While Nokia’s Lumia Windows Phone smartphones get the lions share of press for the Finnish firm these days, its Nokia Asha feature-phones are the unsung heroes that are quietly shifting plenty of units throughout the world.
Packing easy usability, eye-catching looks and low prices the Nokia Asha range offers great value for anyone that doesn’t need full smartphone functionality. And the latest device in the series is the Nokia Asha 311.
While previous Nokia Asha phones such as the Asha 302 and Asha 300 combined touchscreen usability with keypads or QWERTY keyboards, the Nokia Asha 311 is almost entirely touch-controlled, making it more akin to a budget smartphone than a feature-phone.
When powered up the Nokia Asha 311’s 3-inch capacitive touchscreen offers pleasingly bright and punchy images. Despite a slightly washed-out look at times colours are rendered well, bringing icons and the main interface to life.
While the 240 x 400 pixel resolution is disappointingly low, it works well here due to the small screen size and images look surprisingly sharp. There is slight pixelation at times, but nothing glaringly obtrusive.
Where the low resolution does pose a problem, however, is when browsing the internet on the Nokia Asha 311. Text can be tricky to read, even when zoomed in, so this isn’t a device that we’d want to use as our main web browsing device.
The capacitive screen responds well, though, and you can easily navigate through the Nokia Asha 311’s interface with a swipe or tap of your finger. There is a slight delay as you swipe between menus, but it does little to impact on usability.
The first sign of the Nokia Asha 311’s feature-phone roots is its basic Nokia Series 40 operating system. But while the OS lacks the finesse or features of smartphone software such as Android, it is suitably intuitive to use.
The clear icon-based interface provides easy access to apps. And the three default homescreens provide a basic amount of customisation, letting you place your favourite apps front and centre for faster accessibility.
Beneath the Nokia Asha 311’s screen there are also two hardware buttons which let you answer and cancel calls, as well as browse backwards through the interface. Combined with the screen, they provide easy, if basic, control.
For such an affordable device we were surprised to see that the Nokia Asha 311’s screen is equipped with Gorilla Glass. Keeping the display well protected from scratches, it adds a good layer of quality to the handset.
While the plastic chassis inevitably lacks the quality of more expensive handsets, the Nokia Asha 311 is still a suitably well put together device, although the glossy plastic rear panel is prone to attracting scuffs and scratches.
Available in a choice of four colours, the Nokia Asha 311 offers a look that has clearly been aimed at younger consumers. But there is enough style to appeal to all ages and the ergonomic design feels comfortable in the hand.
Where the Nokia Asha 311 really falls short is its low-quality 3.2-Megapixel camera. Photos and videos are dark, washed-out and lacking in detail, so aren’t good for much other than uploading to social media sites.
Storage is also predictably limited, with just 140MB of internal storage on offer. This can be upgraded to 32GB via the MicroSD card slot, but this is fitted beneath the battery so you can’t switch cards on the fly.
Call quality is also a mixed bag. During testing we found some calls came through loud and clear, while others lacked clarity, even when in range of a good network signal, but in general we had few major complaints.
And extra features are average on the Nokia Asha 311 but provide enough to keep most users happy. 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.1 provide local wireless connectivity, but there is no GPS support for easy satellite navigation.
Had the Nokia Asha 311 been priced at around £60, its flaws wouldn’t have been too pronounced. But as it costs around £110, meaning you can buy a fully-equipped Android smartphone for the same price, its failings are more noticeable.
Considering the excellent Huawei Ascend G300 and Vodafone Smart 2 can be picked up for as much as £40 less, the Nokia Asha 311 falls a bit too far short, as while it is a good feature-phone it is saddled with an unrealistic price tag.