Layman’s Take on Nokia Asha 300–Ray of hope for cheap phones?

May be you might not have given much weight to Asha series phones when Nokia announced them for the first time, but considering their response with people and kind of features they put on offer with ultra low price tag, it’s hard to ignore them. So, I am breaking my silence again with a Layman’s Take on Nokia Asha 300.

The review coming a bit late as after launch of Nokia Asha 302, I was a little confused if people wanna know about its older cousin Nokia Asha 300 or not, but after receiving a few queries on it, I thought to post it finally. 

There was a time, when for India, a low end mobile phone was meant to be Nokia only and then with the arrival of cheap dual SIM phones things kept on changing. Nokia was needed to spice up the things on the loyalty of their buyers, built in years based on legendary signal/ battery performance of their buyers and that’s where Asha Series phones stepped in.

With Nokia Asha Series, the first big decision was the inclusion of 1GHz processor for the handsets which were supposed to be sold at 100$ -150$ and the second was revamp of their S40 operating system to support the bigger processor and also to include the support for Touch-n-Type segment. With customizable home screen and a much richer application store, Nokia wants to keep their loyal low end user base content with them, let’s see how it goes.


Nokia Asha 300: The content inside the box

I knew that Nokia Asha 300 has USB OTG feature, but obviously considering the price tag, I wasn’t expecting that Nokia will manage to include one USB OTG cable inside, but for my surprise, they didn’t even include a MicroUSB cable too this time. Yes! we are in for a very very minimal content inside the box without the traditional MicroUSB cable even.

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Touch and type Nokia X3-02 brings X-Factor to S40

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When it was announcement of Nokia C3, C6 and E5 from Nokia, then out of other things, what made me more curious was the home screens of Nokia C3 and Nokia E5. The favorite contact bar, which we were introduced with Nokia N97 and Nokia 5800 was always denied the share of the same citing memory limits. I always wondered that how much tempting it would be for people to hold their fingers not touching the big contacts picture icons like they did with Nokia N97, X6 and others?

Then there was a debate started from Nokia Conversations over buttons and touch, where I even replied quite many a comments (should have got some clue right then) and when Blackberry launched its torch, then it was obvious to boil up the conversions that when Nokia coming up something like one handed touch with HW-Keypad?

So, here is the day, August 17, 2010, in contrast of expectations of some E6 with QWERTY and touch in shape of E72, Nokia sure given a new innovation to mobile world with a T9 with touch screen and that too in price of just 7.5k and the name was strangely Nokia X3-02 (probably people will call it by name of X3 touch to avoid confusion).

As Nokia says, it takes something so familiar and makes it new again.

The simple but slim looks like old T9 and S40 phones, but with a 3 row keypad rather than usual 4 rows, we grown up using and a very welcome large 2.4 screen like Nokia E52.

Read till the end, I bet you will know many more things about Nokia X3-02, which you don’t know about it at least till this point.

Special features slowly get disclosed in front of your eyes like favorite contacts bar on the home screen (photo calling available) and cool Date and time bar (we will be see in video later). It got dedicated message key, dedicated music key and a rather larger speaker at the bottom and if that’s not enough then it got brushed aluminum body. Not only this, but this only 9.6 mm thick and 78 gm device also got Wi-Fi, 3G, HSDPA Cat9 10.2 Mbps, HSUPA Cat5 2.0 Mbps and a 5 MP Camera and let me mention it again, the price is 7.5k.

When we moved into more details as Nokia’s official forum page says over Nokia X3-02, then its surprising that most of the blog got it wrong or someone correct me, when I say that this might be the first S40 device to support up to 32 GB microSD card.


Till it don’t get right on high end devices, since the announcement C3, C6 and E5, its already clear that Nokia is betting big on cheaper devices now. Sure, the consumers are what on the profit side. First was the very capable, E52 like C5 in around 8k and now another under 8k device feature quad band and 3G.

Let’s go by the features now

Operating System: When we geeks hear about S40 devices, then what pushes us back is lack of multi-tasking like we seen in earlier iPhones. Only bit of multi-tasking here might be music/ radio app running behind.

