Nokia Asha 503 Review

Preface

Originally, I planned to have this article published back at the beginning of 2015, well before Microsoft announced they would pull the plug on the Asha line of ‘cheap’ smartphones. Now that has happened, in this article, I hope to provide some good reasons in support of Microsoft pulling the plug.

Introduction

I’m a real sucker for design, especially simple/minimalist design. So after seeing the Asha line-up, I knew I had to get one. Especially, with the fact, they’re ‘cheap’ smartphones, they do not cost much, even for the top of the line model – the Asha 503 Dual SIM.

Design

The design of the Asha 503 is absolutely gorgeous! It takes a lot of design cues from the Lumia line-up of Windows Phone based smartphones (which are all masterful designs in their own rights). The one thing that caught my eye with the Asha design is strangely – the cheap clear plastic outer layer surrounding the cover.

The design is the sole reason why I bought myself one. And sadly, that’s also the only thing going for the Asha line-up.

Issues

If my ending line in design was not enough, then maybe this would help paint a better picture, I gave up ‘playing’ with the Asha 503 in less than 30 minutes. That just shows how ‘unusable’ the Asha 503 is.

Size

The small size of the Asha 503 helps towards the cuteness and and pocket-ability of the device; and there is nothing wrong with small screen sizes, we’ve had them for years. However, the designers have decided to cram as much information as they could into the tiny screen and even opted for an onscreen full-sized qwerty keyboard. This keyboard is so crammed, even with my tiny Asian fingers, I struggled to type with it.

Other implications of this design decision include:

  • text being very small and barely legible
  • ‘tap’ zones too small for even the tiniest fingers

Performance

General speed of the device is just usable – notice I did not use the term ‘acceptable’.

The hardware used to power the device was designed for feature phones, not smartphones. So it’s no surprise the device suffers from major performance issues. However, I have to give credit to the designers for being able to achieve the level of performance they have with such hardware.

Implications of using such hardware include:

  • slow startup and shut down
  • laggy user interface
  • limited number of concurrent apps can run

Asha Operating System

The Asha operating system is very nice, even better than Windows Phone. Why? If it could run on such hardware, imagine what it would be like if we ran it on standard smartphone hardware.

But sadly, like any new smartphone OS, it suffers from the fate of no third-party app support.

Conclusion

There you have it. Why I absolutely agree with Microsoft’s decision to can the Asha line-up. They are nice toys – display toys to be exact.

And who could say no to cheap Windows Phone based Lumia smartphones that are real smartphones with decent hardware to boot? In fact, I just recently picked up a Lumia 532 (review to follow), that takes a lot of design cues from the Asha line-up it’s replacing.

Product Photos

Figure 1. Nokia Asha 503 boot screen.
Figure 2. Nokia Asha 503 sitting halfway inside a leather cover.
Figure 3. Nokia Asha 503 with its back cover taken off.
Figure 4. Top half of the back side of the box packaging.

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