Nokia Asha 503 review: a gem of smartphone with a battery that lasts weeks

David Phelan takes Nokia’s latest affordable phone for a spin

There’s never been a better time to buy a smartphone. The most powerful handsets ever (Apple iPhone 5s, Samsung Galaxy Note 3, LG G2 and so on) are all available at prices from reasonable to premium.

But now, for the first time, there are real jewels to be discovered at lower price points, too. The newly released Motorola Moto G offers outstanding power, screen and speed for £135 or less. And now Nokia has released the latest of its Asha range in the UK.

Asha, you may remember, is Hindi for hope and the Asha range is primarily focused on emerging markets such as India. Asha phones use their own smartphone operating system called Asha OS. It’s a smarter cousin of the Symbian 40 OS that Nokia phones have featured for years. Of course, Nokia was developing its own mobile phone OS, called Meego, until it plumped for Microsoft’s Windows Phone system. A senior executive at Nokia described Asha OS to The Independent as “Meego but at a fraction of the price”.

That means there aren't very many apps available for the system yet, with numbers measured in thousands rather than the hundreds of thousands that iOS and Android boast. But it also means that Nokia can produce phones designed to be economical in every way. And the Asha 503 is the first 3G phone in the series, so no wonder it's on sale in the UK as well. And it may be enough to keep those low-end Nokia Android phones from turning from rumour to reality.

The Asha 503 has just come out, and is exclusive to O2 for the moment. It's very competitively priced: just £79.95 on pay as you go. And while it won't suit someone aching for a premium smartphone, it's well worth a look.

Let's get the negatives out of the way first. Actually, there's really only one major disappointment, and that's the screen. It's a 3 inch screen but the resolution is low, just 133 pixels per inch. That's a long way short of that other well priced mobile Moto G which manages 326 pixels per inch. And it shows. It lacks the pin sharp precision of many other smart phones on the market, but then again, they will be more expensive than this one.

If you don't mind the screen, everything else is pretty great. The design is gorgeous. The colours are the same bright hues that Nokia is becoming known for including an eye-searingly hot red and improbably bright green. The case is clad with an extra level that looks as though it's been dropped into an ice cube, with a clear perspex case around the back of it. Not everyone will like this but it's certainly a statement, which is more than you can say about Moto G with its demure straight lines and is default black casing.

And it has a neat way of waking the screen: you double tap the phone. The LG G2 does this, you might point out, As does the Nokia Lumia 1020. True, but the Nokia Asha 501 released in the summer was there first. Just as it was with the on-screen clock in standby mode that is now on Lumia phones. Then there's the battery which is really groundbreaking. It lasts weeks between charges if wi-fi and some other features are turned off. This is especially useful in places where the electricity supply isn't routinely reliable. But it's a benefit for everyone, and it's a sign of where phones should be heading.

The camera is a five-megapixel model, way more than most phones of this price point can offer. There’s no GPS, though the inclusion of Bluetooth and wi-fi will surprise some. And though there are familiar apps like Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Weather Channel and free games including Plants Vs Zombies, the apps available are not plentiful.

The Asha 503 is pretty responsive, too, even though it lacks a super-speedy processor. And though storage is limited, there’s a microSD card slot, with 4GB included - you can expand this by swapping to a 32GB card.

For a super-affordable phone, this is a gem: capable, fun, carrying a decent camera and with a design that looks classy and will certainly turn heads. This is a great my-first-smartphone.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Sport
Malky Mackay salutes the Cardiff fans after the 3-1 defeat at Liverpool on Sunday
footballFormer Cardiff boss accused of sending homophobic, racist and messages
Sport
Rodgers showered praise on Balotelli last week, which led to speculation he could sign the AC Milan front man
transfers
Life and Style
life – it's not, says Rachel McKinnon
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Arts and Entertainment
Arctic Monkeys headline this year's Reading and Leeds festivals, but there's a whole host of other bands to check out too
music(who aren't Arctic Monkeys)
News
Lizards, such as Iguanas (pictured), have a unique pattern of tissue growth
science
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Software Developer - Newcastle - £30,000 - £37,000 + benefits

£30000 - £37000 per annum + attractive benefits: Ashdown Group: .NET Developer...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Digital Project Manager/BA

£300 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: An experienced Digital/Ecommerc...

Creative Content Executive (writer, social media, website)

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum + 25 days holiday and bonus: Clearwater People Solut...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home