Asha series of Nokia feature phones was launched yesteryear during Nokia World 2011 and Asha 303 was the top of the tier phone back then. Today also it holds the ground, at least it tries to. Price wise it’s trying to challenge cheap droids which are in big quantities these days. Spec wise, Asha 303 is one of the first Nokia feature phone which uses 1GHz processor. Touch-and-type is added benefit there. Whether having 1GHz processor is enough in this competing world or not, we’ll see as we move ahead.
In-box contents & Design:
The Asha 303 comes in compact packaging. As soon as you open it, you have nice looking phone. Other contents are headsets and a charger. Asha 303 also comes with 2GB microSD card pre-loaded into the phone. Sadly there’s isn’t data cable, so you’ll obviously need to buy it separately. Maybe the reason to not to include it was keeping prices low but w’d have liked to see charger cum data cable solution since Asha 303 is capable of charging off the USB port.
Design wise Asha 303 is a neatly designed phone. On the front there’s a 2.6” display with QVGA resolution. For this display size Nokia could consider better resolution. Smaller resolution translates into lower ‘ppi’ count thus less sharpness and lesser data fits on screen. Above the display there’s an ambient light sensor and earpiece grill. Right below the display there are four glossy buttons, mind you, they are not touch sensitive. First is make call, second one is the shortcut to messaging, third launches the music player and fourth ends your calls. There is a black frame around the display, which along with the display, is slightly raised than keypad so they are not on the same level. On the top there is a 3.5mm jack, a microUSB port and a charger slot.
Left side has nothing but a lanyard socket. Volume rocker and keyguard switch is on right side of the Asha 303.
The back of the phone is made up of steel like its E-series counterparts. This gives the phone a very classy look and feel. The back cover doesn’t seat tight in its place, maybe due to the small spongy packing between the battery and the cover. It makes annoying sound when pressed. Above the cover there’s 3.2 MP camera without any kind of flash. The Asha 303 comes with a really loud loudspeaker which makes sure that you don’t miss your calls even if it’s in bag. Under the cover there’s 1300 mAh battery. Under the battery there’s SIM card slot and unfortunately memory card slot is also under the battery, so no hot swapping on Asha 303 which is somewhat of inconvenience.
But ergonomics are somewhat bad than what they should be. Asha 303 is a ‘touch-and-type’ creature in candybar form factor. QWERTY keypads on E-series phones always offered great ergonomics and satisfaction. But on Asha 303 it’s nothing better than disappointment. Keys are too small for any finger size, they are almost cramped up. There’s no space between any two keys. Due to its design, keys in top row are somewhat hard to access properly. Even C3 had big and spacious keys.
When using keyboard, people will tend use it with both the hands and rest the phone on their fingers. Now here’s the problem. When you’re holding the device with both your hands, your fingers which are supporting the phone, will feel the sharp bottom edge of the phone. In prolonged use it’ll be more irritating. That’s our only grudge against the design of Asha 303. Rest is all fine.
Asha S40: Old wine in new bottle
S40 has always been Nokia’s OS of choice for low end devices. S40 has been improving over the years but it has own shortcoming which are hard to ignore especially when Asha 303 has to comepete with budget Androids in its segment. The major issue with S40 is that it still doesn’t have multi-tasking. The target audience of Asha 303 may not be all geeks but there are people who like simplicity of Nokia phones they are used to. To them it may not matter that much but after so many iterations and when it’s in touch form, we’d expect it come with at least pseudo multi-tasking. At Asha 303 price point all droids in market come with multi-tasking. Another thing we noticed is that the S40 which was famous for its simplicity has become little complex to use. We’ll talk about it in details later. There are surely few usability improvements and with 1GHz processor it all feels faster.
There are widgets on homescreen, use of swipe gestures (only on homescreen) make it a better package. Starting from the homescreens, there’s just one homescreen by the way and there are five widget slots. You can fill up all of them from the list of available widgets or keep nothing on the homescreen. Homescreen also uses swipe gestures to launch apps. It works only in left and right directions. There’s on-screen dialer also available from homescreen and you can also use QWERTY keypad to dial a number. Sadly there isn’t smart dialing available but to ease the situation little bit there’s speed dial.
The top row has network, battery indicators, clock and also displays new notifications including notifications for WhatsApp messages. You can always quickly change the active profile by just tapping on ‘Profile’ button at right top corner, below the clock. There are total seven profile options available, out of them you four are preset profiles and one is Flight mode profile. You can’t create new profile or delete the existing ones but there’re two profile sets for you to customize. As usual there’s ‘Go To’ option available which lets you have shortcuts for nine apps. You can always modify the options. You can also launch contacts using onscreen right soft key.
Main menu on Asha 303 is mostly unchanged from previous iterations. There are preset app icons. You can’t re-arrange them or add new shortcuts to main menu. You can only change the layout of the main menu, from grid to list and vice versa.