Even in this age of smartphones, Nokia still sells a huge amount of entry-level feature-phones, mainly to emerging markets. Under its Asha brand, which launched in 2011, it launched a line of feature-phones which are very much the entry-level devices of the company and put affordability and value ahead of cutting-edge features.
The Asha range uses the Symbian Series 40 operating system, which Nokia has slowly been updating and improving over the past couple of years. The biggest development for the platform came with the introduction of the Series 40 Feature Pack 1, which added touchscreen functionality to the OS. Since then we’ve seen a number of models launched, which take the standard candybar form factor and add the extra functionality of a full touchscreen display.
The Asha 300 follows in this tradition and is essentially a refresh of the original Nokia C3-01 Touch & Type. However, while the C3-01 had a full metal body, the Asha 300 makes do with a plastic back cover and trim. This helps keep the price to a minimum, so you can pick this phone up on PAYG for as little as £60.
It also keeps the weight down. The compromise is that we can’t help but feel that the final design is not quite as eye-catching as the C3-01. In terms of size, this is a small and compact handset. Built around a 2.4-inch screen it weighs just 85g and sits neatly in the palm of the hand.
The 12-button keypad is of a good size and there is sufficient space around the keys to provide a smooth typing action. Sitting above the main keypad are three function keys, offering the standard Call and End Call buttons, with a key in the centre for quick access to text and email services. All keys have a shallow response, so you don’t need to press too hard.
The 2.4-inch display offers up a rather dated 240 x 320 pixel resolution. That said, it is nice and bright, and while the low resolution means images and web pages tend to look a little pixelated, the screen is easy to read.
The touchscreen display uses resistive panel technology, so you need to give it a fair push to get the best out of it. However, as it doesn’t support a virtual keypad, for example, you only use the touchscreen for accessing apps and files, so this doesn’t greatly affect usability.
We really like the combination of real keys for typing and a touchscreen for accessing apps, files and folders. The real benefit of having a touchscreen is that it makes navigating the phone so much quicker and more intuitive than simply using the keypad alone.
On the top of the phone you’ll find the standard 3.5mm audio jack, 2mm charging port and also a Micro USB port for connecting to your PC. On the side of the phone there are volume controls and a screenlock button. Press it and all you need to do is swipe the onscreen Unlock icon to unlock the phone.
Even with the addition of touchscreen support, the OS remains fairly basic. With limited personalisation tools, it has a uniform feel to it, but everything you need is easily accessible. Nokia has also made sure it is a social network friendly OS, so you’ll find Twitter and Facebook natively supported.
Powered by a 1GHz processor, the phone is fast, responsive and capable of handling most apps and games with ease. With a nod to younger users, the great Angry Birds Lite game is pre-installed and you can download thousands of games and apps via the Nokia Store.
It’s worth noting that the Asha 300 doesn’t come with Wi-Fi, however, so you will be restricted to your service provider for connecting to the web. We’d suggest installing apps by using Nokia Suite software on your PC instead, as this will be more cost effective.
The 5-Megapixel camera on the rear of the chassis is quite impressive for a phone in this price range, as it allows you to take images up to 2592 x 1944 pixels in size. You can also record video at 30 frames per second, albeit at a low VGA resolution of 640 x 480 pixels. The downside of this camera, however, is that it doesn’t incorporate a flash, so you are restricted to using it outdoors or in well-lit rooms in order to get the best results.
With no dedicated camera button, you have to use the onscreen camera icon when taking snaps, but we found this makes it very easy to use. We were also surprised with the quality of images, which proved much better than the budget roots of this phone would suggest.
There is only 140MB of internal storage, but a MicroSD card slot lets you add up to 32GB of additional storage. The slot is neatly tucked away under the rear cover, on the side of the phone rather than under the battery, so you can easily add or remove cards, without having to first switch the phone off.
As this isn’t a smartphone device, call quality and battery life have been given priority and happily we weren’t disappointed on either score. There is a clear, loud and vibrant speaker on the rear and we found call quality to always be more than acceptable.
One of the great values of Series 40 phones has always been the excellent battery life they offer. This is also very much the case with this handset. Nokia claims up to 597 hours – almost 25 days – of standby time and up to 6.9 hours of talk time. During testing we found these results accurate in everyday use.
Easily hitting a great halfway point between the most affordable dumb-phones and Nokia’s own Lumia Windows Phone handsets, the Asha 300 packs all the average user will need into a sleek and lightweight design. And with its excellent usability, incredibly low price and handy social networking features, it’s a very good deal and easy to recommend.
The Nokia Asha 300 isn’t going to change Nokia’s fortunes and in many ways it’s a step down from its predecessor, the Nokia C3-01. However, with a considerably cheaper price tag than that phone, not to mention its great usability, eye-catching design and excellent call quality, the Asha 300 offers great features to those on a tight budget. And to that end, there are few feature-phones that can beat it.