Full-touch Nokia Asha 501 makes the feature phone even smarter

Full-touch Nokia Asha 501 makes the feature phone even smarterColourful little chappy, isn't it? You're looking at the Nokia Asha 501, the Finns' latest stab at reinventing the feature phone which delivers a full-touch interface for a princely $99 (£64).

It also introduces the new Asha mobile OS, which sees Nokia finally start to move beyond Series 40 into semi-smartphone territory, partly by paying tribute to the MeeGo one-hit wonder that was the Nokia N9.

The Asha platform uses the Swipe UI interface that was introduced to broad praise on the N9, an interface that left a fair few observers wondering afresh why Nokia ever ditched MeeGo in the first place.

But that's an argument for another time. The point is, the Asha 501's newly polished OS is the result of putting what creative OS development Nokia could still make use of after the deal to adopt Windows Phone to good use, freshly reimagining its low-rent feature phone platform.

Appearance-wise, the Asha 501 looks vaguely similar to the Lumia smartphone line, though its sub-10cm height suggests it would be best utilised as the Lumia team mascot or something.

Still, at just 98g it's nice and lightweight, and the 3in QVGA display is par for the course on feature phones (admittedly, that's usually because of a number pad or QWERTY keyboard.

Other key specs include a 3.2MP rear camera, a 4GB microSD card, a 1,200mAh battery plus b/g strains of Wi-Fi.

Only 2G is supported (inevitably, given the price and developing world target markets), while typical Nokia feature phone goodies include some free EA Games, Nokia's Xpress Browser, interchangeable back case and a choice between single-SIM and dual-SIM variants.

One interesting feature of the Asha OS is the ability to choose between two basic screens – Home, a classic icon-based view – or Fastlane, which pushes recent contacts, commonly used apps and social networking tools straight to the homescreen.

As for apps, the platform launches with many of the usual suspects (including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare, CNN...) while Nokia is releasing the Asha 1.0 SDK for Java apps and a set of web apps tools. Significantly, the Asha platform supports in-app payments, which was available to Symbian developers while Symbian was still around, but had yet to trickle down to Series 40.

The Nokia Asha 501 comes in a choice of six colours – red, yellow, blue, green, white and black – and it'll be hitting markets globally from next month. That $99 price, by the way, is pre-taxes and subsidies.

Via Nokia

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8 comments

JanSt / MOD  May. 9, 2013 at 20:32

Crazy buzz on Twitter all morning! And screensize aside, it is a pretty little thing. UI is interesting; some apps will be able to multi-task etc etc... but really: 3-inch? I used 2.8-in TYTNs etc - it's no fun without a hardware keyboard. But then again: SE managed to make the X10 Mini sort of usable.

satchef1  May. 9, 2013 at 21:13

Is it not a T9 software keyboard? Surely they aren't going full QWERTY at 3"?

Seems like a nice handset for its target market. This is definitely the side of things that the Elop era is getting right. Forget the smartphone business for a moment - if Nokia was churning out handsets like these two or three years ago, would they be in their current mess? Not a chance.

matt101101 / MOD  May. 9, 2013 at 22:55

Is it not a T9 software keyboard? Surely they aren't going full QWERTY at 3"?

Seems like a nice handset for its target market. This is definitely the side of things that the Elop era is getting right. Forget the smartphone business for a moment - if Nokia was churning out handsets like these two or three years ago, would they be in their current mess? Not a chance.

The HTC Wildfire did it @ 3.2"...

AhmadCentral  May. 10, 2013 at 01:39

Hey Jan, if you see this can you look at my post in the Vodafone 4G thread. Cheers.

Stelph  May. 10, 2013 at 10:02

Seems like a nice handset for its target market. This is definitely the side of things that the Elop era is getting right. Forget the smartphone business for a moment - if Nokia was churning out handsets like these two or three years ago, would they be in their current mess? Not a chance.

Well they'd certainly have larger numbers of sales, but would they be rolling in the profits? I dont think theres as much profit from feature phone sales hence why Smasung and Nokia, who both have large numbers of feature phones, were keen to get a piece of the smartphone market which has a much larger profit margin.

That being said I think/hope the smartphone profit bubble is popping, with Apple rumoured to be preparing a budget iPhone and a lot of mid-range smartphones actually doing a lot of what people want, I think prices will continue to drop

satchef1  May. 11, 2013 at 11:56

Smartphone profit margins aren't what they were. Pricing is becoming quite aggressive, particularly at the lower end of the market. At $99, Nokia are obviously making more money on this handset than the Lumia 520 (around the same price, but higher specs and an OS that comes with a license fee).

JanSt / MOD  May. 11, 2013 at 14:45

It IS fascinating just how much buzz there is around the Asha 501!
Just a very slow newsday combined with vocal Nokia fans? Or are 'we' that tired of the unending flow of samey flagships that anything slightly different is cause for celebration?

Plues13  Jun. 2, 2015 at 03:18

Is it not a T9 software keyboard? Surely they aren't going full QWERTY at 3"?

Seems like a nice handset for its target market. This is definitely the side of things that the Elop era is getting right. Forget the smartphone business for a moment - if Nokia was churning out handsets like these two or three years ago, would they be in their current mess? Not a chance.

The HTC Wildfire did it @ 3.2"...


htc is android, we can easily added other key from PlayStore

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