Nokia Asha 503 Review

Nokia Asha 503

Nokia Asha 503

Nokia

October, 2013
3.0" display, 5 MP primary camera, 1200 mAh battery, Corning Gorilla Glass.
EUR:€90
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Nokia Asha 503 Review

Nokia Asha 503 Review


Introduction

The Nokia Asha essentially is a slightly revamped version of the Asha 501 which was released this spring. The phone will likely get the most face time in emerging markets, all because of its smartphone like features and of course its affordable price tag. The Nokia Asha 503 is an affordable feature rich phone that comes in different vibrant colorful tones that most likely grab the attention of young customers. The phone definitely is aiming for the younger crowds. This is apparent from its features and display and design features as well such as its transparent glossy case which actually is a unique glass like outer coating that gives the impression as if the phone is in glossy case.

The Asha 503 comes in a dual and single SIM models so that you can choose which model you would prefer. For a quick sum up, the Asha 503 builds up on the blocky design and the colors of the Asha 501 but it adds in 3G connectivity. Plus, it boosts a more powerful and capable mega pixel camera.

The new Asha is no more different than the Asha 501 on its outer side with the only giant exception, and that is, the Asha 503 features a box like layer of transparent polycarbonate that surrounds the standard colored casing. This design technique is pretty much fresh and we have not seen this much before. The purpose of this extra layer is to prevent the regular casing of the phone from wear and tear and also to keep it from lose its color over time.

Because of its design, you can expect the new Asha to be a bit bulky as compared to its predecessor. Anyways, let’s find out more about its internal and to find out whether its features are enough to justify that you should buy this phone or not.

Unboxing the Nokia Asha 503

While unboxing the Nokia Asha 503, you will get everything inside the retail box that you need to get started with this phone.

  • The Nokia Asha 503
  • Wall Charger
  • Headphones
  • A 4GB microSD card already inserted in the memory slot
  • User Manual

Note: There is no data cable in the box, so if you want to use the Mass Storage or want to do some synching with your computer then you will need to provide one by your own.

Design

Design wise, the phone comes as a trendy one as its design is pretty unique mainly because of a translucent glass like coating that covers its vibrant colors without hiding them. The hard coating of the Asha 503 gives the phone a sense of rigidity and contributes to unique visuals. The vibrant colors the Asha 503 comes in are red, green, yellow, cyan, white and black.

Like other Asha phones, the new Asha 503 is also small as well as compact. Its small size suggests that you will have a smaller display. It also means that the phone can easily fit in your pocket and you can handle it quite easily with one hand. It’s a bit larger and thicker than the preceding Asha 501, but the difference is small.

The fact is that the phone is a bit chubby but because of its compact size, this would not be really much of an issue. The handset is solidly put together and it feels like you are holding something that will withstand the test of time and elements. Although, the phone is not dust protected or water protected in any way.

The phone features a single capacitive ‘Back’ button that is present right below the display and it works in a predictable manner i.e. it takes you back one step at a time. While all the other navigation happens quite conveniently via swipes. Moreover, there also is a clickable and easy to press lock key as well as a volume rocker at the right side.

Display

With a 3 inch capacitive LCD display which is covered with protective Gorilla Glass, the phone supports 262 thousand colors which is not what we are used to seeing on many smartphones these days. This result in less smooth color transition, though, it does not make sense talking about color accuracy for such an affordable device. Moreover, the resolution is also very low i.e. 240 x 320 pixel which boils down to around 133ppi. This low resolution makes images to appear pixelated and dull.

Colors are not true, they are way off in several occasions with a bluish tint, and contrast is also limited. Its viewing angles are less than stellar. Images wash out quite significantly at an angle and completely at more extreme angles.

Though, the screen is reasonably bright for an LCD but its brightness is way below the average which makes it difficult to use the screen outdoor.

Interface and Functionality

The new Asha 503 comes with a new Asha software platform which is way more improved and modernized than the previous ones. It comes with a hugely swipe dominated interface that looks interesting to operate. The new platform of the Asha 503 is a stripped back and raw version of the now deceased MeeGo platform the Nokia N9 has used.