But with the launch of Nokia X3-02, we also got updated Forum Nokia page about S40 platform, which talk about availability of even gesture related controls now (remember spiral zoom feature on Nokia N900?). Though not big on multi-tasking, but you will get a revamped media player, integration of Facebook and Twitter in contacts and updates on home screen, conversation view within the contacts and also chat featuring MSN, Gtalk, Yahoo and Ovi.

So, even Dumb phones got sexier now.

Design: I read somewhere some Eldar saying that its bullshit that Nokia experimenting with design material and came up with brushed aluminum and I swear nothing could be more bullshit than that line. Brushed aluminum doesn’t only make the build solid but saves it from scratches as well and in the way lengthening the life of the product. NO more scare of breaking it while opening the back cover to remove the batter.

Technically the dimensions are 106.2 x 48.4 x 9.6 mm, 45.2 cc and weight 78 gm, so finally we are getting Nokia making really slim devices and sure you could hope one day they will give something slim like iPhone or Galaxy and that too with all typical Nokia features, not some stripped bluetooth that don’t let you transfer the files between phones over Bluetooth (read Apple).

Like the tradition has began, Nokia started offering their device in many colors (may be on footprint of Dell Studio) and Nokia X3-02 is expected to arrive in Q3 means latest by September 2010 in five colors: White Silver, Petrol Blue, Lilac, Pink and Dark Metal. So, which color would you prefer?

Display: People already not expecting big from a cheap touch and type device that is first of its kind to showcase a 2.4” touch screen. Not on higher side of resolution, it just fare with a 240×320 screen, which has a color depth of 16 bit means 256k colors.

Its a transmissive LCD that would be glossy for sure, but I am not getting mention of its being scratch resistant anywhere, so better be careful about that, they are expecting light touching not gaming kind of.

Camera: Earlier Nokia X3 offered a 3.2 MP camera, but Nokia X3-02, which we call Nokia X3 touch now, is much more generous to offer a 5MP camera. But its not one of the greatest for sure.

As expected, there is no flash, not a single LED. The 5MP has a resolution of 2592 x 1944 and aperture f2.4, but the camera focus range just starts from 50 cm and goes to infinity means nothing like Macro mode. It got 4x digital zoom and Picture format is JPEG only.

But you get video recording that is on 640×480, but got better frame rate of 18 fps, which could record in two formats H.263 and MPEG-4. Not bad for a device in this segment.

Memory: Series 40 device never known much demanding over memory due to non-multi-tasking nature, but still it got adequate specs. Maximum User Storage of 50 MB, NAND Memory of 128 MB and SDRAM Memory on 64 MB. Impressive for a S40.

And while most of the blog seems to mentioning that it supports up to 16 GB microSD card, office specs says it supports up to 32 GB, which makes it first S40 to support 32 GB I guess.

Connectivity: That’s something so so special about this device. People already overwhelmed over its looks and touch, but its bigger underneath. You are getting Quad band support here means GSM 1800, GSM 1900, GSM 850, GSM 900, WCDMA Band I (2100), WCDMA Band II (1900), WCDMA Band V (850), WCDMA Band VIII (900) and much more than average HSDPA Cat9 10.2 Mbps, HSUPA Cat5 2.0 Mbps. Even my Nokia N82 didn’t got such support. Not only this, but you have Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n) available that supports WEP, WPA, WPA2 (AES/TKIP).

Now hold your breaths, although not advertised, but their official page says that it got USB-OTG 1.3. Is it the same, I am thinking? Nokia N8 has the same OTG profile, so??? Should we be prepared for some upcoming video displaying the same feature? Will they ship the cable together?

I am sure even Geeks could find it an affordable alternative to keep with them as a 3G modem and storage device, isn’t it?

Messaging: With support of around 600 kb size of messages, S40 devices been center of attraction for messaging only and this one sure has no reason to disappoint. You are getting Nokia Messaging 3.0 here and with the integration of twitter/ facebook, you also have the leading IMs in pocket. Social media is in reach of everyone now.

It supports IMAP4, POP3, SMTP, but asking for PUSH will be sure a joke on this price point.

Browsing: If some device supporting connections at a speed of 10 mbps, then browsing capabilities becomes a must. Nokia X3-02 comes with WebKit Open Source Browser and Opera Mini that will support Flash Lite 3.0. So even if not much big expectations, you could find it doing all the tasks at a satisfactory level for sure.

