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July 28, 2013

Nokia Asha 501 Review

When you first look at the Nokia Asha 501, you might think it’s a smaller Lumia. The solid and beautiful build is wrapped by a matte polycarbonate body and the device runs on Nokia’s totally new Asha Platform. Is it cute enough to make the cut? Find out in our full review.

NOKIA ASHA 501 official 2

“Feature phone resurrected.”

Design and Construction

I’m not really the biggest fan of small phones as I have really big hands. However, when I got the Asha 501, a few things about my perceptions of this feature phone were changed.

First, the size feels like the total opposite of the norm. We have been so fed up with large phones for years now and the idea of a compact phone is just so refreshing. It fits perfectly in the hand even if it is quite thick, and despite that, it is still very manageable.

“I want a yellow phone too.” and “That is so cool / cute.” is what I hear most from my friends.

The design of Nokia’s Lumia line is already fun enough to begin with, so when you take that and put it in a smaller and a more rounded form factor – what you actually create is something cuter and more fun to look at.

As for the placement of the external buttons, nothing is found on the left and bottom sides of the device, while on the right side is where the volume rocker and the power button are placed; and on the top side is the micro USB port, the charging port and the 3.5mm audio jack. One thing to note here is that, while a proprietary Nokia charger is provided, you can also charge via the micro USB port.

The phone does not attract that much dirt, and if it does, it will most likely happen on the back cover (in which it can easily be wiped by a clean piece of cloth). With all of that said, the Nokia Asha 501 doesn’t need to be premium, and it doesn’t feel cheap. Rather, it’s already great at being what it is.

It would be nice to see if Nokia marketed different back covers for this phone though.

Display

At 3-inches at 240 x 320 pixels, the size is still manageable, but it won’t be the nicest experience (movies, reading & browsing). Text and icons look crappy and very pixilated on the screen especially with a pixel density of just 133ppi. However, for whatever is lost in display resolution, it makes up for in colors as everything else was vibrant.

NOKIA ASHA 501 REVIEW

Just as expected from an LCD display, viewing angles aren’t the best either.

OS, Apps and UI

The Asha 501 runs on Nokia’s new OS – the Asha platform. We have an in-depth look at it through the video below.

After taking a look at that, we have a few additional test notes.

What’s missing:

  • There is no way to click through a popping notification. You need to go through the notification bar.
  • Search bars are hard to find, but usually, it can be accessed through swiping down when you’re on top of the list.
  • App selection is not the best out there. We’re expecting to find the Facebook & Twitter apps to work very well at least, but not even that was a good experience. It was slow, and syncing took ages.
  • We found no way to import Google contacts or group; that may be a problem for some as contacts are really messy.
  • No copy-paste functionality.

What we loved:

  • Everything is easy to navigate and use.
  • Swiping from the sides to close apps feels good on the small form factor.
  • UI design elements are polished.
  • Works amazingly fast even with low specifications.
  • Even with the small display, I found myself enjoying typing on a QWERTY keyboard with minimal error. For T9 enthusiasts, one is also available (Tagalog language too).
  • There’s a 5-number security code option for your lockscreen.
  • The home screen is very intuitive.
  • Glance screen works great and doesn’t drain much battery.

Multimedia & Camera

It’s quite hard to figure out where the speaker grilles are since it’s embedded right into the opening of the battery door. The speakers on this phone never failed to impress; I had music playing in the classroom and people on the other corner could sing-along, and while everyone in the computer shop had headphones on, everyone looked at me when the Nokia ringtone started playing because of an incoming call.

Now, when you think about a 3.15 megapixel camera on a budget-friendly phone, you might immediately think that it sucks. That’s most certainly not the case here.

Nokia does wonders with its high-end PureView cameras, and their imaging prowess is still evident on phones like the Asha 501. The phone has a good dynamic range, and it does pretty well in handling noise. Everything was vibrant and clear for the most part, and we can’t really ask for more.

sample shot 2

For a cameraphone of this caliber, you might say that it will eventually turn bad once you bring it to low-light. Again, it does pretty good really. It might not handle motion blur as well as other devices, but it can surely capture some good shots.

The same can be said with video, although sad to say, we only have low-resolution shooting.

Performance & Battery Life

The Nokia Asha 501 is amazingly fast, even with just a 1GHz prcoessor and 64MB RAM. The phone doesn’t lag on regular use, and even if you do add heavy load, it just slows down; it doesn’t drop frames or crash.

For a phone of this size, a 1,200mAh battery should be more than enough and we were actually right. Unfortunately, we can’t loop video playback on this device, so we’ll just have to report on the battery life with usage of the week.

ASHA BACK

I never turned off Glance Screen, which means the display of the phone is always on, displaying the time and other details. Note that the display isn’t AMOLED, which means even the blacked out colors are lighting up through extremely dark gray pixels.

Only 1 SIM card was running during the test period of 2 days it did pretty well. I brought the phone to school for a day (standby & music playback), I did around more than 2 hours of phone calls, I sent 50 texts and I still have enough juice on the third day. To cut it short, the battery management on this thing is phenomenal.

