Selling its 500 millionth iPhone, Apple has time to create next big thing

In under seven years, Apple has sold 500 million iPhones, a truly incredible number -- particularly when you compare it to other iconic products, in or outside of the tech space.


To truly put Apple's accomplishment in perspective, we have to look at sales of truly iconic products to understand just how successful Apple has been at selling its phone. Yes, there are other products in the world that have sold incredibly well but most do not cost $500+, nor have they been on sale for only seven years.

Some of the world's most iconic toys have sold incredibly well over the past decades, including the Rubik's cube and the Slinky, both of which have sold more than 350 million units each over their lifetime. Impressive, but a far cry from Apple's 500 million. And the Hula Hoop? A mere 100 million.

What about the most successful car in the world? The Toyota Corolla, which includes some cars like the Toyota Matrix built on the Corolla platform, has sold a total of 40 million units worldwide since its introduction in 1966. The original Volkswagen Beetle? Just over 21.5 million units.

Several hundred million copies of the board game Monopoly have been sold, along with 300 million frisbees. Impressive, but a far cry from the iPhone.

Only Steve Jobs's favorite band, the Beatles, can surpass his iPhone. According to some sources, the Beatles have sold 600 million total albums worldwide. But for a single record? Michael Jackson's Thriller sold a paltry 50 million units.

Nintendo comes close; it's Mario franchise -- across all the versions of Super Mario Bros., Mario Kart, and all the rest -- totals more than 450 million units. With sales of all its handheld consoles, including the Game Boy and the Nintendo DS, totaling just under 400 million units. Very impressive, but not so much as the iPhone. Sony has a ways to go with its PlayStation franchise, with roughly 350 million total consoles sold.

All the Harry Potter books combined sold somewhere around 450 million copies, while the Twilight series moved a mere 120 million.

Sony sold 385 million Walkman devices, though that includes more modern digital only versions. The company sold some 200 million of the traditional Walkman, the device that Steve Jobs compared the iPod to. Of course over the more than 10 years since the iPod was introduced, Apple has sold almost 400 million of those, well exceeding the device that it replaced.

And what about the iPad? It just passed the 200 million mark.

There are really only a handful of products that can compare to Apple's iPhone. One of them is made by Microsoft, Apple's longtime nemesis. That company has sold more than 1 billion copies of Windows over its lifetime, though exact numbers are hard to find. It does help, of course, that Windows is included with hundreds of millions of PCs. Look at only retail boxed copy sales of Windows, and it wouldn't even be close.

Yes, Apple's growth may be slowing but it did sell more than 50 million iPhones last quarter and that covers for a lot of sins. Because when you're printing money like that, it really should buy you a lot of time to come up with the next new thing. Whether that next new thing will sell 500 million units in seven years is another question entirely.


Jordan Golson is an Apple Columnist for TechRepublic. He also writes about technology and automobiles for WIRED and MacRumors. He has worked for Apple Retail twice and has been writing about technology since 2007.


Somebody is an unabashedly and shamelessly cheering for Apple. 

Comparing apples to a whole lot of different fruits, proves nothing.

Also, Windows didn't just sell 1 billion copies.  With estimates of 1.5 billion copies of Windows still in use, you can be sure that, Windows copies sold were closer to 2 billion.

How about the number of Word copies sold?

How about televisions?  How many have been sold since the first one came to market.  That number must be in the trillions by now.  ;) 

Comparing the the number of iPhone to number of a particular car sold is ludicrous.  Why not compare the number of iPhones sold to something of comparable value in a car, such as tires?  So, how many tires have been sold?  By now, that number has to be in the trillions.  ;)

Hey, if the author above can be ridiculous in his comparisons, why not me?  

One  can get very ridiculous when wanting to spin his favorite product or company into stratospheric admiration.    

Tayale Tilingamawa
Tayale Tilingamawa

Under 7 years how many android devices sold out??? let just say since 2010 how many android devices sold?

Jason Jay
Jason Jay

I think Apple has changed the world and lead the way in smartphone technology, but the torch will probably be passed to another company. My thoughts are the next leap will be in integration or AI, to make communication with technology effortless and more user friendly.

Stewart Wood
Stewart Wood

Apple don't have a next big thing. There done.


You ignore the elephant in the room - more than 1 billion Android devices activated by Google, over 80% of them phones.  And an indeterminate but large number of Android devices running AOSP-based OS versions that Google will never see.

Apple fans will cry "foul, there's so many companies" ... which is both valid and invalid as a complaint, of course - wonder how many Samsung Galaxy phones have sold?  Of course, Samsung has sold WAY more phones than Apple - since they do candy-bar feature phones on up. But a comparison of the Galaxy line, from original and S all the way to S5, would be interesting.  And do you include the Note series? Hmm.  Even without the Note, I bet it's pretty close to 500 million.

Oh, and while you're at it - why not a comparison of e.g. Nokia feature phones?  WAY more than 500 million of those sold (and they're a lot more relevant than Corollas).

Total revenue would be interesting as well.

Anyway, fun article!


Some of the comparisons are rather silly and pointless.  Comparing cars with phones, or items from an earlier time when there were fewer people who had relatively less money...comparing devices at completely different price points with completely different purposes...

 The lastest Corolla is nothing like the first one, but Toyota never bothered to change the name.  On the other hand, Mercedes sold vast numbers of its W123 (a predecessor of the E series), but the quantity was never repeated despite Merc selling ever more cars, because it introduced more models under more names.

And why isn't the Swatch mentioned?

There are so many other factors, such as different ways of doing things

Selling 500m handsets -- especially expensive ones -- is no mean achievement, but it would be nice to see a proper context.


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