I am yet to see if the browser will support spiral zoom like Nokia N900 here with resistive touch.

Ovi Services: Though things could be region specific, but as much their official page says, it will support not only FOTA, but also Nokia Music Store, Ovi Music, Ovi Store, Ovi Sync, PictBridge, Themes and VoIP.

Isn’t that exciting for a sweet little device?

Battery: No one expected a bigger battery in a S40 device, when such device already known for much better power management due to lack of multi-tasking basically. It has a BL-4S 3.7V 860mAh battery that supports 5.3 hours talk time on 2G and 3.5 hours talk time on 3G. It has a music playback of big 28 hours and video playback of 6 hours. Average for music series, I guess, but there is a great news too.

Nokia X3-02 not only supports regular 2.0mm Charger Connector, but also supports charging over USB.


It will initially be offered in China, Ireland & UK, Russia, Australia & New Zealand, Singapore, Germany, Spain & Portugal, France, Mexico and Saudi & Yemen. Other markets will follow later.

This was all about next coming Nokia X3-02. So, if you were thinking that its about only some specific people, which will say “hurray” when their dumb S40 devices sudden get magic of touch, then think again… isn’t USB-OTG and an up to 10 mbps 3G modem could lure the Geek inside you?

So, this was Layman’s take on Nokia X3-02, what you think, let me know.. I am all ears for you.

Nokia 7230 – Surprise member to family

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As I wrote sometimes back, many of us passing through a time, where we are stuck about buying any phone. While buying any Smartphone was a complete no go, my problem was solved by one friend of mine, who decided to lend her newly bought Nokia 7230 to me for a while.

 

Finding a full blown review for a S40 device is hard in age of apps and computer like specs phones, but sometimes one should think that not everyone wants a 10k device with loads of advanced features. Many wants just a phone that works well for calls, SMS, Music and if possible then some more … Nokia 7230 somewhat seems to filling the same gap. A 3G successor for Cheap Nokia Supernova 7210 with a slider under Rs. 6, 000/- may sure attract some numbers.


Hard to write on a foreign ground, but trying to … one shouldn’t consider this a review but a rant only…

The retail box: The retail box was holding kind of no surprise. The usual Charger, Data cable, Phone, simple headsets and A manual that’s it.

The 2GB memory card was fitted inside and the battery was 860 mAh, not the greatest, but fair enough for the deal. The price was Rs. 5800/-

Design: Sometimes its hard to know what exactly might interest to customers and even if people accusing Nokia about their OS, I really feel that at least with the variety of hardware design, Nokia is something that is kind of unbeatable. If you skip iPhone like looks, then Nokia probably have handsets in each design. That’s only Nokia that could build such solid sliding phones, otherwise, after Samsung SGH-330 experience, I was away from sliders forever.

On the sheet of measures, a size 10 x 5.5 cm, when folded sure finds affection for it, specially when it has a metallic border covering all the sides. Though the plastic back and its way of opening and closing kind of freaks me out, honestly speaking, neither do I feel cool about the cap over mini USB port coz of the way it opens and close. Things which has to be opened and closed many a times, should be made in a way that will not harm in long run.

I admit, it delights me whenever I see a fresh device with a Nokia logo with white background as the one in the picture above and Nokia’s T9 seems to be running in our DNA that with any new set of Nokia we feel like home. Keys looked similar to what I seen in Nokia 5310 XpressMusic, but with more comfort and grip as you can see yourself. Though power off keys and right menu keys sometimes may annoy you, if you get the phone accidently switch off while you try to press Left Menu Key.

The overall design focus on keeping it minimal, but I am very glad that they managed to put the camera button on side, which many manufacturer just prefer to miss. Other than Camera button, we just find one charging hole, one 3.5mm jack and the miniUSB port; all three place on the top of the device. Nothing else …

I wont call the device exactly slim (I seen 5310, if you remember), but its still slimmer than Nokia N82 in width 14.8mm to be precise and build is truly solid for this price point.

One of my friend commented that why not to make the sliding back made of mirror kind of element? Will have another heads up for females… good idea!! isn’t it?


