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US$99 Nokia Asha 501 debuts in India as Nokia throws down the gauntlet to Budget smartphone challengers

Nokia’s not taking the coming Low-Budget smartphone challenge from Samsung lying down. Nokia has decided to put their Open Source Asha OS to good use and thus the  US$99 Nokia Asha 501 made its debut  in a Press Launch on Thursday May 9th 2013 headlined by Nokia CEO Stephen Elop in India.

nokia-asha-501

It’s priced at the Budget smartphone Market and is slated to launch in June 2013 on the edge of the Third Quarter of 2013 in 90 countries covering Africa, Asia-Pacific i.e. India, East Indies and Latin America, which includes Jamaica in the West Indies.

But more importantly, it sends a strong message to other contenders in the budget smartphone world, mainly Samsung Tizen OS, Mozilla Foundation’s Firefox OS and Canonical’s Ubuntu OS: Nokia’s not taking kindly to them encroaching on their traditional turf. These OS’s that made their debut at MWC (Mobile World Conference) in January 2013 are trying to introduce smartphones to Developing Countries, where smartphone Adoption is inhibited by price and Feature phones are king.

Nokia expects to sell 100 million of these bad boys in the coming months. And despite being cheap plastic chip-off-the-Lumia block with only 2G Internet, the Nokia Asha 501 packs a very nice surprise……..

Asha 501: Nokia’s Developing World Challenger

Readers of this humble blog may have read my article Samsung’s Tizen OS launched to partake in Apple and Google’s App Economy on Samsung’s ambitions to be just like Apple with their own OS and App Store. Currently Samsung leans heavily on Google Android for their highly successful Galaxy series.

Samsung still have ambitions to push into the Developing World with Budget smartphones as I’d argued in Samsung tweets launch date for Samsung Galaxy S4 Event even as they prep Tizen OS to replace Android. Those Tizen OS smartphones go live in Second Quarter of 2013. Mozilla Foundation’s Firefox OS is also slated for a Second Quarter debut on a set of Alcatel One Touch series smartphones aimed at those same countries as per my article Firefox OS and Telecoms Providers debuts low-budget Alcatel One Touch.

Asha’s Strategy: Fast Sellin’ phones that’s a Developer Magnet

The MeeGo-esque Asha OS, version 1.0 developed by Smarterphone, a company Nokia acquired in 2012, has also outed a Developer Kit and has included an in-App Purchase System to encourage Developers to make Games and App for the phone. So Developer Support’s baked in and the expected massive sales of this ultra-cheap smartphone whose hardware and OS are owned by Nokia will no doubt drive massive revenues for Nokia…..and Developer Support shall ensue thereafter.

Dual-SIM without Reboot: Heaven for the Uncommitted

Nokia’s playing it clever with this one too, as the smartphone comes in two (2) versions, giving the uncommitted more reason to want to plunk down US$99 for this no-contract Nokia Asha 501 smartphone with a Dual-SIM (Subscriber Identification Module) option that switches without the need to reboot:

  • Single SIM (supports GSM 900/850/1800/1900)

  • Dual-SIM (supports GSM 900/1800)

Based on the specs, it’s got the basic smartphone charm plus the surprise I’d mentioned hidden in the specs:

Hardware

  • OS: Asha 1.0

  • Dimensions: 99.2 mm X 58 mm X 12.1 mm

  • Weight: 98 g

  • Screen Size: 3”

  • Resolution: QVGA 320 x 240 (~133 ppi pixel density)

  • Internal Storage:128 MB

  • Memory: 64 MB RAM

  • External Storage: MicroSD card slot; handles up to 32 GB, 4 GB card included

  • Connectivity: 2G (EDGE, GPRS), Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11 b/g), Bluetooth 3.0

  • Ports: MicroUSB v2.0

  • Sensors: GPS, Accelerometer, proximity, FM radio

  • Display features: Brightness control, RGB Stripe, Nokia Glance screen, Screen double tap

  • Main camera sensor: 3.2 MP (2048 x 1536 pixels)

Battery life’s also very impressive, almost like a Nokia Feature phone I’ve got….:

  • Li-Ion 1200 mAh battery (BL-4U)

  • Maximum 2G standby time: 1152 h

  • Maximum 2G talk time: 17 h

  • Music playback time: 56 h

Surprise: The Asha 501’s got Lumia-esque Stylings and Super-Fast Internet

Seen the surprise yet? No it’s not just the super long Battery life; it’s Wi-Fi! So despite having super slow 2G i.e. GPRS (Global Packer Radio Service) and EDGE (Enhances Data Rates for GSM Evolution) you can download and store a boatload of Music and purchase and download Apps including Twitter, WhatsApp, Facebook, and Foursquare. Plus it’s packed with about forty (40) free preloaded games from EA (Electronics Arts).

Anticipating a lot of gaming activity, the Asha 501’s multi-tasking two (2) finger multi-touch capable smartphone has two (2) active screens:

  • Home

  • Fastlane

Yes I said Multi-Tasking, a very rare feature on most smartphone, even advanced ones. So the Asha 501 isn’t so simple then. Like any standard smartphone, the Home Screen packs all the Apps and is activated by a double tap gesture. Fastlane’s obvious; that where the frequently used Apps wind up. Nokia Asha 501’s intuitive OS keeps track of which Apps you use and how often, making the phone gradually learn your preferences and easier to use over time.

Despite its appearances and its low-res screen, the fact it packs Wi-Fi means you can get super-fast Internet if you’re close to Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11b/g), with 2G being just good enough for Chat applications such as Twitter, WhatsApp, Facebook, and Foursquare out in 2G Mobile Phone land. Hopefully the Nokia Asha 501’s next software upgrade (2.0 perhaps??) may be backing a firmware upgrade to Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n).

Bluetooth 3.0 means you can share with other phones that have the feature and pimp you Smartphone with a great pair of Bluetooth-capable Beats Audio headset. This makes it a great introductory smartphone for budget-conscious Millennials (18-28), Teenagers (12-17) and anyone new to the Smartphone World that’s looking for a no-frills BB Messenger replacement.

Parting Jello Shots: Asha’s the New Nokia Flashlight phone

So there you have it. Just as the Amazon’s Kindle Fire originally only had Wi-Fi and no 3G or 4G Internet and its sales were driven by its Razor blade sharp sub-US$199 price and compelling content as argued in Amazon is Legally Blonde as the Kindle Fire HD Upgrade is CEO Bezos’s Confessions of an Online Shopaholic, the Nokia Asha 501’s in the same league and thus is also a guaranteed hit.

So its low-end appearances and lack of Metallic stylings are deceiving as it’s fate is sealed with the kiss of success. Nokia Asha 501’s brightly coloured line of smartphones is hit bound based on Nokia’s YouTube videos: Bonafide hit-makers for Nokia in the same limelight as the Nokia 1208 Flashlight Phone.

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Lindsworth is a Radio Frequency and Generator Maintenance Technician who has a knack for writing about his work, which is in the Telecoms Engineering Field. An inspired writer on themes as diverse as Autonomous Ants simulations, Power from Lightning and the current Tablet Wars.

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