Nokia’s Asha series represents the next generation of Nokia’s bread and butter. The erstwhile smartphone leader is now struggling in the high end and its line of feature phones is responsible for driving bottom lines. The latest devices in the range have markedly improved hardware, specifications and even a worked upon user interface. Will this be enough to combat the hundreds of low priced Android devices out there ? Read on to find out.
- In-ear headphones
- 2GB microSD card
- micro USB cable
- Nokia Asha 303
The Nokia Asha 303 feels like a premium device in the hand. The curved back with an aluminum back panel definitely helps. Tapered sides and lack of any sharp edges ensure that the phone fits well in the hand. The QWERTY keyboard is slightly recessed which somewhat helps in balancing the phone while typing quickly.
The phone is definitely thick but is lightweight and the construction is impeccable. The Asha 303 is available in a variety of colors including red and graphite (grey).
The design is very clean and the only ports are the charging, microUSB slots and 3.5mm jack on top.
A lock key and volume rocker are located on the right side. The response is very shallow and we wish that the keys had a bit more reassuring feel here to aid usage without looking down at the phone.
A row of dedicated action keys is located below the display. These act as hotlinks for the call and end buttons, messaging and music playback.
The four row QWERTY keyboard is not the most comfortable out there. The small-ish size ensures that it’ll take some getting used to. However give it some time and you’ll be be able to achieve pretty high typing speeds. The keys are very responsive though a bit plasticky. Space between keys is non-existent and the domed keys might hurt the finger tips a bit depending on the angle at which you type. The QWERTY layout We’d rate the typing experience on the keyboard above average.
The Asha 303 is one of those fairly limited phones which come in a Touch & Type configuration. Alongside the keyboard, users are provided with an option to navigate the interface with the help of a capacitive touchscreen.
The 2.6″ touchscreen is light on contrast and brightness and so outdoor usage will be a chore.
The QVGA (240×320) resolution is fairly adequate for the size resulting in a 154ppi density. Viewing angles are particularly bad but you really won’t be watching movies on such a small display anyway.
Nokia has made some interesting enhancements in the standard S40 user interface to enable touchscreen interaction. The large icons are all inspired from the Symbian Belle styling. The menu structure has been simplified which will be well appreciated by new comers to the platform.
There are nifty additions all over such as the choice of two on-screen keys which appear on the display on pressing the shortcut keys below the display. On pressing the music player, a small widget like player appears on screen allowing users to manipulate playback.
The homescreen is divided into a series of widgets which include favorite contacts, social feeds and a selection of favorite apps. Lack of multitasking hurts a lot as the OS is fairly capable especially for the target lower end market. The 1Ghz processor keeps everything speedy.
A much touted feature of the new Asha range of phones is the version 2 Series 40 browser. The browser works a lot like the popular Opera browser which compresses websites at Nokia’s servers before piping it down to the phone. Switching on the browser presents an address bar at the top and a bottom bar which includes a settings pane, favorites, web apps and the main browser.
The browser is where the power of the 1Ghz processor actually comes into play. Panning and zooming in the browser is silky smooth and text reflow helps to fit content within the screen on double tapping.
While the browser remains very functional, the limited resolution and screen size mean that the experience suffers on the Asha 303.
The Asha 303 like all Nokia phones doesn’t skimp on the essentials which includes basic texting and calling. The phone is equipped with a pentaband 3G radio which ensures that it will work globally and allow for HSDPA download speeds. The phone generally retains great signal strength and call quality is above average. Other connectivity options include Bluetooth, WiFi and FM Radio. GPS is missing from the phone which means that the phone relies on cell-tower triangulation to locate you in Nokia Maps.
The Nokia Asha 303 comes with inbuilt FM Radio, a Music and Video player and 3 months subscription to the Nokia Music service.
The music player supports all the essentials like cover art, equalizers. The loudspeaker really shines here as the audio output is loud and even has a bit of bass.
The phone comes with 3 months of complementary Nokia Music service which allows users to download free music from a vast catalog of several million songs. The music is DRM free and users can copy over the same to any other handset or music player as well.
The phone includes a capable video player as well which supports Xvid and DivX videos as well. The phone can play back standard definition video up to 640×360 resolution.
A fixed focus 3MP camera can be found around at the back of the Asha 303. This is the same unit as the entire Asha range and does not come along with any flash.
The interface is full touch enabled and the large buttons make it a cinch to use. The picture quality however was left wanting.
As expected from the fixed focus unit, macro shots were out of the question. Outdoor images were on the softer side but it did manage to nail the white balance unlike many low end devices. The color representation was passable while the details were on the lighter side.
Low light and night time images are absolutely unusable. Video is recorded at 15FPS and at VGA resolution which is once again merely acceptable. It’ll get the job done if you have nothing else with you but don’t expect to shoot your next indie movie on this !
The Asha 303 is equipped with a 1300 mAh battery which is rated for 7 hours of talk time in 3G mode and over 2 days of continuous music playback.
Talk Time : 7 hours
Music Playback : 2 days
Standby : 1 month
The major dilemma buyers which buyers will be faced with is to go for the Asha 303 or a low cost Android phone. The 303 pushes the boundary of what is a feature phone and is packed with more than enough capabilities to allow you to perform everyday tasks. From basic social networking to even Angry Birds, the phone comes with all the necessities. The lack of GPS is a set back as the phone could certainly serve as a navigation device. A bit more space between the keys would be appreciated as well. The Asha 303 competes with devices like the HTC ChaCha and the Galaxy Y Pro which might appeal to some due to larger app catalogs. However the better build quality, battery life and overall great performance of the phone makes it a winner for us.
- High quality construction
- Decent multimedia capabilities and loudspeaker
- Pentaband 3G
- Fixed focus camera
- No GPS
- Screen could be better