Of course, since there’s little to no internet connectivity involved, the usage behavior is totally different compared to your standard smartphone.

Conclusion

Potential – that’s the word I’m stuck with before letting go of the Nokia Asha 501. It could have been the perfect feature phone for everyone if it weren’t for the low-res display and the lack of must-have apps.

NOKIA ASHA 501

The Nokia Asha 501 is both a king and a pawn.

The phone has a pretty good camera, great speakers, a beautiful design, and most of all, a very interesting OS. Asha’s Fastlane UI is one of the best I’ve seen, and while it still has a lot of things missing, we should not forget that it’s only version 1.0. There will be a lot of improvements along the way if only Nokia puts more focus in it.

For now, if you’re looking for an affordable feature phone that can text, make calls, take photos, play music, & last for days, here is the Nokia Asha 501; you may just have to live with slow Facebook, Email & Twitter syncing and other minor complaints.

Nokia Asha 501 specifications:
Dual-SIM, Dual standby
3-inch 256K-color QVGA TFT capacitive touchscreen, @ 240×320 pixels, 133ppi
Scratch-resistant glass
128MB internal storage, 64MB of RAM
Expandable up to 32GB via microSD
3.15 MP fixed-focus camera
QVGA (240 x 320) video recording at 15fps
GPRS/EDGE
WiFi 802.11 b/g
Bluetooth 3.0 with EDR
FM radio tuner
Li-Ion 1,200mAh battery
Asha platform 1.0
Dimensions: 99.2 x 58 x 12.1 mm
Weight:  98.2 g
Php4,490

What we liked about it:

  • Asha’s Fastlane UI works great
  • Amazing camera
  • Loud and clear speakers
  • Solid, beautiful and compact build
  • Affordable
  • Fast, even with 64MB RAM
  • Long-lasting battery

What we didn’t like about it:

  • OS needs a few updates to improve
  • Lack of good first-party apps
  • Low-res screen
  • Not for watching or taking high-res video
Nokia Asha 501 now official, running Asha OS
Nokia Asha 501 first impressions, unboxing
Nokia Asha 502 Quick Review

35 Responses to “Nokia Asha 501 Review”

  1. rex says:

    Too expensive for the specs. P1k less would have been a reasonable price.

  2. Benchmark says:

    Hi, is the keyboard for texting is in QWERTY or in Alphanumeric style?

    • Bob Freking says:

      QWERTY by default, but you can add one if you want to. You can access it through a swipe on the space bar.

  3. knockyah says:

    hi..my main concern on this phone is the wifi connectivity…we have a strong connection at home i am not expecting that it will be like an android or an iphone. pero ok lang ba ang wifi nito? is it fast enough o yung tipong mapapamura ka sa bagal..

    • knockyah says:

      bob bakit sa ibang comment nagrespond ka.sakin hindi

    • Bob Freking says:

      Sorry bout that. As expected, it’s not very fast but it gets the job done. For example, loading up and logging in to Twitter is fast, but when you’re just refreshing for new tweets, it’s slow even for low amounts of data wherein with my other devices in the same network, it’ll do the task easily.

      I guess the correct term to describe it is ‘inconsistent’. :)

    • knockyah says:

      thanks for the info bob. siguro l520 na lang bibilhin ko.pasok naman sa budget ko eh..ung design lang talaga ng nokia 501 yung gustong gusto ko.

    • anon666 says:

      O.T. lang po baka pede gawa review sa nokia 105? :D

  4. metre9dmt says:

    guys,this is a good choice…easy to use…nice build…

  5. Anon says:

    micro SIM ba ito pareho?

    • CarlosJhunie
      Twitter: CarlosJhunie
      says:

      Both SIM slots require microSIM. For Globe, you can request the Customer Service Rep to cut your SIM for free or request a replacement for a minimal fee. For SMART, you request a replacement for a fee of P40.

  6. allen83 says:

    HI Bob! Nice review for the Nokia 501. Sana ganito na ung mga next review mo hindi masyadong nerd type medyo friendly approach lang and say what you want in a friendly approach. Thanks!

  7. Paul says:

    Great choice of picture with the Asha 501 beside a king and a pawn. It really puts its diminutive size into perspective.

  8. \m/ says:

    contgratulations bob, for me you did a good review about this phone, 2lad nga ng sabi ng isa na hindi siya nerdy type na review but more of a personal review,in that way many readers will be able to enjoy this article kahit puro specs lng makikita mo =)))

  9. sarasota says:

    For the price, some people would say to me: “You should have gotten a low-end Android (any brand)” Well…I didn’t, and got this Asha instead, so far I am so happy with it. It does things a standard smartphone would usually do (without the fancy way of doing it) and please do not compare this to any Android phone ’cause this is NOT a Smartphone, it’s a feature phone but similarly doing what smartphones can do. At the end of my typical day, if I had gotten or used my smartphone, I’ll be about 15% or 20% then, but my Asha would still be usable until about the 3rd day. Thanks Nokia! Looking forward to more Asha OS devices.

