Nokia recently announced the dual-SIM Asha 501 smartphone with a fresh single-Swipe user interface. The monoblock touchscreen device brings a new Asha software platform to the users and developers. The Asha 501 will be offered on dual-SIM model option as of now for Rs 5,199. Here is our take on the smartphone.
Nokia Asha 501 is meant for the youth and first time internet users. The device comes in candy bar form factor with monoblock design. There are no keys peeking out or crevices for dust to get collected in the keys. Nokia's budget phones are known for being strong and survive great falls. The back panel hugs to the body in such a way that even when the phone accidentally slips from your hand, it doesn't come out easily along with the battery. Nokia has used slightly stronger than the regular plastic material with the device.
The back panel has bit of glossy finish which makes it easy to slip out of hands. It measures 12.1 mm thick and the phone is deceptively lighter at 100 grams than it appears. Nokia has placed the volume keys on the right side of the phone with the Power/Sleep key is located just under it.
There is just one hard button under the display. Surprisingly, it is a Back key instead of the typical Home button.
Nokia offers Asha 501 in six funky colors - Bright Red, Bright Green, Yellow, White, Black and Cyan. All these devices have a glossy back and none of them have that rubberised matte finish. Despite of its glossy design, the phone is immensely comfortable to hold in the hand. Also the form factor and the display size make it very easy to be controlled with one hand.
Nokia Asha 501 is the typical small display bearing budget phone just like the predecessors - Asha 311 and Asha 308. The Asha 501 packs 3-inch TFT LCD touchscreen display supporting native resolution of 320x240 pixels.
It might not be the best display out there but the 133 pixels per resolution pixel density is decent enough. We do feel that the display could have been a bit bigger.
Nokia has not specified the processor used and the device packs 64 MB RAM which is decent enough for platform. Nokia Asha 501 supports dual-SIM configuration and requires micro-SIM modules. The SIM card slots and the memory card slot are located under the back panel and are not easily swappable.
The back panel appears to be inspired by one of the Lumia series devices and has a small button that acts out for the speaker. There is a 3.2 megapixel camera without any LED Flash at the rear. There is a 3.5 mm Audio out port on the top next to the standard micro USB 2.0 port. There is no USB-on-the-Go support but the phone does support USB charging.
Nokia has also packed FM Radio in the phone and there are sensors - proximity and accelerometer. The latter is being used by couple of fantastic applications like for composing music while shaking the phone and more. Nokia has packed Bluetooth 3.0 with EDR and supports Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g for decent mobile web browsing experience.
Nokia debuts the single swipe access gesture through the Asha software platform 1.0 on the Asha 501. The single swipe access is heavily inspired and designed by the same person who worked on the user interface MeeGo mobile OS. With single swipe, the user can close the open application. Swipe driven user experience brings something fresh to the segment.
The new Asha software platform also brings a new feature dubbed Fastlane. All the activities performed on the interface are logged in a chronological order with latest activity on the top. It's not just an arbitrary list but snapshot of the activity such as the half written message or calendar entry. We found this feature quite interesting and helpful for accessing the latest activities.
Nokia has worked closely with the developers to offer some great apps. By defaul, the Asha 501 will come pre-loaded with 50 popular apps and 40 EA games out of the box. For that, Nokia will bundle a 4 GB microSD memory card with the device. Apart from that there is a photo editor app, organizer, Alarm app with new interface, and voice memo. Sadly there is no way to sync Google Contacts and you may have to add the manually or other workaround.
The keyboards input really impressed us for it was really easy to choose between different keyboards by simple swipe gestures. What blew us away was language support for different Indian languages by default.
Messaging was quite different than usual as the use of interface is minimalistic which aids is showing ore content without clogging space for static menus.
The options menu button is not available on the screen or on the device. One might actually wonder how to get it? The answer is simple swipe from the bottom of the screen to middle reveals that options panel. Nokia has recently made the HERE maps beta available for the Asha 501 so the users can browse those maps using the phone's cellular triangulation.
Nokia's new mobile web browser is quite interactive and has packed the Nokia Xpress Browser with rich tiles on the home screen with colour coding. Apart from that, the browser can support multi-tab browsing to access variety of content at the same time. Users can always save a particular website as a tile or a bookmark along with the Apps. The new Nokia Xpress Now feature presents content about top three popular things in India - Politics, Sports and Entertainment. Apart from that, the Social Network apps such as Facebook and Twitter come preloaded on the device.
The phone supports Easy Swap function that means switching between SIM modules can be down within the OS and without pulling out the battery. There is also this cool Nokia Glance Screen double tap function that gives a quick look of the homescreen/lockscreen for missed calls, calendars, weather, etc. Though Asha software 1.0 platform is nowhere close to the Android OS, but it still does a good job of presenting the apps as well as user experience with a very fresh take.
Music playback was immense fun on the phone and it has a decent speaker - which is loud but not clear and certainly not annoying. Watching videos on the phone is fun because the new interface allows resuming the video right from the second it was left off.
When it comes to camera, the Asha 501 packs a 3.15 megapixel camera at the back with no LED Flash. It can record video on VGA">QVGA resolution at low 15 frames per second. Users can record videos but audio and video quality may not be as amazing when compared to other smartphones with slightly more budget.
Imaging quality was fairly decent and we didn't put our heavy expectations knowing that its meant for the budget segment. Nokia has added some nifty improvements in the camera app and the photo editor bundled is absolutely useful.
Nokia has held its position strong when it comes to battery in the budget and affordable devices. Though there may not be enough processing muscle, the phones actually last longer than the Android counterparts. Unfortunately, we did not have a second micro-SIM so we managed to test the battery life only on single micro SIM. With a normal usage involving some phone calls, texting, emails, and web browsing activity, the phone lasted for two days. Even with the music listening, the phone managed to go beyond one and a half day easily.
Nokia has reworked and designed special battery for the Asha 501 - at least that is what we were told. It is a 1200 mAh battery and on dual-SIM configuration should offer more than 8 hours of continuous talk time. We were not surprised with this battery for Nokia promises standby time of a month and a half.
Nokia offers the dual-SIM Asha 501 with headphones and charger for Rs 5,199. The pricing is pretty fair when measured with the value and user experience packed. Nokia also offers 4 GB micro SD card loaded with 50 apps to save you from the trouble of downloading. Yes, the lack of 3G network support is certainly a down side but hey, it offers decent web browsing experience over WiFi network.
Though it is a budget level phone, it aims to deliver the experience and features available in the large screen smartphone device. This phone is ideally meant for the first time mobile web users with minimal usage, students and great second phone for calling, texting and social networking. Nokia Asha 501 is the budget phone to consider when one needs great battery life and with limited budget hovering around Rs. 5000.