Korean smartphone maker would have likely added another 10 million to that total, making it one of the best selling phones in Western markets during 2012.

Image: CNET Asia

10 of 21 Zack Whittaker/ZDNET

Apple iPhone 4: More than 50 million

Sporting a brand new design, Apple is estimated to have sold more than 50 million iPhone 4 handsets since it was first released in June 2010. With 1.7 million iPhone 4 handsets sold in just three days of availability, sales were boosted by the December holiday quarter. It remains on sale even today, three years later, adding to its continued success.

Image: Apple

11 of 21 Zack Whittaker/ZDNET

Nokia N70/N72/N73: ~45 million

One of Nokia's first widely available 'smartphone' for the wider market, the Nokia N-series devices were equipped with Symbian 60 and high-resolution cameras (for the time), making these a niche but popular line-up of devices. In 2009, Nokia was selling more than 400 million devices. During this time, N-series phones churned up a significant minority of this overall figure. In one quarter alone, Nokia sold more than 9 million of these phones, making the N-series range one of the more popular ranges on offer.

Image: CNET Asia (N70); Nokia (N72, N73)

12 of 21 Zack Whittaker/ZDNET

Motorola C139: ~60 million

This tiny phone was one of the simplest, easy to use and basic phones on the market. There was nothing particularly good about it by today's standards but it was incredibly cheap to buy and was sturdy in design. It was claimed to be the cheapest unlocked GSM handset on the U.S. market during the mid-2000s. 

Image: CNET 

13 of 21 Zack Whittaker/ZDNET

Apple iPhone 4S: More than 60 million

This was the highly anticipated 'iPhone 5.' After numerous rumors and speculation, those who held out realized there wouldn't be another iPhone for a while jumped at the chance to buy the iPhone 4S, with Apple selling a record four million handsets in the first weekend. There were grumbles, however, that the device wasn't enough of an update to 'wow' the wider consumer market. Then again, they said that about the actual iPhone 5 when that was finally released. 

Image: Apple

14 of 21 Zack Whittaker/ZDNET

Nokia 5130 XpressMusic: ~65 million

Nokia's 5130 handset was the first music-oriented feature phone out of the Finnish phone maker, and went on to sell in the region of 65 million, based on earlier figures from Nokia. It was particularly popular in emerging markets, thanks to the inclusion of the Opera Mini browser, allowing users to conserve data on the go. But equally, it was popular among Westerners who found the device to be a cheaper 'iPhone' like device — with a mix of high-quality audio and cellular features — albeit without the range of apps, and despite the fact that the iPhone hadn't even been invented by this point.

Image: CNET Asia

15 of 21 Zack Whittaker/ZDNET

Nokia 6010/6020/6030: ~75million

Nokia's sold approximately 75 million of its 6010 entry-level handsets worldwide. While U.S. and European markets were important to the phone maker, emerging markets still — even to this day — hold the vast bulk of Nokia's revenue. The handset started shipping in the second quarter of 2004 and sold out in huge quantities despite not being made available from the networks. There were two additional iterations, the 6020 and the 6030, which also helped sales.

Image: Nokia

16 of 21 Zack Whittaker/ZDNET

Nokia 1208: ~100 million

An unremarkable, cheap, candybar-shaped phone, the Nokia 1208 was out in 2007 and has since passed the 100 million mark. Thanks to no camera, it was one of the cheapest Nokia phones — indeed of any manufacturer — on the market for some time, costing as low as $34 in India [PDF] and as much as $122 in Singapore. Partially thanks to the success of this phone, Nokia had more than 39 percent market share for the first quarter of 2008, according to Gartner figures

Image: Nokia

17 of 21 Zack Whittaker/ZDNET

Nokia 1600: ~130 million

Nokia sold around 130 million Nokia 1600 handsets when it first launched, thanks to its popularity in the pre-paid market. A strange factor to this handset's success was its pre-installed games, notably soccer, which was extremely popular among Asian and African markets. The phone was originally released in developing countries, but also saw massive sales in North America. 

Image: Nokia

18 of 21 Zack Whittaker/ZDNET

Motorola Razr: More than 130 million

Motorola has seen many iterations of the Razr, but saw lasting success with the original V3 series. The world's most popular clamshell phone, the now Google-owned company enjoyed runaway success after selling sold more than 130 million units in the four years it was on the market. Arguably, it kept Motorola's feature phone business for many years. 

Image: CNET Asia

19 of 21 Zack Whittaker/ZDNET

Nokia 2600: ~135 million

The Finnish phone maker sold around 135 million Nokia 2600 series handsets from 2004 when the device first went on sale. A relatively unremarkable phone, it was one of the first handset series' by the company to feature a color display, though did not include a camera.

This kept the cost down and made it hugely popular thanks to its low price tag. Incremental updates in the 2610, 2626 and the 2630 handsets had additional hardware capabilities and functionality, spanning the range of many wallet sizes even for smaller, less-viable economies.

Image: Nokia

20 of 21 Zack Whittaker/ZDNET

Nokia 3310/3330: ~126 million

One of the most robust phones of our times — even memes have been created around the strength of the device — the Nokia 3310 remains one of the most well-known devices on the planet. An estimated 136 million Nokia 3310 and 3330 handsets have been sold since the phone first launched just before Christmas 2000. By 2005, there were 126 million units, which was more than the 100 million phones sold by Nokia between 1991 and 1998. 

Interestingly, if all the Nokia 3310 and 3330 phones were laid end-to-end, it would stretch from Helsinki, Finland to Santiago, Chile, according to the phone maker.

Image: Nokia

21 of 21 Zack Whittaker/ZDNET

Nokia 1100: More than 220 million

Surprise, surprise, a Nokia wins the top spot. The Nokia 1100 may look unceremonially brick-like but its basic features have helped the Finnish phone maker reach global success with this basic, monochrome display phone. Perfect for those on a shoestring budget, it doesn't have a camera or email, let alone a color display, but it sold — thanks to its extremely low price — more than 220 million devices by estimates. Launched in 2003, it may not have reached the cumulative success of Apple's iPhone, which has sold more than 300 million, but it surpasses every iPhone iteration by a long shot.

Image: Nokia

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