New Nokia Asha Reimagines The Entry-Level Smartphone

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Affordable Asha 501 abandons Series 40 for a new, fully-featured OS

Nokia has announced its first budget-friendly smartphone running the new Asha software platform – the Asha 501.

The device features a three-inch touchscreen, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GSM data connectivity and looks like an extension of the Lumia range with its round corners and colourful matte plastic cases, at a price under $100 (£64).

Asha 501 is primarily aimed at people upgrading from feature phones, and is expected to start shipping next month.

Brimful of Asha

The new Asha OS, which replaces Series 40 operating system used in previous Asha models, is based on technology developed by Norwegian software house Smarterphone, acquired by Nokia in 2012. The Finnish manufacturer calls it an open, standards-based environment that is faster and more responsible than the Series 40 platform, which is now more than a decade old.

Nokia-Asha-501-Yellow-Front_465Applications for Asha OS already hosted in the Nokia Store include CNN, ESPN, Facebook, Foursquare, LinkedIn, Twitter, along with games from Electronic Arts, Gameloft, Namco-Bandai and others.

Nokia expects to sell 100 million of the new generation Asha smartphones over the coming years.

“With the new Asha platform, developers will be incentivized to deliver those quality apps, previously found only on high-end smartphones, thanks to unprecedented volumes and reach opportunities through one distribution channel and a single platform,” said Marco Argenti, head of Developer Experiences at Nokia.

The Asha 501 features a three-inch touchscreen protected by scratch-resistant glass, single ‘back’ button, weighs only 98 grams but offers standby time of up to 48 days – an impressive achievement, even for a basic smartphone. It comes with a 3.2 MP camera and 4GB of memory, expandable up to 32GB.

The device will be available in both single and dual microSIM variants, with a choice of removable casing in six colours – red, green, cyan, yellow, white and black. As a nice extra, Nokia has included a pair of bright red headphones in the box.

The new Asha interface offers a choice of two main screens: Home and ‘Fastlane’. Home is a familiar grid of icons (somewhat similar to Windows Phone), useful for launching individual apps or accessing specific features. Meanwhile Fastlane, inspired by design elements first tested in the MeeGo-powered Nokia N9, keeps a list of up to 50 recently accessed contacts, websites and apps, unique to each person and “inspired by how people really use their phone”.

Nokia Asha 501

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Nokia Asha 501

 

All new Asha phones will come pre-loaded with Nokia Xpress Browser, which compresses Internet data by up to 90 percent and aims to make mobile broadband faster and more affordable. This is especially important in the developing markets, where Nokia is traditionally doing very well.

Nokia is also launching a new location-aware service called Nokia Xpress Now, which, not unlike Google Now, recommends content based on user’s current activities.

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