Mobile phones have been a staple for millions for the past 20 years, with Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy ranges now some of the most sought-after pieces of tech on the market.

Whilst phones may have been far more modest some 20 years ago, they really began to balloon in popularity around the start of the millennium.
We wanted to find out how some of this century’s most notable handsets stack up in terms of sales, so we’ve researched the most dominant phones in their respective year of release to reveal the most legendary handset of the millennium so far.

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God tier

Nokia 1100 (2003)
The humble ‘brick like’ Nokia was released in 2003 and sports a thin, stylish design comfortably held in the palm of your hand. Although not equipped with a camera or Google Maps, this sturdy little handset offered customers a torch, an alarm and a ringtone composer, and was the most dominant phone on the market at the time.

Nokia 3310 (2000)
This is one of an iconic series of phones released by Nokia, the first late in the year 2000. Its simplistic but tough plastic exterior helped this phone gain almost cult status as being virtually indestructible. It was one of the first of its kind to have an SMS text messaging function, as well as a calculator and a stopwatch – plus who could forget the classic game Snake II, which remains one of the most popular mobile phone games of all time.

Motorola Razr V3 (2004)
Originally released in 2004, the Razr series became a mainstay of the Motorola range for years. Its slick thin clamshell design was cutting edge as one of the most advanced flip phones available, available in black or hot pink. This innovative handset also sported a mini-USB port for data as well as a headphone jack.

iPhone 6 (2014)
The eighth generation of the Apple handsets came out in 2014 and featured the first plus size phone for customers, including a higher contrast picture to previous models on both versions. This iPhone came with all the bells and whistles, featuring a 1080-pixel camera with slo-mo video, as well as the capacity to use Apple Pay for the first time.

Top tier

iPhone 5/5C/5S (2013-2014)
The introduction of the iPhone 5 range provided fans with a smaller, slimmer model, which at the time was the slimmest smartphone on the market. Running on a faster processor despite being 25% smaller than its predecessor, the iPhone 5 handsets were the first versions Apple produced to use the smaller, lighter charger connector, which is still used today. Although the three models were very similar, the 5S introduced the Touch ID fingerprint sensor to unlock the phone.
The iPhone 5 came in either black or white, whilst there was a space grey and gold version for the 5S, and the 5C came in a variety of bolder colours such as blue, pink, yellow and green. Despite all having dual cameras, there were differences in quality as you move up from the standard 5 up to the 5S

Samsung Galaxy S6/S6 Edge (2015)
These hugely popular Samsung handsets boasted a 5x10 inch high-res display, complete with a huge 32 or 64GB storage. Its sleek design came with curved edges, which the screen actually overlapped on the Edge version, providing customers with one of the most extensive displays ever made. Both came with phenomenal battery life, supported quick charge 2.0 devices and enabled split screen app launching interface, letting users do multiple things on the go.

iPhone 3G (2008)
Although not as advanced as its modern-day siblings, the iPhone 3 was no less impressive back in 2008 when it was released. Despite being one of the earliest generations of the iPhone, the 3G saw the introduction of a more streamlined and slim design, whilst also being the first Apple handset to include turn-by-turn navigation and the App Store.

Mid-tier

Samsung Galaxy S8 (2017)
Samsung rolled out the new S8 with a bigger ‘Plus’ model, which were both bulked up with larger screens as well as iris and face recognition. Galaxy S8 were treated to a new suite of virtual assistant features known as Bixby, whilst the charge moved from Micro USB to USB-C for the first time, which worked with docking station accessories.

iPhone 12/12 Mini (2020)
Currently Apple’s most advanced smartphone, the 12 range was only introduced last year but proved hugely popular across the market. The major upgrade was the introduction of an all-new super retina OLED screen, as well as 5G support and its most powerful 12-megapixel camera yet. As well as some of its more recent predecessors, the iPhone 11 features AirPod wireless headphone compatibility. The only difference between the 12 and 12 Mini is the physical size.

Samsung Galaxy S10 Series (2019)
The S10 aptly marked the 10th anniversary of the Galaxy S range and was packed with new features. Releasing five separate models (S10, S10E, S10+, S10 5G and S10 Lite) offering customers the choice between plus size and smaller handsets, all equipped with three lens, 12-megapixel cameras, with an additional front camera included for S10+ owners. All models supported 4K video playback and recording as well as 5G network connectivity. Notably, the S10 series was the final one to feature a headphone jack and was available in a huge variety of colours, from prism black to canary yellow.

Samsung Galaxy S (2010)
At the time, this smartphone was a hugely popular and cutting-edge touch screen android device. In its peak, it was the slimmest (9.9mm) and fastest processing phone available and a new high quality audio hub. It had a front and rear camera and allowed users to customise their home screen to suit their tastes. There was also a feature to customise shortcuts.

Nokia N95 (2007)
This was one of Nokia’s earlier smartphones and was made famous for its two-way sliding mechanism design, which could be used to access either the numeric keypad or media playback options. As well as having a high brow 5-megapixel digital camera, equipped with flash, the N95 was the first Nokia to feature a fully-fledged GPS system. A key asset of this phone was its audio system, providing users with the option to upload MP3 and MP4, with built in stereo speakers and Bluetooth.

Lower Tier

iPhone (2007)
The original iPhone feels ancient now, but at the time of its release 14 years ago, the Apple iPhone was a pioneering product that set the stage for the emergence of smartphones. It was the slickest touchscreen handset on the market and the very first device to offer full access to the internet with the introduction of its safari browser. The iPhone had everything at your fingertips, introducing Apple music, its own dedicated maps app and access to YouTube, all whilst working as a quick and smooth-running mobile phone.

iPhone 11 Pro/Max (2019)
The 13th generation of the flagship iPhones offered a newer jazzed up version of the original 11. The Pro and Max introduced a triple lens rear camera system, whilst the Max provided customers with an almost small tablet feel to their handset. The Pro is actually the only iPhone to include an 18W fast charger and included faster Wi-Fi and haptic touch instead of 3D touch. The Pro was available in a variety of colours, including a never-before-seen midnight green.

Samsung Galaxy Note N7000 (2011)
Launching in late 2011, the Samsung Galaxy Note N700 offered a 5.3” screen, 8MP camera and the ability to shoot in 1080p video. Selling 16m units, this handset was by no means unpopular, but only represents a small percentage of global subscriptions at the time, earning it a place in the lower tier on our countdown.

Huawei P30/P30 Pro (2019)
Despite ranking in the lower tier, the Huawei P30 and P30 pro have plenty of incredible features to warrant their popularity. Launching in 2019, these handsets came with quad cameras shooting up to 40mp, a powerful Octa-core processor offering brilliant performance, and a modest price point too. Fast forward a couple of years and Huawei now owns the third largest market share behind Apple and Samsung.

OnePlus 6T (2018)
The OnePlus range can be a fantastic alternative for anyone looking for a mid-range handset that maintains great performance. The OnePlus 6T launched in 2018 and brought with it a range of new features, including a larger battery and in-screen fingerprint scanning. The handset was widely touted as being one of the brand’s best launches at the time, selling almost 3.5m units.

Google Pixel/ Pixel XL (2016)
Just five years ago, Google released its first-generation Pixel smartphones, which boasted one of the best cameras for a smartphone at the time, with a 12.3-megapixel lens at the back as well as an 8-megapixel front camera. This handset, which was also available in a notably larger size in the Pixel XL, included unlimited cloud storage as standard and up to 128gb of internal storage for some handsets. Its release was a big moment in the phone industry, with Google becoming the only other company, aside from Apple, to have control of the designs of both the hardware and operating systems of their smartphones.