We start reviewing the interface section by making it clear that although Nokia calls these new Asha devices ‘Smartphones’, but you should keep in mind that the operating system used in these so called smartphone devices is very basic. Thus, it would be fairer to call these devices as ‘Feature phones’ rather than smartphones.

Talking about the apps that you will find on the Asha 503, we can only say that though the device has many apps but their quality and functionality is not on par with basic smartphones running on Android or Windows Phone OS. By this, we mean that you will not get a full-fledged collection of apps on Asha 503 rather only very basic ones which are hugely limited when it comes to their functionality.

On the homepage of the Asha 503, you will find a vertically scrolling page of apps, and by default, you will have access to all the stock apps along with any extra apps installed on the device. The list of default apps includes a built-in mail client, music, gallery, calendar, internet browser, Facebook, Twitter, and most importantly the most popular IM client WhatsApp is now available on Asha as well.

As an optional download, Nokia also offers a free HERE Maps app with navigational direction and a nice search, but then again when compared with other similar solutions on smartphones, you will find it on a bit slow side. And since the device lacks in GPS, positioning is not very accurate. Apart from that, basic features like alarms, clocks, calendar and calculator come pre-installed. Plus, there is a file browser that will come handy when you utilize the maximum 32GB of external storage.

The device uses swipe gestures to navigate around the new fast lane interface. The swipe gestures can be divided into two panels: one is app drawer and the other is a vertically scrolling list of recently opened apps. A simple swipe left or right from the edge of the display will return you to the home screen. It is a very convenient way and you get used to it very quickly. Moreover, when swiping from the top a notification dropdown will appear with quick toggles for switching between most often used settings. These include Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. In addition, there is also a contextual swipe from the bottom that brings all the relevant options for that particular application and it works in most apps. On the other hand, swiping from the bottom from the locked screen launches the camera pretty quickly.

There is one more tactic Nokia has used for improved battery savings, and this is the use of its ‘Glance Screen’ feature that enables you see the time right from the locked screen without requiring you to unlock the phone and fire up the energy hungry display.

The device comes with a very snappy and convenient on screen keyboard despite being a very tiny device. You can type easily and accurately even in portrait mode. It is a full QWERTY keyboard and a joy for the heavy texters.

Processor and Memory

When compared with even the cheapest smartphones, the Asha 503 comes as a hugely underpowered phone. Despite the fact that the Asha software platform has been optimized for such devices, it unfortunately still feels slow. Navigating around the menu in most cases is pretty smooth but it skips frames and thereby looks very choppy, be it because of the poor screen optimization or some other reasons. The slow processing is very noticeable when you are trying to open apps or images.

Nokia does not reveal any details about the processor used in the Asha 503, but chances are that we are looking at a 1GHz single core ARM11-based processor. Apart from that the device also features 128MB of RAM which is way lesser than found on many Android phones at the same price point.

The Asha 503 comes with around 170MB of user available internet storage space which is way smaller but luckily you can expand it via microSD cards of up to 32GB. Not to mention that the phone is shipped with a 4GB card already inserted in the memory slot.

Internet and Connectivity

The device comes with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, though it lacks GPS. The Asha 503 also brings 3G connectivity to the series which is a good move as its predecessor Asha 501 was limited to 2GB, therefore, the jump to 3G with 7.2Mbps downlinks speed is something that should be appreciated. On the other hand, the limited functionality of the device along with the small and somewhat unresponsive screen make it too difficult to put those faster speeds to good use, alas!

The Nokia Xpress browser lets you access the web, though it is neither faster nor enjoyable yet usable. The browser is unable to render web pages properly resulting in often broken formatting. Furthermore, zooming in does not have different level which means that its zoom in function only allows for fully zoomed out or up-close look. Scrolling web pages happens with an annoying delay especially those web pages which are not optimized for mobile platforms. Readability is also very low you will have hard time reading the text because of low resolution. Having said that, the browser is still usable but its slow and frustrating behavior convinces you to use it only at the time of need.

