Nokia’s Asha UI may have changed and become more smartphone-like, but the competition from low-end Android smartphones has not gone away. As such with the new Fastlane view and enhanced browser and multimedia capabilities, the Nokia Asha 501 is not breaking new ground. However, the name Nokia has great weight in India, where it has been a first recall brand when it comes to mobile phones. The phone went on pre-order earlier this week in India for Rs 5,199, a very attractive price point indeed. However, the lack of 3G and the low-end specs could prove to be its downfall. Will the Nokia Asha 501 be able to withstand the competition? Let’s compare it with the contenders.

Nokia Asha 501 vs Karbonn Smart A4+
The Karbonn A4+ isn’t going to win any design awards (it looks exactly like any number of older Samsung Galaxy phones), but at least it comes with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and a larger 4-inch IPS display with double the screen resolution as compared to the Asha 501. The Nokia Asha 501 cuts an attractive figure, but the lack of apps and games on the new Nokia Asha software platform will hurt in the long run. Both phones have similar cameras (3.15 megapixel on the Asha 501 vs 3.2 megapixel on A4+), so that shouldn’t be too much of a factor. The Karbonn phone has a slightly larger capacity battery, but not so much that it would make a huge difference. In terms of platform experience and the overall smartphone experience, Karbonn takes the win. And that’s before you even consider that both phones carry the same price.

Karbonn A4+ scores over the 501

Karbonn A4+ scores over the 501

Nokia Asha 501 vs Lenovo A60+
Running your father’s Gingerbread, at least the Lenovo A60+ won’t be competing with the Asha 501 directly in terms of app and user experience. We reckon the Asha UI will be more functional and responsive thanks to Nokia’s optimisation with hardware. A60+ also has Lenovo’s custom skin on top, which is sure to have some impact on the user experience. In comparison, Nokia’s UI looks almost minimalistic. The Lenovo phone has a slightly larger 3.5-inch display but with a low 480 x 320 resolution. The 2MP camera also falls short in comparison to the 3.15MP camera of the Nokia Asha. And the fact that A60+ is at least Rs 500 more expensive at various retailers only serves to make Asha a better option. 

Bogged down by Gingerbread

Bogged down by Gingerbread

Nokia Asha 501 vs Nokia Asha 311
An all-Asha battle, this one. A member of the older family of Asha devices, the Asha 311 has been one of the most popular phones in India across categories. In terms of specs, the Asha 311 brings better connectivity because it supports 3G networks, which the newer Asha lacks. It has a slightly higher resolution screen – WQVGA (240 x 400 pixels) as compared to the 501’s QVGA (320 x 240 pixels) display. However, the one area where the new Asha is comprehensively better is software. While the older Asha phones have had the same interface for years, the 501 brings newer features such as Fastlane view for quick glanceable info about alerts, music, calendar appointments etc. It also looks far better thanks to the Meego-inspired icons and UI elements. Not to mention, the Asha 501 truly looks much better. If you are only looking for an Asha phone, then the 501 is the one for you. The 311 also has a price disadvantage and is priced nearly Rs 1,000 more than the Asha 501 at Rs 6,050 at one online retailer.

The Asha sibling loses out due to the older software

The Asha sibling loses out due to the older software

Nokia Asha 501 vs Samsung Galaxy Star
Here’s the biggest competition for the Nokia Asha 501, according to us. Priced at Rs 4,999, the Galaxy Star not only matches many of the Nokia phone’s specs, but also brings Android 4.1 Jelly Bean to a sub-Rs 5,000 catgeory smartphone. Internal memory in the Galaxy Star is 4GB, which is a godsend for those looking for a budget phone, as the cost of a memory card, which is a must for the Asha 501 (only 64MB of internal storage), will only add to the final price. Battery capacity is exactly the same on both phones. The Asha 501 does have a 3.15 megapixel camera, while its rival here has only a 2-megapixel shooter. We feel that the Jelly Bean experience on the Star is a better option than the Asha platform, so this round goes to the Samsung smartphone.

A sub-Rs 5,000 phone with Jelly Bean

A sub-Rs 5,000 phone with Jelly Bean

Nokia Asha 501 vs Spice Smart Flo Pace Mi-422
And finally, the Asha 501 goes up against the Spice Smart Flo Pace, which is actually Rs 200 cheaper than the Nokia Asha 501 and still manages to best it in nearly every department. The display is a larger 4 incher with WVGA resolution and the OS is Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. There’s a front-facing 1.3 megapixel camera and an LED flash to go along with the 3.2 megapixel camera. The 1300 mAh battery is slightly bigger than the 501’s 1200 mAh unit and the internal storage of 512MB is also higher than the Nokia phone’s specification. Overall, the Spice smartphone is the better option.

Better specs than the 501

Better specs than the 501

Verdict
Nokia has a tough task with the Asha 501. It has lost three of the five battles it faced above. This is not just because the competition has grown wiser and has backed the winning horse (in this case Android). Even first-time buyers that the company will be targeting come to the market with far more knowledge of mobile hardware and software than was the case before. There are some neat software innovations in the Asha 501 and the battery life on the Nokia phone is expected to be much better than most of the Android competition. But will the buying public back Nokia's new features or will the similar innovations offered by its rivals – and sometimes at a lesser price – win them over.

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