Review : Nokia Asha 501 : The Candy Boy

Introduction:

It seems Nokia is no longer looking at the Asha lineup as a back-office operation or a way to hedge its bet on Windows Phone with minimum investment. After years of living on the Symbian leftovers, the Ashas are finally getting the respect and treatment they deserve. They have been consistent earners in developing markets but the Asha 501 is, for the first time, likely to make the lineup relevant on a larger scale. Fresh and colorful, the Nokia Asha 501 is designed to be compact in size and super smart in experience. The candy bar phone that is built to perform, runs on the seamless Asha operating system with Java support, and comes in bright bold colors that pep up your life.

The device supports two GSM micro SIM cards; with a SIM manager that can remember personalized settings for up to five different SIM cards and the Hot Swapping feature that enables you to change SIM cards without switching off the phone, the Asha 501 really lets you walk the walk. Lets take a look at the pros and cons of this phone.

Key Features:

  • Dual-band GSM, GPRS, EDGE
  • Optional dual-SIM support, dual stand-by, hot swappable secondary microSIM
  • Nokia Asha software platform 1.0
  • 3″ QVGA capacitive touchscreen, ~133 pixel density
  • Proximity sensor
  • Accelerometer, display auto-rotation
  • 64MB RAM, 128MB ROM, 40MB internal storage
  • Data-efficient Nokia Xpress browser
  • Nokia Store and 40 EA games for free
  • 3.15 MP camera, [email protected] video recording
  • microSD card support (up to 32 GB) and 4 GB microSD card in the box
  • Wi-Fi b/g connectivity
  • FM radio with RDS
  • Bluetooth v3.0
  • Standard microUSB port, charging
  • 1200 mAh Li-Ion battery
  • Excellent loudspeaker performance
  • Solid codec support

Disadvantages:

  • No 3G
  • Low-resolution screen
  • Fixed-focus camera
  • No smart dialing

But it’s not all about the features. More importantly, it’s a good-looking, compact handset with a battery that lasts. If it sounds like something you might be interested in, you’re most welcome to read on. We’ll tour the bright-colored exterior and then continue with the clever, swipe-driven interface.

Design:

The design and build of the Nokia Asha 501 has got little to do with the older Asha generations. And we mean that in all the good ways possible. The phone manages to make an impression with its colorful outer shell. The back cover that folds around the inner body comes in a candy-box variety of colors.
Up front, the 3″ screen has an ample bezel, but that’s nothing out of the ordinary in the price bracket. The bigger problem is that the black front is a bit at odds with the bright-colored rear. On a positive note, the capacitive touchscreen is quite responsive and comes with a scratch-resistant coating.
The hardware Back button is the only control below the screen, the earpiece symmetrically placed across. The microphone is in the bottom right corner.
The Asha 501 essentially breaks down to two parts, which is obviously the second most solid construction after unibody. The colorful shell folds around the inner body, resulting in a slim colorful frame around the screen as an accent. At the back we find the 3.15MP camera lens along with a Nokia logo and a nub at the bottom to push the phone out of the case.
The plastic used is nice to the touch, with a soft matte finish that completely rules out visible fingerprints.

Display:

Made of scratch resistant glass, the 3 inch capacitive LCD touch screen of the device has a QVGA resolution and 262 K color depth. The touch user interface is smooth and looks contemporary and the revolutionary quick swipe is all you need to perform any action, to multitask, switch between applications and basically get around your phone.Colors are nice and punchy and the screen is reasonably bright. Size may be an issue, as well as resolution, but the responsiveness has been notably improved from what we remember with the older Asha phones.

Camera:

The Asha 501 has a 3.15 MP camera which is capable of capturing images of up to 2048 x 1536 resolution.
The camera interface is simple – it offers a virtual on-screen shutter, a toggle for switching between camera and camcorder and a gallery shortcut.
As the specs suggest, images produced by the Asha 501 aren’t anything worth writing home about but they will do for the occasional visual memo (not for fine text though – no autofocus is a deal-breaker here) or contact picture. There isn’t too much fine detail, but there are occasional purple fringing, over sharpening and pink spots. The colors are nicely punchy though.

Conclusion:

Nokia Asha 501 is a great reboot of an already widely popular lineup. The no-nonsense Asha phones have built a reputation for offering great features at an amazingly cheap price, but until now it really lacked in the “fun to use” department.
The great news is that changed as Nokia introduced the completely revamped UI called Nokia Asha software platform 1.0. It’s not only fresh, but it’s also the closest an Asha has even been to a touchscreen and while the budget nature of the whole lineup means developers are never likely to fall in love with it, at its core the platform is not far from a basic droid or WP7.8 smartphone.

 Alternatives:

Lets take a look at other phone which you can grab in the same price range.

LG Optimus L3 and SAMSUNG Galaxy Star:

There are a couple of Android smartphones from this year batch that successfully compete with the Asha 501 price tag – the LG Optimus L3 II and the Samsung Galaxy Star S5280. They both offer dual-SIM versiFons and QVGA screens (3″ for the Samsung handset and 3.2″ for the LG smartphone) to go with the Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean.
However, since these are bottom of the barrel droids, the performance is far from perfect – lags and holdups are a rather frequent sight and even if Project Butter tries to mask much of it the CPUs inside simply can’t keep up with the platform requirements. If you are of the patient kind, however, you will get far greater versatility with the two droids than you would from an Asha 501. Even excluding those that are too heavy for the limited chipset, the Optimus L3 II and Galaxy Star S5280 have access to tens of times more apps than the Nokia handset.

Nokia Lumia 610:

 Then, there’s Nokia’s own Lumia 610 from the company’s last year batch. Powered by the WP7.8 platform, the Lumia 610 is the clear winner when it comes to hardware – a Scorpion CPU and a 3.7″ display of WVGA resolution really dwarf what the other contestants here have to offer. There’s also more storage, 3G with HSDPA and the free lifetime navigation thanks to Nokia Drive. There’s no dual-SIM version here, though.

Final Verdict:

In the end of the day Nokia Asha 501 brings a number of features on a bargain price, which combined with its fresh look and solid build quality is bound to attract a large number of customers on a tight budget. At this point though, it’s flying way too close to smartphone territory to be comfortable – it’s up to Nokia to fix that with a price cut and set things right.

 

 

 

Afnan

20 year old someone who loves watching football and cricket. Smartphone Aficionado. FIFA Addict. Currently using HTC One (M8) as his daily driver.

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