Nokia Asha 501 hands-on: A compact phone that packs a punch at a tidy price

The Independent was the only UK press at Nokia’s New Delhi launch on Thursday. David Phelan goes hands-on

The first thing you notice when you pick up the Asha 501 is how good it feels.

Solid, substantial and with a highly tactile, slightly rubbery case. This case, easily popped off thanks to a button in the centre of the back of the phone, is one piece of material and comes in the familiar cyan and yellow colours Lumia phones sport, plus black and white. But now there are more colours – red and green – which are shockingly bright. You need to see them to believe how bright they are.

Next, spot the clock on the display when the phone’s in standby. It’s visible all the time, not just when you’ve touched the phone. At last, a phone that tells you the time when you glance at it.

And please note, this doesn’t damage battery life which is extraordinary. Nokia promises 17 hours talktime or 48 days (that’s right, not hours, days) standby time. You could leave your phone on for a month while you went on a cruise and still come back to find plenty of juice. This may not matter too much in the UK but in emerging markets where routine electricity supply is not guaranteed, this is a big deal.

You wake the screen with a double-tap – there’s no home button here – though you can press the power button instead. The screen is not high-resolution (at 131ppi it’s lower pixel density than the iPhone 3GS) but it doesn’t look bad.

This is not a big screen either – just 3ins – but it makes for a compact phone. Still, the advantage of creating an operating system from the ground up is that you can utilise the screen well. Menus sit offscreen waiting for you to swipe the display so they appear. It feels intuitive and intimate.

There’s a physical Back button at the bottom of the display, to take you step by step back through your previous actions. Want to get back to the app grid on the home screen? Just swipe. Another swipe takes you to what Nokia calls the Fast Lane, a clever record of everything you’ve done from tracks you’ve been playing to received texts. But this is a clever list: the recent track has a play button right there in the list so you can hear the track without having to launch the music player app.

Incidentally, that button on the back to remove the case has a slight gap around it which also functions as the phone’s speaker. Okay, but definitely not hi-fi standard.

The Fast Lane also has your calendar appointments, stored at the top of the display, a bit like BlackBerry’s fancy new OS. And it shows you what web pages you’ve been looking at recently.

This is a phone designed to keep you on top of data usage, something especially important in emerging markets. Launch the browser and a box in the corner tells you how many kb you’re downloading. Swipe the screen and a menu shows your latest data total.

It’s a highly enjoyable new OS that has a lot of potential, with details and features that are rich and well-considered.

Of course, there are not many apps, though, hey, it comes with 40 free EA games including Plants Vs Zombies. Not bad when the phone costs less than $100 or equivalent. Expect it to go on sale in the UK in June or soon after.

This is not an iPhone replacement and the corners that have been cut (no 4G, no 3G even, a lowly 3MP camera, no GPS) are many. But the OS is fluid and the phone is very fast and responsive. It’s an exciting first step in a new, basic phone series that packs a lot into a small package and low price.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Life and Style
Customers look at the new iPhones on display at the launch of the new Apple iPhone 6 and iphone 6 plus at the Apple IFC store in Hong Kong
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Sport
Andros Townsend is challenged by Vladimir Volkov
football
Arts and Entertainment
Rapper Jay Z performs on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2008
musicSinger sued over use of the single-syllable sample in 'Run This Town'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Graduate BI Consultant (Business Intelligence) - London

    £24000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Graduate BI Consultant (B...

    Service Delivery Manager (Product Manager, Test and Deployment)

    £40000 - £55000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Service Delivery Manager (Product Ma...

    Technical Product Marketing Specialist - London - £70,000

    £50000 - £70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Cloud Product and Solutions Marketin...

    Trainee Helpdesk Analyst / 1st Line Application Support Analyst

    £18000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week