Nokia launches $99 Asha phone, reveals new OS

Nokia unveils the dual-SIM Asha 501 device powered by an updated Asha OS featuring software capabilities from Smarterphone, which allows developers to create smartphone-like apps on feature phones.
Written by Mahesh Sharma, Correspondent

Nokia on Thursday announced its US$99 Asha 501 mobile device, which will be powered by a refreshed Asha operating system (OS) featuring software capabilities from Smarterphone.

In a statement released today, Nokia announced the new dual-SIM Asha 501 and its new Asha OS with capabilities from the Norwegian mobile OS developer Smarterphone, which the Finnish phonemaker bought in January 2012. It also claims the phone has a battery standby time of up to 48 days.
nokia asha w headphones
The new Fastlane skin shows users their last-used social media tool or apps. (Credit: Nokia)
The key feature of the new software is its ability for users to swipe between two screens: the traditional home screen to launch apps and phone functions, and the "Fastlane" skin, which lists recently accessed contacts, social networks, and apps, it said. Smarterphone develops an OS which runs smarter, smartphone-like apps on feature phones.
"The new Asha platform provides developers with an open, standards-based environment for creating quality apps for consumers. Developers can create apps for the Nokia Asha 501 that will be compatible with future Asha platform-based devices," Nokia stated.
The new Asha OS is a departure from the previous iteration which was based on Nokia's Series 40 operating system.
The OS refresh is timely, given that the company revealed a 46-percent quarter-on-quarter decline of its Asha device sales to 5 million units in its first quarter results. The company shipped 9.3 million Asha devices in the previous quarter. It said the figures reflect "intense competitive industry dynamics as well as lower seasonal demand".

Collaboration with Facebook, telcos

Beyond the OS update, Asha 501 owners who are also Airtel subscribers in India or Africa will be able to access Facebook--whether via the app or browser--without additional data charges. This service will be available for a limited time after its launch, it noted.
Other popular applications which are already available on the platform or in the development pipeline include Twitter, Tencent's WeChat, and games from Electronic Arts and Gameloft, the company added.
However, popular messaging tool WhatsApp was not available at launch. Nokia said a maps application will only be launched in the third quarter.
From June, consumers can buy the phone, which will be available in six colours, from 60 operators and distributors in more than 90 countries.
Besides Airtel in India, Indonesia's Telkomsel is another Asia-Pacific operator which has committed to bring the phone to market, the company stated. The operator will promote its Asha data plan which offers subscribers up to 500MB of data use as well as 60 minutes of talk time and 60 SMSes. It will also provide a one-month free data plan for Asha 501 users, according to Nokia.
Editorial standards