Nokia unveiled Asha 501 in May at an event in New Delhi, since the unveiling it generated a lot of interest among users who wanted a basic smartphone without frills. Along with the phone Nokia announced a new Asha Platform for developers. Nokia Asha 501 is a dual SIM phone with a touch screen and swipe navigation reminiscent of the MeeGo OS. We got this phone when it launched in India and testing and using this phone from past 10 days. Here are our observations and review of the Nokia Asha 501.
The Nokia Asha 501 reminds of you of the Lumia series of phones, its design resemble the Lumia 620. It is a bit chunky but perfectly fits in the hand unlike the recent smartphones with oversized screens. You can hold it with one hand perfectly and navigate the UI with one finger easily. It is light weight with 98.2gms.
It is available in bright colors including Red, Cyan, yellow, Green, White and Black. The back covers are exchangeable, that means you can swap these covers to instantly change the style of your phone.
The front panel has a single back button at the bottom of the screen. The 3-inch screen occupies the center of the front panel. The top part has the ear piece and Nokia branding at the center.
The back panel is an exchangeable shell, in those bright colors with matte finish it looks good. On top of the back panel is the camera housing, below that there is a vertical Nokia branding. On the bottom you have the a button that is used to pop out the shell. Click the button and lift the shell up to remove it.
The top panel houses the power card slot, micro USB slot and 3.5mm audio jack. The bottom panel is clean with no buttons, on the right is a mouth piece.
The left panel has no buttons and is clean. The right panel houses the volume rocker keys and the power button.
- GSM: 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, EGPRS 236.8 kbps, GPRS 85.6 kbps
- Software: Nokia Asha Software Platform 1.0
- Dual SIM: Dual Standby SIM
- Storage: MicroSD Card upto 32GB, (4GB Card free with the phone)
- Display: 3” LCD Transmissive, QVGA (320 x 240 pixels) resolution, 133PPI
- Camera: 3.2MP, No Flash
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi: WLAN IEEE 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 3.0, micro USB
- Battery: 1200 mAh battery, standby time 624hrs, talk time 17hrs
- Size: 99.2 x 58 x 12.1mm
- Weight: 98.2g
- Sensors: Accelerometer, Proximity sensor
Nokia has not specified the processor in this phone, but it performs well for the platform. It comes with 64MB RAM which is again ok for the platform. It is a dual SIM phone and requires micro SIM cards. It supports micro Card upto 32GB. The SIM card slots and the micro SD card slots are inside the back panel, they are not accessible from outside, you need to remove the back panel for that. One SIM slot is below the battery, another SIM slot and micro SD slot or on the side of the device.
Nokia has packed Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 3.0 in the device, there is no 3G support or GPS support though. 3G and GPS will be missed by lot of us, but we will get better battery life because of that. But I am sure Nokia will bring 3G in the next line of Asha phones. Nokia also included an FM Radio in this phone.
Asha 501 comes with a 3-inch capacitive LCD touchscreen with QVGA (320 x 240 pixels) resolution. The screen is capacitive is nature and is responsive one for a phone of this category. There is a thick bezel around the screen. The screen has some kind of a scratch resistant protection. The screen is ok to look at indoors, but in the sun light it is no so good. At 133 ppi resolution it is decent enough, overall it has good viewing angles. The screen is good for browsing and for some applications, while playing games you will notice the low quality otherwise it is good.
Nokia has debuted a new Asha platform with this phone, the UI takes some elements from the MeeGo platform. The UI of this phone is quite easy to use and the entire UI can be navigated with gesture controls and with a single Swipe. There is only one back physical button on the device, and you don’t miss the home button and options panel. Swiping on either side of the phone from any app or from fastlane will take you to the home screen or app screen, as both are same here.
When you are on an app which requires options, just swipe from the bottom and an options panel comes up. Clicking on an app opens the corresponding app, and long pressing and holding on app icon gives the ability to delete or change its position. The app screen doesn’t support folders, all the apps are placed on the same in 4xX manner. This phone comes with several apps pre-installed including Facebook, Twitter, and several games, there is no WhatsApp for the keyboard junkies.
Fastlane, this is the feature Nokia is touting from the launch of this phone. This feature allows you to have a quick overview of things you did today, and so on including notifications. What apps you used, your missed calls, messages everything will be there for you to review. Fastlane is Just a swipe away from your app screen.
The phone comes with Nokia Xpress Browser which does data compression like the Opera Mini and is good enough for browsing. Browsing on this phone is good, we didn’t feel any lag while scrolling the pages. Nokia Xpress Browser compresses pages to save on data, you can set the level of compression to your needs from the settings menu. Page rendering is good. You can open 6 web pages at a time and switch between them. The browser start page has shortcuts to some useful sites.
There are not many personalization options on this phone, but given its price range that is not a bad thing, you can change wall paper, sound profiles etc., though. You can set the standby screen to show the clock always, you can find this option in the settings “Glance screen”, this screen also shows icons for missed calls, messages etc.
The Keyboard is quite good, we thought it might be difficult to use considering the screen size, but surprisingly it is very good. The ease of use of keyboard is very essential for any touch screen phone. Messaging app has just basic controls, nothing fancy but it gets things done. The dialer is also very basic but simple UI, while calling you can turn on speaker, mute, add another call, access keypad etc.
There is a notifications bar on top of the UI, you can pull it off like the Android notification bar. Here you will find control SIM info, toggles for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth etc.
Applications for Asha 501 cam be downloaded from the Ovi store included with the phone. There are several applications in the store both free and paid ones.
Camera and Multimedia
Asha 501 comes with 3.2 megapixel camera without flash, with out autofocus. The camera app lacks any advanced controls or settings. It is a basic app with a shutter button and toggles for photo and video, option to go to the gallery. The camera is ok for what it is, particularly if you consider the price it is ok. But don’t expect to shoot anything interesting with it, an occasional shot is ok. Lack of flash makes it not suitable for shooting indoors. Outdoor photos are not bad, but if you are shooting with a camera or another smartphone you will see these photos lack details. Colors in photos are ok, but if you take a close up photo colors are distorted.
The music player is again a basic one with out much controls, you will surely miss equalizer. While playing it displays album image and track information. The speaker is on the back, there is no visible grill but you can see the gap between the pull out button and the back shell, that is where you will get the sound. Sound quality is good, at the max volume you will hear some noise. The microphones are also of good quality and the sound quality from them is also good. The video player is quite but the screen is too small for my taste to watch videos for long.
It packs a 1200mAh battery under the hood, Nokia claims that it gives 624hrs of battery life on standby and 17hrs of talktime. It is true it does have a long battery life, remember that it didn’t have battery sucking 3G or GPS. If you just it for calls, data, and a bit of Wi-Fi it does last for quite a few days. We didn’t test the battery fully due to lack of tools, but we can say we charged it only 2 times during the last ten days we are using.
Nokia Asha 501 is a good phone with good build quality and with the new and nice Asha platform. If you are a first time smartphone owner or you are looking for a second no frills smartphone it fits the bill perfectly. It is retailing in India at a price of Rs. 5,199, at this price point there are several cheap Android handsets from Indian and Chinese manufacturers. It is better to buy this phone for its refreshing design, Swipe UI and good build quality. We would recommend it over any cheap Android handset.
- Not so good camera, No Flash
- No 3G
- No GPS