Features: First talk about Hardware. A 2.4” TFT capable of displaying 16M colors.. kind of standard for a Nokia, though the way, S40 is making use of it, seems not of my taste at least. Such big fonts and icons, when the screen could have displayed small icons and menu with more ease. Something was sure wrong, when folks at Nokia were designing theme for this handset. See that big clock and network/ battery icons ..

While the handset been promoted as one of the cheapest 3G sets around, I will warn people coming this way for faster internet. This one has no HSPDA means a max of some 372 kbps speed, not that 2-3 mbps, we usually enjoy on handsets like E52 or C5 and that’s really not cool. Though I understand the limitation of this price point too and you can’t blame Nokia for this.

We have a 3.5 MP camera here and though 3G is capable of supporting video calling, but I didn’t seen any S40 having the same capability in past and so it was out of shot that by any chance, this one was going to have a front camera. No protecting cover for Camera lens, no flash and not even night mode, but still the camera works very decent. Though I am not some kind of photography expert, but I feel the pictures below are good enough for a 3.5 MP ..

Though the retail box very proudly displays an App Click-N-Share, but I am yet to discover the same, which provides the well advertised feature of sharing your snap over Flicker, Ovi etc. I wonder that why it’s not part of pre-installed package and why we need to send SMS, get a link and then install the same.

As it targets to Indian crowd and specially Music lovers, the device is packed with FM Radio and very freshly designed Music player. Though no dedicated Music keys might make you grin, but at the same time, you loved the minimalistic simplicity too. The audio is loud enough though loud speakers on back sure annoy me on kind of lesser loudness than I expected. The software has a equalizer option too.. cool

 


Network reception: Let me tell you, in now days whatever device we run through, we never forget to take a death grip test of the same and without exception all of Nokia devices disappoint about this particular world famous feature, not even this under 100$ phone. So, there is no death grip and for the people, it matters, it has following supporting network ranges

2G Network GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
3G Network UMTS 900 / 2100 / 1900

Call clarity is superb for Indian conditions, better than even Nokia N82 as its kind of too loud than N82’s decent sound, but loud speakers suck, don’t know why.


Software: Symbian S40, either you like it or hate it or better to say, you can like it, if haven’t seen any of Smartphone OS ever, if you have seen one, then you are spoiled. Though S40 amazingly optimizes your device for longer music playback and talk time, you really wonder that how people were managing with iPhone, when there was no multi-tasking.

Only Radio and Music player seems to be something that could be left running in background otherwise, you need to close whatever you might be doing, when some SMS come and you wish to read. Nothing like that you minimize the web page you were viewing or pause the game you were playing, went to read SMS and came back to resume. Nope!!! either SMS or the work you were doing, that’s our S40, low end devices made for people, who want their phones for call, SMS, Music and photos only.

There is Ovi Store in the device, there is Nokia IM, there is Nokia Messaging for a complete surprise and also Ovi Maps 3.0 (which are amazingly fast in startup) even if device doesn’t has GPS or A-GPS chip. What disappointed me if no support for Ovi Contacts, which is a complete shame as even older devices like Nokia 5310 XpressMusic now featuring the same. Why Nokia 7230 was denied the due, even on having the same OS S40, only they knows.

Maps not only provides the option of searching routes offline, but also enable contacts to have Find on map option, if some address is written in contacts.

Though bigger fonts size annoy big time, contacts has options like displaying Name and number in grid or name and pics. I wonder some day S40 will find social integration as well.

Calender has the same format as usual and we got Nokia Life Tools included in offering …


Apps to install: Not much of multi-tasking here, so not much you can think of, but I managed two of great apps Sanptu, which I preferred for Twitter and Ebuddy as Nokia IM not showing Gtalk service without proper bandwidth. Rest we already have Opera mini here, so nothing in essential list remains pending. Though I add my own Ovi App, Cricket 20-20 in my favourites as usual.


Lamination: Not sure that many guys love it or not, but it might be good idea to get your device laminated after buying, cost was Rs. 130/- to me, but the man did a very decent job. Check out the pictures given below …

Note: All pics here are courtesy my Nokia N82

So, this was some sort of walkthrough, I taken with the device.. my recommendations are still in favour of strictly S60 only, either 5233 in Rs. 6, 500/- or C5 in Rs. 7800/- must be a choice for buyers. Sure if anyone wishes to suggest something different, I am all for it.