Counterclockwise: the most popular phones through the years


A couple of weeks ago, we looked at how bezels shrunk throughout the years. It was very easy to spot when the market transitioned from regular phones to current touchscreen-dominated landscape. Let’s see if we can find an interesting pattern in which phones were the most popular in any given year.

We’ll go as far back as the year 2006 in our statistics and we’ll present you the top three phones for each year (we won’t include 2017 as it isn’t even halfway done yet).

Things start as you might expect with Nokia and Sony Ericsson on top. Nokia’s popularity was so huge that the company’s darlings – N95, 5800 – managed to keep even the iPhone in its early years at bay. That battle was lost in 2009 when the 3GS topped the chart, but the Finns managed to swing it back around in 2010 with the awesome cameraphone that was the N8.

But look at that chart. Apple’s S models are not as strong as their non-S models – i.e. when a brand new design is introduced? It’s not a huge advantage, but a new exterior seems to have a bigger draw than improved internals.

Year Most popular phone Runner up Third place
2006 Nokia N73 Sony Ericsson K800 Nokia N80
2007 Nokia N95 Apple iPhone Nokia 6300
2008 Nokia 5800 XpressMusic Nokia E71 Apple iPhone 3G
2009 Apple iPhone 3GS Nokia N97 BlackBerry Curve 8520
2010 Nokia N8 Apple iPhone 4 Samsung I9000 Galaxy S
2011 Samsung I9100 Galaxy S II Apple iPhone 4s Samsung Galaxy Ace S5830
2012 Samsung I9300 Galaxy S III Apple iPhone 5 Samsung Galaxy S Duos S7562
2013 Samsung I9500 Galaxy S4 Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Apple iPhone 5s
2014 Samsung Galaxy S5 Apple iPhone 6 Samsung Galaxy Grand Prime
2015 Samsung Galaxy S6 Samsung Galaxy J7 Samsung Galaxy J5
2016 Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 Samsung Galaxy J7 (2016) Samsung Galaxy S7

2011 was a turning point for Nokia – it bet the farm on Windows Phone and slandered Android. The market made its feelings quite clear, though, as the Galaxy S topped each year from 2011 (S II) to 2015 (S6). Things look good for the Nokia 6 this year, however, so HMD might turn things around.

Anyway, 2015 marked another major shift in the market – mid-range phones won for the first time. Samsung’s Galaxy J series came to prominence, then the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 elbowed it out. The Galaxy S7 managed only 3rd place in 2016, breaking the 5-year streak. The S8 could end up 2nd this year, behind the Nokia 6 (unless the S8 rallies in the last six months of the year).

Our data captures the last days of the feature phone relevance too – the Nokia 6300 was the last to make a mark while Symbian offerings dominated. It wasn’t the last non-touchscreen on the chart, that honor goes to the BlackBerry Curve 8520 and its optical trackpad and QWERTY keyboard.

Will the Nokia 3310 (2017) return the humble feature phone to popularity? Can the BlackBerry KEYOne resurrect interest in QWERTYs? We’ll have to check the charts again next year.

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