10 Things About the Nokia Asha 501 and Asha Platform That You Need To Know

Phone maker Nokia has launched the Nokia Asha 501, a brand new budget phone that looks super cool and comes with a brand new operating system. The launch was so big that Nokia CEO Stephen Elop was in New Delhi for the unveiling of the phone. The new series is the next leap in Asha’s journey.

Our first impressions of the device is that it looks great at this price point and Nokia might have a winner on their hands. Here are the 10 things you need to know about the Asha 501 and the brand new Asha platform.

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1. The new Asha Platform

Nokia unveiled a new platform – the Asha Platform – which will power the Asha 500 series phones. The new platform has a brand new user interface, which has been built from the ground up. It has been built based on a platform that Nokia bought from Smarterphone last year.

2. The Past

The old Asha phones used to run on the S40 platform. There have so far been 17 Asha devices,  which have been launched in 130 markets. Nokia has sold 20 million Asha devices, which have downloaded over 3 billion apps from the Nokia Store.

3. User Interface

The new Asha platforms sees a few new innovations in the UI department, especially at this price point. It has a N9/MeeGo-Harmattan-like Swipe UI. It actually looks and performs a lot better than Android phones at this price point. There is also double tap to unlock. The notifications are very iOS like and one can just swipe a notification to open the respective app. To close an app one swipes inwards from the bezel to get back to the home screen.

There are two of two main screens – Home and Fastlane. Home is the traditional, icon-based view for launching individual apps. Fastlane gives people a glimpse of their past, present and future activity, and helps them multi-task by providing easy access to their favorite features.  Recently accessed contacts, social networks and apps, unique to each person, are stored and presented in Fastlane. It provides a record of how the phone is used.

There will be support for multiple language keyboards and Nokia displayed the Hindi and Malayalam keyboards at the launch. One just needs to swipe to change keyboards.

4. New Browser

The Nokia Xpress Browser for S40 has gotten a makeover. It also comes with a web app called Nokia Express Now which will presents you with a tile-like menu where you can check up on news and information, based on your location as well as likes and dislikes. This looks like HTC’s Blinkfeed on the HTC One and Flipboard.

The phone has been optimized for 2G networks and the browser uses server-side compression (some websites up 90%) to help speed up loading of websites.

5. Nokia Asha 501 – Hardware

The first device in the new Asha series is the Nokia Asha 501. It sort of brings with it the Lumia design language with flowing curves and a range of bright colors. The Nokia features a 3-inch QVGA touchscreen display, a 3.2-megapixel rear camera and will come in both dual and single SIM variants. Nokia is going to bundle a 4GB microSD card in the box. The back removable cover is made of premium finish polycarbonate plastic. Users will be able to hot swap a SIM without switching off the phone. Nokia is claim battery like of 17 hours of talktime, and stand by time of up to 48 days for single SIM and 25 days for dual SIM. It weighs just 98 grams.

The Asha 501 will be 2G-only phone and will support Wi-Fi connectivity. Future Asha 500 phones will support 3G.

It will come in 5 colors – Bright Red, Bright Green, Cyan, Yellow, White and Black

6. Developers

The Asha platform has also various features for developers to create, publish and make more money from apps made specifically for the new generation of devices. Nokia says developers can create apps for the Nokia Asha 501 that will be compatible with all future Asha platform-based devices. Nokia has also introduced in app purchases on the platform giving developers more ways to make money. This will make it easier for developers to sell content from within their apps. Nokia In-App Payment will also be available for existing Asha and Series 40 phones.The apps for the platform need to be developed afresh or ported from S40. Nokia already supports operator billing.

7. Apps

Many of the most popular applications are already available or in development for the Nokia Asha platform, including CNN, eBuddy, ESPN, Facebook, Foursquare, Line, LinkedIn, Nimbuzz,  The Weather Channel, Twitter, WeChat, and a few games from Electronic Arts, Gameloft, Indiagames, Namco Bandai and Reliance Games. WhatsApp is not there at present and we hope to see the addition of this app soon.

HERE, Nokia’s leading location-based services, will come to the platform in Q3 2013. There are some basic mapping services at present.

8. Facebook, Global operators tie up for free data plans

Nokia announced a global partnership with Facebook today. The handset vendor has tied up with 60 carriers globally to offer free access to the social network on its Asha smartphones. Airtel will be the local partner in India. This is a great move by Facebook as out of Facebook’s 1.1 billion users, 750 million access the network from their mobile phones.

9. Availability and Pricing

The Nokia Asha 501 will start shipping in June 2013. It will be available through approximately 60 operators and distributors in more than 90 countries worldwide.

It will be priced at $99 plus local taxes. In India, we expect the device to be priced around Rs 5,500 but will have to wait for the official pricing which will be announced closer to availability.

10. Keys Specs of the Nokia Asha 501

The Nokia Asha 501 will be available in single or EasySwap Dual SIM models. All come with WiFi and Bluetooth.

  • Dimensions: 99.2 x 58 x 12.1 mm; 98 grams
  • Camera: 3.2 MP
  • Single SIM standby time: up to 48 days
  • Dual SIM standby time: up to 26 days
  • Talk time: up to 17 hours
  • Additional memory of 4GB (card included in box), expandable up to 32GB
  • Available colors: Bright Red, Bright Green, Cyan, Yellow, White and Black