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.
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.