The other day, Nokia launched the new Asha 501 smartphone in Manila as part of the phone’s global rollout. The new phone boasts features that help bring it more into line with competing smartphones running Android and iOS – and is a sign of things to come for the Asha line as a whole.
Nokia’s trying very hard to make a dent in the low-end market with this latest Asha – part and parcel of its effort to recapture some of the marketshare it’s lost in recent years – and the company’s dipped deep into its corporate bag of goodies to increase this little phone’s chances of success.
The 501′s just 99.2 x 58 x 12.1 mm and all of 98 grams light. It has a three-inch TFT touchscreen with 320 x 240 QVGA resolution and a 3.2MP camera. Its 128MB of built in memory can thankfully be expanded through its microSD card slot. But what carries the day for the 501 are less these features than those intended to boost its usability.
At first glance the 501 can easily be mistaken for one of Nokia’s higher-up-the-ladder Lumia phones, thanks to its cheerfully bright interchangeable polycarbonate rear shells (which, just like those of its elder brothers, is supposedly highly scratch-resistant) and unibody design. Launch colors are bright red, yellow and plain-Jane black; units in the familiar Nokia cyan, green and white will follow at a later date.
However, no Windows Phone this, and, more importantly, no Symbian phone either; the 501 is the first Nokia phone running the company’s proprietary Asha “new generation” operating system – Asha software platform 1.0 – developed thanks to Nokia’s acquisition of Norwegian firm Smarterphone in 2012. Smarterphone crafted mobile OSs designed to give featurephones the look and capability of smartphones through making them slicker and more intuitive to use through focusing on swiping gestures.
The cornerstone of this new OS is the Fastlane screen, which aggregates a user’s recent activities, including calls they’ve made, apps they’ve used, music they’ve listened to and so on, placing all of these in one menu. By doing so, Fastlane gives users a quick look at their past and present activities, as well as easing multitasking through conferring easy access to features they use most often. Users can even post directly to Twitter and Facebook from the Fastlane screen. They can swipe between Fastlane and the Home screen, which provides a standard icon-based view of apps and programs installed.
Akin to other Asha units, the 501 also features Nokia’s new Xpress Browser, which compresses data by as much as 90 percent to make mobile browsing both faster and cheaper. Which is all to the good, because the 501 has Wi-Fi but no 3G. However, the company insists that Xpress Browser helps users surf on the available 2G connection just as if they’re on a 3G connection. This, as can be expected, has very good implications for battery life; Nokia says the 501 boasts a 17-hour talk time and up to 48 days of standby time when only one of the two SIM slots is in use.
The Asha 501 is currently available at Nokia stores and authorized retailers for just Php4,490.
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