The top 20 best-selling mobiles ever

The Telegraph published an interesting article recently on the top 20 best-selling mobile phones of all time, including sales data on each of those top 20 smartphones. I’ve done a bit of poking around and discovered some interesting trends in the data. Contrary to what you might expect, our modern favourites like the iPhone and Samsung Galaxy S III are nowhere near the top of the pile. Instead, that honour falls to a vast legion of ‘dumb’ phones from the likes of Nokia and Motorola.

In fact, the top spot goes to the lowly Nokia 1110, which saw 250 million sales since its release in 2005. Curiously, sales of that single model eclipse that of Motorola’s appearances on the list (which include the first flip phone, the StarTAC in ’96 and the RAZR V3 in 2004) which only total 225 million units. Having said that though, just the Motorola entries on the list have sold more units than all of the smartphones on the list – the Android-powered Galaxy S II and S III and the iOS-powered iPhone 3GS and 4S. In total, dumb phones make up a massive 91% of the total sales included on the list.

Of course, feature phones are on the way out as smartphones become increasingly cheaper and more accessible to those in emerging markets. Only 17% of the sales totals on the list come from phones released after 2008 – by which point the iPhone 3G and the first Android phone, the T-Mobile G1 have been released. And of these phones that made it into the top 20 and were released after 2008, 53% were smartphones.

unit sales in millions of units, from the top 20 smartphones only

It’s kind of a sad state of affairs to look at the list, really, to consider how far these feature phone manufacturers have fallen. Nokia, whose phones make up 78% of the top 20 sales volume, had to abandon its Symbian platform in 2011 and pinned its hopes on the unproven Windows Phone operating system. With its total Windows Phone sales measuring under 15 million in the last five quarters, it’s clear to see that Nokia are nowhere near their former glory.

Sales in millions of units of top 20 smartphones, by year of initial release

Motorola isn’t faring much better. While the company’s mobile division was acquired by Google last year, we still haven’t seen any massively popular releases, despite the revival of the RAZR brand with a new line of Android-powered smartphones.

While Samsung and Apple have done well and Motorola and Nokia have done poorly as of late, the market has also become a lot larger and many more companies are taking part including a number of firms from the Far East.

While the burgeoning emerging markets in China, India and beyond will no doubt prove instrumental targets for mobile companies to capture, with so many devices to choose from it will be difficult for any of these manufacturers to break into a ‘Top 20 best-selling phones’ any time in the near future – although ‘total sales by manufacturer’ will certainly continue to be an interesting race.

What do you make of Nokia and Motorola’s fall from grace and the rest of the trends found in the article? Let us know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading and have a good day!

  • jon

    This is all bull as as the s3 sold over 100 million, and im sure you got a few more wrong. Not that it really matters as the biggest seller of all time was the nokia 5110 which sold over 500 million

  • Why you didn’t count Nokia 5230 as smartphone? This is phone with Symbian OS.

  • Naga Appani

    Actually, out of its 250 millions, 200 could only be from India.. How amazing in a year like 1996 could StarTac get that 60m mark, enthralling..

  • I worked at Carphone Warehouse when the Nokia 1100 was released and I do remember recommending it to a lot of people. I wouldn’t have it but, I think a lot of older people who hadn’t used mobile phones before were at that point, getting one. A lot of the sales were from first time mobile phone buyers and the Nokia 1100 was very simple to use. Perfect as a starter phone and perfect for the elderly. I bought my grandfather and possibly my grandmother. Both who had owned a phone before but found it complicated (Motorola) and this was a lot easier to use for them both. I think my grandfather still has it as it happens lol.