Nokia Asha 501 First Look

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I was lucky to find the Nokia Asha 501 land on my door matt yesterday. I haven’t seen enough of the 501 yet to bring a full review of the device, so consider this a first look. I have taken a few pictures of it up next to the Nokia Lumia 920 which you can see further down this post, but first I will present to you the video I made. It is on our YouTube channel which I’d highly recommend subscribing to.

Ok, next up I promised some pictures. I haven’t taken many snaps with the 501 yet, but when I do I will post them on this site.

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I believe that the Asha 501 and the Lumia 920 share a very similar, very attractive design language. The feel of both devices in the hand is a pleasant experience. I am sure some would consider the 501 (and the 920) a chunky phone in comparison to other models, but in my eyes this isn’t a bad thing. Nokia could have made the device thinner but it would loose the durable feeling.

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Putting the very impressive hardware design aside, and looking at the operating system, the Asha 501 runs on the Asha platform. This is a departure in one way from what I am used to with Windows Phone. First impressions of the UI is a familiar one to me, who used the N9 as my only device for 8 months. The always on clock is there, the familiar vertical rows of icons which are mostly the same as seen on MeeGo Harmattan. Even swiping from the edges of the screen to close apps feels the same. In my first 24 hours with the phone I haven’t had any freezes or reboots. Opening apps, loading web pages and booting up are done smoothly and fast. But going into the Facebook and Twitter apps, and watching YouTube videos, while all more or less fully functional, reminds me that this is not a smartphone, even if it looks and feels very much like one.

On the one hand it is great to see Swipe UI recycled, and implemented on Nokia’s Asha platform. But there is a part of me that feels it is doing it a bit of a disservice. When the world first saw the Swipe UI it was revered for it simplicity and ingenuity. Stephen Elop did promise that Swipe would be used in future devices. I was hoping it would gradually integrate itself onto Nokia’s Lumia range so to see it on their low end feature phones is a bit disappointing. That said, the Asha range is always improving and has been described as blurring the lines between feature phones and smart phone.

I will bring a more considered review of the Asha 501 after I have spent more time with it. I have a couple of Symbian devices floating around and think it could make an interesting comparison video.

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