    • yahyah says:

      marami talaga ang magsasabe sau at isa nako dun,kasi d talag worthy ang 4k dahil lang mas mahaba ang battery life nya,kung mahaba battery life nya hindi lng dahil sa masunderpowered sya kundi dahil sinalpakan talag siya ng malaking battery,kaya kung tutuusin d dapat ganun ang price nya dahil sa battery nya w/c is only 1200mah…hindi naman nasusukat ang presyo ng baterya sa battery life sa isang phone dba?

    • sarah says:

      id rather buy a high-end feature phone than a very low-end android phone. marami din nagsabi sakin nyan na android na lang daw kasi maraming apps. kung gugustuhin ko ng android phone eh di dun na ako sa above 10k ang price para worth it ang pera ko.

    • sarasota says:

      ummm, I do have a “proper” smartphone, and I am noticing that I am using it less for communication (call/SMS) and more for browsing the net (Social Media, blogs, online Games, etc) at this rate, I CAN let go of the smartphone and settle for a small tablet instead plus this phone for communication. I think 4K is fair for me for the PROS of this phone for my lifestyle. Battery Life is on the top my list.

    • shinkueagle says:

      Low end Android? One word… LAG!! AND A LOT OF IT!!! If you were to go Android, I would ONLY use Android on a mobile device that has a processor who’s speed is IN EXCESS of 1.7Ghz QUAD CORE. My experience with the GS3 was nice but it was still laggy. This happened to me several times a day!

      ASHA 501 – BUDGET FRIENDLY… LAG FREE! After all, I have one that complements my Nokia 808 and Note 3! =)

    • wew says:

      @shinkueagle kahit true octacore at 2.8 ghz processor pa yan maglalag parin ang android kasi nasa OS na mismo ang problema

  10. kapitanbasa says:

    you can use your google contacts…just import your contacts into a single csv file, transfer it to the asha, and the asha reads thru and copies all of em seamlessly.

  11. axe1968 says:

    Lg optimus L3ii nalang halos magkapareho lang price e

  12. Migs says:

    Was the first picture in the “Multimedia and Camera” section taken in UST? It looks like a view of the parking lot near the med and hospital building eh. Wala lang, medyo off topic XD

  13. Oscar says:

    - walang cut-copy-paste
    – 10 alarms lang ang kayang i-set ng app na Alarms
    – mahina ang tunog para sa alarms
    – di kayang i-group ang contacts para sa group texting
    – may multiple select sa texting, pero di ka ibabalik sa huling pinili mong contact; ibabalik ka dun sa unahan ng contact list, kaya magpa-pan down ka na naman at dadaanan mo na naman ung mga napili mo na
    – walang timer; ung app na nada-download galing sa apps store nya e di compatible ang input mode specifically sa hours and minutes
    – Micro SIM, kaya ipapa-cut mo pa ung regularly available na SIM dito sa Pilipinas
    – kahit gano kahaba ng ringtone na nai-set mo; limitado ang patutunugin ng fon pag may message ka

  14. anon666 says:

    may equalizer po ba music player nito?

  15. anon666 says:

    and this is what i call a review >.< thumbsup for this! =) if I were to ask, I'll prefer this one instead of having an android device. and the battery life is in top of my list in having a phone.

    • alvin says:

      nakabili na din ako sa wakas pagkatapos ng ilang linggong pagiisip kung eto o lumia 520.. so far ok na ok..wifi ok atsaka parang iphone lang ung itsura hehehe

  16. Well, it looks like a really nice phone. It’s cute, small, and it’s sturdy. It’s very dependable. I accidentally left in in my car one time, after 4 days, it still had enough juice to make a phone call. It’s been thrown around several times now and its still in one piece. To me, that is the value of what i paid for. And it’s well worth it

    I guess i have the guts to say that because this is my secondary phone. My real daily driver is a gs4.

    If your priority in getting a phone is dependability, sturdiness andbattery life, and you want it to have extra features, this is the phone for you. You even get a cute design to boot.

    But if you are looking for an android phone as your daily driver, there are local brands carrying the same price tag such as the cherry mobile flare. It sports a dual core processor that doesn’t slow down as much as long as you know what you’re doing. I’m sure other local brands such as my phone and starmobile have devices of similar capability.

  17. derrick says:

    hey man, is the twitter and fb app that bad?

  18. mag kano poh bah price nyan sa philipines ???

  19. jhaymar gardoce says:

    how much po ba ung nokia asha 501

  20. […] the reimagining of the feature phone through the Nokia Asha 501. You can revisit our review of that here, but to cut it short, we called that device a phone of extreme potential. Months more given, the […]

  21. Andre says:

    Thanks for this post, specially the image samples. It seems a great cellphone.

  22. Resep Kue says:

    here we come, the new nokia
    visit me back Resep Kue Kering Coklat Coco Crunch

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Bob Freking writes, edits, & renders for YugaTech. You can contact, follow or tweet him at @bobfreking. For all his social media links, you can go to https://tinyurl.com/bobfreking

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