Nokia has just refreshed its Asha series by announcing the brand new Asha 501. The phone is slated to hit markets sometime in June for under Rs 6,000 and is an attempt to spark new interest in the S40 platform. The revamped UI gives this ageing platform a breath of fresh air and also gives first time smartphone buyers a better experience compared to lower-end Androids. Let’s break down the specifications to see what’s what.
OS – New Asha platform
The new Asha platform borrows a lot of design elements from MeeGo in order to give users a fresh new look. This also means that developers will have to code apps separately for this new platform or port existing apps over. Luckily, the Asha 501 comes with all the bare essential apps like Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, LinkedIn, eBuddy, WeChat, Nimbuzz etc. with lots more to follow. Nokia’s HERE Maps will also be making its way to the platform soon.
Cellular connectivity – Dual-SIM support but no 3G
The Asha 501 will come in both single and dual-SIM variants, but we’re not entirely sure if we’ll get both variants. In order to keep the costs down, 3G support has been removed. This is not a big deal since most phones in this price range don’t support 3G and it’s not a high priority for the target audience either.
Plenty of colour options
Display – 3-inch TFT LCD
A 3-inch display is what you get with the Nokia 501, which seems about right given the price point. We’ve seen similar-sized screens on Android devices costing a lot more just a year back, so this is still acceptable. The resolution is just 240 x 320, but the OS is designed in such a way that pixels aren’t very apparent despite the low pixel density of the screen.
Form factor – One of the best we have seen in this price range
The most appealing part of the 501 is its design, which looks like its made of Play-doh. It actually reminds us of a Chiclet from the back. The 501 also sports removable covers and bold colours just like the Lumia range. In fact, it’s not by accident that the 501 looks similar to the Lumia 520, both in design and numbering.
Connectivity – Wi-Fi b/g and Bluetooth
The Asha 501 gives you basic connectivity options like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. There’s also a microUSB port for charging and data transfers. Sadly, we don’t have Wi-Fi ‘n’ onboard. There’s no mention of the type of SoC used or even the speed of the processor yet. The handset will come with 64MB of RAM, which seems a little less, so we’ll wait and see how this copes up during real world usage.
Storage – 4GB microSD card in the box
Once again, Nokia hasn’t specified the internal storage, so we doubt there’s any usable storage. You do get support for up to 32GB external memory via microSD cards – and there's a 4GB card in the box.
Cameras – 3.2MP shooter
There’s only the rear 3.2MP camera sans flash and auto-focus. This should be just about okay for that occasional capture. Video recording maxes out at QVGA, so it’s not exactly ideal but gets the job done.
Sensors – Only proximity and accelerometer
Given that it’s a budget phone, Nokia has bundled just the basic sensors in the Asha 501.
A fresh new look
Battery – 1200 mAh Li-ion battery
The Asha 501 is fitted with a massive 1200 mAh battery and according to Nokia, the phone can deliver up to 17 hours of talk time. This is going to be the biggest hook for the Asha 501 and could sway many potential buyers towards this instead of an Android.
The bottom line
The Asha 501 looks like a very promising handset for Nokia, especially since there aren’t many good options down in this price segment. We have Android smartphones in this price range, but the experience is not a very pleasant one – not something we’d recommend. Nokia’s Asha 501 may not have the multi-tasking capabilities of, say, Jelly Bean or ICS, but for its target audience, that’s quite irrelevant. A person who buys an Asha 501 is not looking to play the latest game or expecting a thrilling multimedia experience. He or she just wants a few basic apps for social networking, instant messaging, little web browsing and good battery life, and the 501 manages to check all those boxes.