Nokia Asha 501 review

29 Jul 2013

A cheap, cheerful and well-made compact smartphone, but it’s far too slow

2

Based around the firm's in-house Asha platform, the Nokia Asha 501 is the newest addition to Nokia's range of handsets aimed at "emerging markets" – cheap phones intended for sale in territories such as India and South America. Unusually, the 501 is also making its way to the UK, and although there's no official pricing yet, you can safely assume it'll be cheap.

It's a far cry from the flagship handsets we're used to. There's a small, 3in, 240 x 320 display, and the sturdy plastic case fits in the palm of your hand. It's available in a range of bold colours, too – red, blue, green and DayGlo yellow – as well as black and white.

Nokia Asha 501

Inside, there's a replaceable 1,200mAh battery, a microSD slot and a pair of SIM slots. You can use one SIM for local calls and data and the other for roaming or international calls. To choose, simply dial the number and select your preferred SIM.

The Asha software is easy to us: after unlocking the phone with a swipe to the left, the first screen you'll see is an app grid; swiping down from the top edge brings up an Android-esque notifications list and quick settings buttons.

Swiping left or right from the app grid accesses the Fast Lane screen, which provides a historical feed of recent messages, emails, websites and apps you've used.

In terms of apps for basic smartphone tasks, there's a music player, Facebook, Twitter and email apps, a notepad and a calculator, among others. You even get an app store, although the choice of software and games is poor.

Nokia Asha 501

There's a web browser, too, but it feels cramped, and the low resolution means you have to zoom right in to read anything. Scrolling is horribly sluggish, and as the phone is GPRS-only, pages take an age to load. The browser failed to run the SunSpider test, too.

One advantage of the GPRS connectivity is excellent battery life. We weren't able to run our usual tests due to browser issues, but in informal testing the 501 survived three to four full days per charge with moderate use.

If it's given a suitably low price, the Asha 501 will fulfil the role of a very basic smartphone. However, given how superior Nokia's range of Windows Phone handsets is – in particular the affordable Nokia Lumia 520 – we think most people will be willing to pay the premium.

Details

Price inc VAT Expected price: under £100
Overall rating 2
Features & Design 3

Battery Life

Talk time, quoted 17hrs
Standby, quoted 48 days

Physical

Dimensions 58 x 12 x 99mm (WDH)
Touchscreen yes
Primary keyboard On-screen

Core Specifications

RAM capacity 64MB
Camera megapixel rating 3.2mp
Front-facing camera? no
Video capture? yes

Display

Screen size 3.0in
Resolution 240 x 360
Landscape mode? yes

Other wireless standards

Bluetooth support yes
Integrated GPS no

Software

OS family Other