Camera

The phone features a 5 mega pixel rear fixed focus camera only. There is no front facing camera. The camera is capable of capturing images of up to 2592 x 1944 resolution. There is a tiny LED flash to help you in low-light conditions as well. The camera interface is easy to use and simple though it is a bit slow to open but very neatly optimized. Tap anywhere to take a picture, and tap and hold to bring the advanced options. Furthermore, swiping changes the shooting modes form still to video to the gallery. Additional settings include setting flash on or off, adjusting white balance, self-timer, live effects and shutter speed. Image resolution can also be changed with a choice between 5MP, 3MP, 2MP, 1MP and VGA. Though, the finer settings that you can find in many other smartphones are unavailable here.

The quality of the images captured with Asha 503 is acceptable, though not great. The camera captures anything of importance but will not provide you with much quality. The colors are pleasing and natural. There is enough resolved detail but white balance is often quite off. Noise reduction is very harsh on many occasions and purple fringing is noticeable.

Video Quality

Video recorded with the Asha 503 are very much disappointing with very mediocre details. The phone is capable of recording 480 x 320 pixel footage with a framerate of 19fps but you can pump that up to 640 x 480 pixels. The device is way out of its depth when it comes to video recording.

Multimedia

The device, being a very small 3” phone, can still be used to play back videos since it supports all the common formats and video codecs. The videos can be played with no stutter at the native 24 x 320 pixel resolution. Playing back your favorite music on the Asha 503 also is a fun with its basic music player and a microSD card you can store loads of your favorite songs and listen on the go.

The interface of the music player is very neat and easy to use and it starts up with album art on top of the available sorting options which are songs, albums, artists and playlist. No other additional settings are available. The song will keep playing even if you exit the player - you get a shortcut in the Fastlane and on the lockscreen with play-pause-skip controls readily available.

The Asha 503 features a stereo FM radio with RDS with a neat and simple interface. Changing the stations can be done via dedicated controls on both sides of the centered tool for manual station tuning. Same like the music player, the FM Radio keeps playing even if you exit the app and a shortcut will appear in the fastlane and on the locked screen.

Call Quality

The call quality of the Asha 503 is very clear. The voice is clear enough and loud that both the parties can hear each other without any difficulty. Your caller can easily recognize the natural tone of your voice.

Battery life

The phone is shipped with a 1200mAh battery, which in size has not altered from its predecessor Asha 501 but its real longevity has truly dropped down to the average 12 hours on 2G and merely 4.5 hours on 3G. On the other hand, its stand-by time is truly excellent. The company quoted 35 days maximum standby time that appears to be nothing short of a miracle. But the more realistic 4.5 hours of maximum talk time seems to be a better representation. Nevertheless, the phone is aimed at the people who would use it less often and can enjoy an excellent stand-by time. This may translates into a perception of a great battery life. This phone would be an ideal choice for those who go for long hiking and traveling where they can hardly have a chance to charge the battery.

Moreover, there is no battery saving setting or app, and neither does it have any app management feature. One app can be opened at a time with this the phone tries to use the least possible amount of energy.

Should I Buy the Nokia Asha 503?

Undoubtedly, the Nokia Asha 503 is an affordable mobile phone with all the features you will need but there are loads of other smartphone options that offer much more than what Asha 503 offer for the same price. The device has to meet fierce rivalry by more affordable Android phones with many more advanced features, from both well-established international manufacturers as well as new Chinese phone companies that are now selling their products in the mainstream outlets. You can find much better options for the same price.

On the other hand, the phone can run for several days without the need of charge, which is a very good feature for those who need to be away from a power outlet for longer period of time. Plus, its colorful design and unique style along with a decent 5 mega pixel camera is a plus point. Moreover, the device certainly is very easy to use. It is something that you can pick and start operating without needing to read the instruction. It is so simple that old or young and experienced or inexperienced both can handle very easily. Navigation is made so easy that even a new user can easily navigate around without any stress. But again a phone of this caliber should cost way lesser because in this day and age, there are much more advanced options are available at the same price.