Nokia’s shift in strategy in the last few years has resulted in two separated categories of devices. The Lumia range caters to audiences seeking Windows Phone smartphones and the Asha series for the lower end of the segment that offers ease of use with smartphone-like features.
The Asha 501 was the most recent launch for Nokia and in fact, one of the most important launches for them. Nokia’s CEO, Stephen Elop specially flew down to India for a global unveiling of the device.
The Asha 501 is a sub-5k device pre-dominantly targeted at first time users. I have been using the device as a daily driver for quite some time and this is what I think.
The Asha 501 is really compact and despite the small size, the phone’s design is pretty clean and uncluttered. The front sports a 3-inch touch screen display with just a back button placed beneath it. The left and the bottom side does not have anything while the right hand side hosts power/lock, volume buttons and the top side features a 3.5mm headphone jack, microUSB port and charging port. The battery cover at the back is removable and can be changed with interchangeable covers and sports a 3.2MP camera.
Setting it up:
Having used an Android device prior to trialing the Asha 501 means all contacts were synchronised with the Google server. And if you plan to use the same set of contacts on the Asha 501, let me tell you that the phone does not support contacts sync with Google. This resulted me having to manually export the contacts stored on Google, copy the contacts file onto the phone’s memory and then importing them. Although not a big issue for a first time buyer who probably doesn’t or won’t keep his contacts synced online but it would’ve been nice if the Asha 501 supported it.
The Asha 501 is a dual-SIM phone and supports microSIM cards.
User interface is one of the biggest highlight in the Asha 501. Nokia heavily emphasizes on swipe and adds new interface element called Fastlane. Unlike modern devices that have a home screen and app drawer as two separate areas, the Asha 501 unlocks itself directly into the app drawer. But if you want a faster access to the recently used apps, Fastlane comes to the rescue. Fastlane is Nokia’s unique take on giving quick access to most used apps. Any app you access or activity you do on the Asha 501 appears on the Fastlane, thus enabling faster access to the things you care about. Overall, Fastlane is a really nice feature and comes in handy where you’re going back and forth doing few things at once.
The Asha 501 packs in other features like Screen double tap that can wake the device by double tapping the screen; Glance screen that shows the time, email or messages on the display; lock screen notifications of emails, messages or calls; notification panel to quickly access Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Data connection and Sound settings.
The Nokia Xpress browser is also preloaded on the phone that allows to surf the internet with support for tabbed browsing and even compresses data to save on bandwidth.
On the email front, the phone supports Gmail, Outlook.com configurations out of the box and also supports Mail for Exchange. I tried with the Gmail account and though the Asha 501 does not support push email, you can configure the phone to check the Gmail server every 15 minutes (which is the least).
The phone also comes with Facebook and Twitter and apps like Foursquare and HERE Maps downloadable from the Store.
There’s no Whatsapp yet for the Asha 501 (we heard it’s coming soon) but LINE and WeChat are available for the platform.
As part of a deal with EA, the Asha 501 also supports downloading of 40 EA Games for limited time.
The camera on the Asha 501 is a 3.2 megapixel fixed focus camera that also supports QVGA video resolution. The camera quality is average and not much to complain about in a sub-5k device. The phone expectedly suffers in low light.
|Nokia Asha 501 Sample Shots|
Nokia Asha 501 has a 1200mAh battery that is rated to give up to 17 hours of talk time on 2G network. With a single SIM and data connectivity at all times, the phone easily gives about 2 days of run time.
Nokia Asha 501 is priced at around Rs. 5,000 in the Indian market and its closest competitor in the same price segment are Android devices sold by Samsung, Huawei, Lenovo and other Indian manufacturers. The Asha 501 is a really good device with Fastlane making the work easier but when you look at the app ecosystem, the Asha 501 is clearly at a disadvantage. One of the biggest drawback is the lack of Whatsapp and although it is coming soon, the app is already available on many competitive devices.
However, let’s not undermine Asha 501 as phone in itself. If you’re planning to use it as a secondary device or just trying to get a taste of smartphone-like features, Asha 501 serves the purpose really well.
Pros: Design, Fastlane
Cons: Camera, no 3G