The best-selling mobile phone in history is not from Apple or Samsung: it is from Nokia (and it just turned 20 years old)
If you asked us about the best-selling mobile phone in history, we might think of devices from Apple or Samsung, two of the most popular brands today. However, this milestone does not belong to them . To find the true holder of this notable title we must take a trip back in time, a trip that takes us two decades back, where the world was very different.
Do you remember what life was like in 2003? If you are a centennial this question may not be the best one for you, but if you are part of some of the older generations, you probably have an answer. Focusing on the most techie, which is what concerns us, broadband was present in many countries and, at the level of wireless connectivity, we still used 2G networks.
The ‘basic’ phone that arrived when smartphones were taking off
When it was time to work or study, we turned to our computers running Windows XP or Mac OS X (not macOS). And, furthermore, we witnessed the arrival of the first smartphones live . As we remembered a few years ago , among the most notable mobile phones were the BlackBerry 6230, the Sony Ericsson P900, the Samsung E700, the Motorola V600 and the Nokia 6600.
The latter manufacturer was the real king of the market. His catalog of devices was enormous and, as we can see in the images, it made a difference in design and performance. But for Nokia it was not all advanced phones. In those times, the firm also correctly opted for more modest solutions aimed at clients with a more limited budget.
And we say that it was a successful bet because, in the middle of the development of the smartphone concept, a mobile phone called Nokia 1100 timidly appeared that was not aimed at that segment. It did not stand out for incorporating a camera or for having a color screen. It was a standard, basic mobile phone, but built under a solid concept that made it a mobile phone that was as successful as it was indestructible.
The Nokia 1100, when it was launched in August 2003, was priced around $100. The Finns, who had a global presence, wanted the phone to work even in the most demanding environments . This need translated directly into the design, with a completely enclosed keyboard that kept out dust and non-slip rubber edges, ideal for humid weather.
It had a monochrome screen, flashlight, clock, calendar, calculator, stopwatch and contact book. At the tone level, there were 36 options to choose from or, if you were skilled enough, you had seven slots to save tones you created yourself. Despite its basic features, it had the inevitable (and at that time already classic) snake game ‘Snake’ in version 2.
One of the advantages of the device was its great autonomy. Nokia’s tactic to achieve this was very simple: incorporate into the Nokia 1100 a battery originally designed for more advanced models that, consequently, consumed more energy. It was the BL-5C battery, which allowed the device to be used for more than a week without having to connect it to the charger.
This combination of features made the phone a success, although its presence went relatively unnoticed in many markets. Since its launch, it has accumulated more than 250 million units sold, a figure that is even positioned above Apple’s best-seller, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus , which add up to some 225 million units sold .