Nokia Asha 501 Hands-On and Initial Impressions

Nokia Asha 501 Hands on – Colours Fly

Last week, I was invited to attend the launch of the Asha 501 in Bangalore and from the very beginning it was quite evident that Colour was the theme of the event which gave a Lumia vibe to it. I wasn’t expecting much from this budget phone, but was really impressed with the form factor and nice little touches Nokia has added to the UI.


The phone comes with a 3” touch screen display, supports WiFi connectivity, Bluetooth 3.0 but misses out on 3G connectivity. This came as a big surprise to me. The phone is expected to retail at about Rs. 5000 when it hits the stores.

Here a look at the specs

  • Display : 3.0 “ capacitive touchscreen, 256K colors with a resolution of 240 x 320 pixels (133ppi), supports Multitouch upto 2 fingers.
  • Processor : 1GHz
  • Connectivity:  GSM 900 / 1800 MHz (Micro SIM), Dual SIM Support, Wi-Fi b/g, Bluetooth 3.0 with EDR, microUSB port, 3.5mm audio jack
  • Storage: 128MB, Expandable via Micro SD upto 32GB
  • Camera : 3.15MP fixed focus camera.
  • OS : Nokia Asha software platform 1.0
  • Battery: 1,200mAh
  • Software : A big list of preinstalled apps and games.
  • Colours : Bright Red, Bright Green, Cyan, Yellow, White and Black.

Nokia has started refreshing the Asha line-up for the year and the 501 is the first of the launches. This time Colour, swipe and long battery seems to be Nokia’s mantra at the ever-growing budget phones market. In a way the 501 can be viewed as the successor to the Asha 311, gone are the shiny and glossy plastics, hardware call keys and in come the vibrant, colorful, candy form factor.  The styling looks simple and in line with the Lumia series, the rubberized plastic feels good to hold. The revamped S40 UI has a touch of MeeGo and it works well.

At the event the most talked about feature of the revamped UI was the FastLane. FastLane is essentially a task switcher with added functionality. It keeps track of all your recent activity including any unclosed apps, recent call logs, calendar events, music player and so on.  Even though the 501 has received a UI upgrade, specs wise it is a step down from the 311. So will it perform well? Stay tuned for the full review. Here are two hands-on video until then.

Gaming Apps & Settings on the Nokia Asha 501

Nokia Asha 501 Keyboard, Music, Video & Fastlane

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Nokia Asha 501 – Colourful and Affordable Touchscreen @ Rs. 5,500

Last week, in an event in Delhi, Nokia had launched the Nokia Asha 501, a Full-touch, Dual Sim phone based on their new Asha Platform. The Nokia Asha 501’s UI is a welcome improvement over their older ones with a swipe driven interface to navigate the phone features and switch out of apps.

Stephen Elop with the Nokia Asha 501
Stephen Elop launched the device at the event, with Peter Skillman taking us through the features of the Asha 501, and quick demos of the features as well. Sangeeta Bavi the followed up with the giving a quick round-up of what developers can expect from the Asha Platform and additional monetization avenues available to them.

Quick Specs

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  • Display: 3 inch LCD Touch Screen with QVGA resolution (320 x 240)
  • Memory : 128 MB, 64 MB RAM
  • Storage: 4GB included, upgradable to 32 GB via MicroSD cards
  • Camera: 3.2 MP fixed focus camera, no Flash.
  • Connectivity: 2G, WiFi, microUSB
  • Sensors: Accelerometer, Proximity sensor
  • Battery: 1200 mAh battery, with standby time of upto 48 days and 17 hours talk time.
  • OS: Nokia Asha Platform 1.0
  • Colors Available: Yellow, Red, Green, Cyan, White and Black


Rather than going over the standard phone overviews, which I’m sure you’ve already read up on countless other sites already, here are a few insights about the Asha 501 based on our experience at the Launch event and a Q&A session with Stephen Elop after the launch. If you are looking for a demo of the Asha 501, jump over to the end of this post for the video.


Where’s the  Asha 501 placed?

According to Stephen Elop, the Asha 501 is not meant for the main-stream smartphone users, but for the  80% of the world’s market, especially the emerging markets. What makes this phone ideal for them?

The price for one, since the Asha is announced at $99, which is around Rs. 5,500. It’s a full touch-screen phone, which is a good phone to transition to from a basic phone. So people using basic phones and who are looking to upgrade to the next level, the Asha fills the void between the basic phone and the Smartphone range.

Why not a Cheap Droid?

Well, we all know that there are phones from “other” platforms too in the Rs. 4000 and up ranges. Why not those you ask? Have you really tried those phones? Since an OS which was built for better hardware is  being squeezed into cheaper components, the user experience on these devices really lack polish and smoothness.

Apart from that Nokia’s Build quality is well known, which is miles apart form those other “cheap” smartphones. To mark his point, while he was talking, Elop just took a phone he was holding and threw it on the floor! The phone came out of this unscathed and working.

700-nokia-asha-501-red-frontWhy not Windows Phone then?

According to Elop, they “didn’t try cramming a high-end OS into a low-end phone“, and compromising on the user experience. If they did, with the processing power this phone has, the “live” tiles wouldn’t be live any more, and the entire UI wouldn’t be as smooth as it needed to be. The Asha Platform on the other hand is optimized for this low-end smart phone.

Nokia’s aquisition of SmarterPhone, and integration of their technology into the Asha platform allowed then to bring the fully swipe driven interface which gives a smart phone like experience on a lower-end device like the Asha 501.

Amazing Battery life

Most touch phone these days don’t last more than a day or two on a single charge.  Nokia did have a tall order to fill in order to achieve and amazing 48 days and talk times of upto 17 hours on the Asha 501. To achieve this the phone’s new Operating System did play an important role. They’ve limited the multi-tasking ability on the device.  Background tasks is one of the main battery killers on smart phones. Some system apps like the Music Player do run the background, but most others don’t. Of course it seems as if the phone multitasks since the applications restore their state when they are re-launched, but most don’t run the background.

The OS itself can’t contribute to such a long battery life, so Nokia did take some decisions to skimp on some functionality. Forgoing a 3G connectivity and some sensors. But this was required to boost battery life. 2G lends to a longer time between charges for the device. When we asked Elop regarding this, he did mention that a 3G version is also expected soon.There’s always WiFi if you want faster connectivity when you’re at home or office.

Nokia Xpress Browser and FastLane

Nokia Asha 501 FastlaneThis phone comes with Nokia Xpress Browser, which works by compressing the data being sent to the phone while you surf, allowing for faster surfing even on 2G connections. The browser also features the Nokia Xpress Now, which is a magazine like content discovery engine which shows up trending news in your location and doubles as your browser’s Home page.

The Asha Platform now has a new feature called the FastLane which shows up to 50 Recently accessed contacts, social networks and apps in the order of the last access time. This feature provides a record of how the phone is used, giving you a glimpse of your past, present and future activity. This also works as a shortcut for your frequently accessed apps and contacts, since they show up in your Fastlane.

Launch Dates?

According to Nokia, the Asha 501 should start hitting the shelves in India some time in June priced at around Rs. 5,500.

Nokia Asha 501 Demo