We review plenty of phones at TechSplurge and most of the time they are devices at the higher end of the spectrum of most manufacturers. But every now and again there comes a device in the market, which aims to define a whole category. Nokia Asha 501 is one such device, which aims to be the marquee player amongst various devices available for Rs. 5000 or below.
Since the Asha 501 is a feature phone with certain aspects of smartphones such as a full touchscreen input, we will attempt to review the device in five very basic categories. So this review will not be about the raw power to the mega pixel count of the camera but about value for money and ease of use.
The Availability and Box Contents
As we alluded to, the device is available for just a shade below the Rs. 5000 mark at most of the Electronics’ E-Commerce websites. You can pick the device for slightly cheaper price from the streets if you have good bargaining power. The device is easily available and you have some very vibrant colors to pick up from. You have bright yellow, Cyan, Red, White, Green and Black. We picked the White unit but do plan to buy the yellow and red shells which cost about Rs. 500 which is very reasonable.
The box contains your device in a plastic sheet with a scratch guard on top, a couple of documents, a Nokia hands free and the old circular pin Nokia charger. We were a little disappointed with the red color of the hands free kit as we expected Nokia to include a hands free kit of the matching back shell. You also get a 4 GB memory card in the device to help you store all your songs and pictures.
The packaging is very ordinary and smacks of a budget device, not something we lost any sleep on though.
A Hardware Tour
There is no better word to describe the Nokia Asha 501 than ‘cute’. Yes, it’s a word we dread but this device is a sumptuous little pocket of cuteness. The device’s screen measures 3 inch diagonally with a resolution of 320 X 240 giving it a PPI of 133. The device is slightly chunky to look at but incredibly light at only 98 grams. The dimensions of the phone are 99.2 x 58 x 12.1 mm.
The right side of the device has the power button and the volume rockers, both in the color of the back shell. The left flank of the device is plain.
Top the phone has openings for Micro USB cable input for data transfer, a circular point Nokia charging point a 3.5 mm headset jack slot. There is nothing on the bottom flank. The shell of the device is removable and houses a removable 1200 mAh battery and slots for two SIMs and a MicroSD card. One of the SIMs is hot swappable means you can swap the SIM without removing the battery of the device. The speaker grille of the device is located at the bottom too which muffles the sound a little.
There is one hardware button on the front of the device just below the three inch display which is used to go back in the app.
There are no front facing Cameras and the only shooter is the rear 3.2 MP Camera.
The Operating System
The Nokia Asha 501 runs on Nokia Asha Software Platform 1.0, which is basically a cross between S40 and MeeGo with best elements of both. We have a swap UI from Meego, which allows you to return to return to the Home Screen from anywhere.
There is also Fastlane, which is the list of all the recently opened apps, which can be accessed easily by swipping to right or left from any screen twice. This is a very convenient way of looking at the apps you recently opened.
You can also pull down from the top of the screen a panel, which houses various Wireless connections of the device. From within various applications you can also pull up a menu, which contains some app settings.
Generally, the OS is smooth and works well on the small screen. The keyboard is very decent to type on and perhaps one of the best on any sub ‘four inch’ device we have used. App loading is swift and without lags. There is built in Gmail, twitter, Facebook, Photo and Video app, though a glaring miss is inability to sync contacts from Google.
The Question of Apps
The phone comes bundled with few useful Social Networking apps. You also have apps for voice recording, note taking and chat built in. There is a useful Weather Channel app as well as the App Store, which allows you to download more apps.
Nokia also bundles in 60-day offer where you can download various EA apps for free. We will admit, we loved the NFS and versions of EA Sports Cricket on here. Since the phone is 2G only, you are limited to downloading apps via Wi-Fi only.
You also have built in FM player for entertainment and although the music app is pretty basic, it gets the job done. You have 64 MB of RAM on board meaning you obviously cannot expect to be playing big memory intensive games, but what is available is sufficient and more than sufficient. The app collection is average and nothing in comparison to Android or iOS.
Camera on Board
The Nokia 501 comes with a 3.15 MP rear facing camera. There is no Flash LED and the overall quality of the Camera is rather poor. If only there was one issue we had with the device, it is the poor camera performance. Even for a budget phone, Nokia has done better with the Camera before.
The camera is auto focus and seems to take forever to click a picture. You have basic editing inbuilt too, so you can crop, flip, rotate or add effects and play with lightening in the images you click. Low light performances are pretty bad and although you can play around with white balance in the app to get some acceptable shots, we were disappointed overall. There are some basic effects inbuilt which give you the feeling of Instagram shots and you can also select resolution of images from 480P to 1536P.
Video recording is very miser at 240 P recorded at about 14 FPS, sort of stuff you would need only if you want to immediately share something. There is lack of details, but we have to understand that the smartphone is not made for high-end Camera ambitions. You can check some of the sample shots below.
If you have 5K to spend on a smartphone and would like something different from a very low bracket Android smartphone, then the Nokia Asha 501 is a great option to pick. The device has some decent features of a smart phone and gets plenty of good stuff done. Not just this, the Nokia Asha 501 has a form factor that is extremely comfortable to use and we pretty much rate it as the perfect second phone to take around. The battery life is fantastic and given the price point, you will not sweat much if you ended up dropping it by mistake.