Asha 501: Nokia eschews Windows Phone for £65 smartphone

Nokia Asha 501

Asha 501 introduces update to Nokia's other mobile operating system

Nokia has unveiled the $99 (£64) Asha 501 smartphone - but it doesn't run Windows Phone.

The Asha 501 is the first handset running Nokia's updated Asha software, developed off the back of its Series 40 OS for feature phones. The Asha line is mostly targeted at emerging markets - a traditionally rich seam for Nokia - but the $99 Asha 501 will be sold here in the UK.

Following on from recent Asha handsets, the 501 pushes the Asha line further towards a full smartphone - and even borrows its bright colours and design from the higher-end, Windows Phone-based Lumia handsets. It only works on 2G, but Nokia is planning to add 3G when possible.

The Asha 501 has a 320 x 240, 3in VGA display with 133ppi. It's 12mm thick and weighs 98g - lighter than the iPhone 5's 112g. It features a 3.2-megapixel camera, and supports USB 2, Bluetooth 3, and 802.11bg Wi-Fi, as well as a dual-SIM mode.

Nokia said the Asha 501 was designed to be strong, and built in two parts - the screen and the cover - rather than "traditional phones, which comprise two halves joined together".

Nokia claimed the Asha 501 has 17 hours of talk time and 48 days of standby battery life.

"Asha 501 shows what you can achieve when you design bottom up rather than strip down features to hit the right price point," Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi said on Twitter.

Nokia has been criticised by investors for weak sales of its Lumia line - but they've been starting to pick up, helping to cut losses in the latest round of results.

However, while Lumias climbed to a record 5.8 million unit sales last quarter and Ashas slid by a quarter, the lower-end line still sold almost ten times as many units - 55.8 million.

Updated Asha

The new Asha OS features dual homescreens - a standard one, as well as a new hub, called Fastlane, which pulls in key details such as recent contacts, favourite apps and songs, and upcoming calendar reminders.

The new Nokia Xpress Browser compresses data to save on page load times and cut data use by up to 90%, and the phone features a built-in data counting app to help users stay on top of contract limits.

Nokia also released the SDK for the new Asha software, announcing key apps from Twitter, FourSquare and Facebook, among others, were already in development.

The Asha 501 will arrive in the second quarter in 90 countries, with UK availability expected by the second half of the year.

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