Viewers cast a record 132 million votes on Wednesday, up from the 122 million record American Idol set last year.
The pair waited more than two hours to discover who was the winner, as the show rolled through live performances by 12 other finalists and guest stars, including Aerosmith, Rihanna, Chaka Khan and Neil Diamond.
Phillips, 21, beat out Sanchez, 16, for a record contract, after the two performers gave their final stand on Tuesday night.
Phillips' stock boiled over with a great rendition of Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me” and an original tune called “Home.
The song was a hit with the judges.
“I love the song, said judge, Randy Jackson. I love you. I love the production. I love the marching band. Everything about that was perfect.
Phillips earned consistently high marks from the show’s judges, while Sanchez faltered on “Change Nothing,” the song that could serve as her first release.
The teenager agreed with panelists Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler, saying she should have gone more “urban” with her song choice. .