Feature phones don't grace our pages too often, but when Nokia said it had a new Asha to show us, we thought we'd go take a look. We've been following the Asha range since it launched a little more than a year ago, but we were also interested to see Nokia Slam in action, a new Bluetooth quick-sharing feature with Android compatibility. There were no touchscreens in sight as we were introduced to the Asha 205 -- a Series 40 QWERTY handset with a social angle aimed primarily at emerging markets, but also at those who either don't have the cash or the need for a top-of-the-range device. Bearing that in mind, we gave the phone a brief once over, looking at what it does for roughly $62 (excluding taxes, etc.), rather than what it lacks compared with smartphones at higher price points. During the meeting we also glanced over the Nokia 206, which shares many of the same features but isn't part of the Asha family due to its numpad input (see the video and gallery for more details). Head past the break for our thoughts on the Asha 205, and a demo of Nokia Slam in action.
The new Asha handset is a 2G only affair, with single- and dual-SIM variants -- the latter having an EasySwap port for access to the second SIM without removing the battery. It comes pre-loaded with a selection of native social networking apps: Facebook, Twitter and eBuddy messenger, as well as WhatsApp on the single-SIM versions. A catalogue of 40 EA games are also included, as long as you remember to download them within 60 days of your purchase, in which case you'll probably also want to upgrade the microSD card in there (up to 32GB supported) so you've got enough space left for other things.
Navigating the menus wasn't a hassle with the circular D-pad, and although apps weren't booting instantly, you couldn't call the user experience slow or at all frustrating. We paid special attention to the native Twitter client and couldn't find much lacking, as it appeared to be identical in function to any smartphone version. Nokia tried to make everything on the phone as data efficient as possible, and this can be seen in the light social apps and Xpress cloud-compression browser, which worked well in testing. It was surprising quick to load pages on the 2G connection, and the benefits of that compression were apparent when pointing to full desktop sites. So, if you don't have a plan and pay for every MB you use, all things have been considered to avoid bill shock scenarios.
So, what about the hardware? Well, the Asha 205 QWERTY device is definitely targeting the more social user, with a dedicated Facebook button nestled to the left of the D-pad. While the keyboard didn't have the super-efficient feel of a BlackBerry, the keys were responsive and well spaced. The 2.4-inch landscape screen leaves a little to be desired -- we'd like a few more pixels than the QVGA resolution provides -- but the color reproduction was adequate, and onscreen elements seemed appropriately scaled to make best use of the display. Nokia showed us the white / orange and black / cyan versions, but they spared us the pink / magenta scheme which will also be available. There wasn't much else of note aesthetically -- the charging and headphone ports are along the top edge, and on the back lives a fairly feeble VGA camera next to some breathing holes for the speaker. Despite being all plastic and fairly light in hand, it had the 'solid' feeling we're used too with Nokia, so we reckon it can take a hit or two. And, behind the richly colored plastic lies a battery capable of up to 37 days on standby, something smartphones could only dream of, and perfect for places where power isn't abundant.
A new feature is debuting with Asha 205 (and the 206), called Nokia Slam. Like a more aggressive version of bump, Slam is for quick-sharing media via Bluetooth (up to the 2.1 + EDR standard), based on proximity and without the need for pairing. You don't have to crash phones together though, as all that's required is for the receiving device to accept the transfer. It worked as described, and interestingly, it's compatible with Android phones -- no app or special settings required. Nokia is endeavoring to get Windows Phone 8 to cooperate, but at the moment, the new Lumia devices can't solicit Slam requests. Check out our quick demo of the feature and Android compatibility below.
The Asha 205 is officially launching today, and will be hitting retailers worldwide before the end of the year for approximately $62 before taxes, etc. The handset didn't bring anything spectacular to the table, but it wasn't really expected to. It stays true to Nokia's no-nonsense, sturdy built quality, and considering it's essentially a dumbphone, internet use and social networking hasn't been neglected. So, if you or someone you know is in the market for a connected feature phone without smartphone credentials, Nokia's new QWERTY number might be worth eyeing up -- as long as the choice of colors hasn't put you off already.
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Nokia introduces 'Slam' on the new Nokia Asha 205 and Nokia 206
Nokia Asha 205 is the ultimate social phone, with a QWERTY keyboard and new Facebook button
Nokia 206 delivers bold color and impressive 47 days of standby time
Nokia launches Slam – an exclusive new service that enables fast content sharing
Espoo, Finland – Nokia today unveiled two new devices in its Mobile Phones portfolio, designed for offering consumers great Internet experiences at affordable price points. The Nokia Asha 205 and Nokia 206 are both available in single SIM or dual SIM versions and give people innovative ways to access social features and share their favorite content. Both devices reflect Nokia's heritage by combining world-class design and long-lasting battery life.
Introducing Slam for fast, in the moment content-sharing
The Nokia Asha 205 and Nokia 206 are the first Mobile Phones devices to include Nokia's exclusive Slam feature. Slam allows consumers to share multimedia content like photos, music and videos with nearby friends almost instantly. Slam works with most Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones without the need to pair devices, and without the recipient needing to also have Slam*. In just a few clicks, people can 'Slam' their content to another device faster than with Bluetooth alone and without consuming Internet data.
"The latest Nokia devices give super-social consumers new ways to express their personalities through design, color and innovative new features like Slam," explains Timo Toikkanen, executive vice president, Mobile Phones, Nokia. "Both devices are built with the trust and quality people have come to expect from Nokia, and offer smarter Internet experiences that help save money today and tomorrow."
Nokia Asha 205: the ultimate social phone
The expressive Nokia Asha 205 has a pleasingly tactile QWERTY keyboard. It also introduces a new, dedicated Facebook button, making it the perfect device for social people who want the fastest access to their Facebook profile. Combined with eBuddy Chat, Twitter and support for popular email accounts such as Gmail, the Nokia Asha 205 is designed to allow that people are never more than a few clicks away from their social networks.
Other key features of the Nokia Asha 205 include:
eBuddy screen notifications that keep users up-to-the-minute on new conversations
The free Nokia Life+ web app, including the Life Skills and Live Healthy services
A comprehensive mobile entertainment package, including 40 free EA Games available for download, along with tens of thousands of other apps available from the Nokia Store
Single SIM and dual SIM models featuring Nokia's exclusive EasySwap technology that enables consumers to change SIM cards without having to turn off the device
Great standby time: up to 37 days with single SIM and up to 25 days with dual SIM
The Nokia Asha 205 is available in Cyan, Magenta and Orange. The estimated retail price for the Nokia Asha 205 is around 62 USD and it is expected to start shipping in the fourth quarter of 2012.
Nokia 206: beautifully bold Internet
The Nokia 206 features a classic alphanumeric keypad and a generous 2.4" display, giving ample room to surf the Internet, play games, or chat with friends. People can also enjoy fast access to Facebook and Twitter right from the home screen. Featuring a vibrant color palette including Cyan, Magenta and Yellow, the Nokia 206 is the ideal phone for those who want familiarity and ease of use, coupled with beautiful design and all the benefits of the mobile Internet.
Other key features of the Nokia 206 include:
Imaging technology that optimizes photos taken with the 1.3MP camera for sharing on Facebook
A comprehensive social and mobile entertainment package with eBuddy Chat, WhatsApp** and a gift pack of 10 free, premium content items
Single SIM and dual SIM models with the exclusive EasySwap technology that enables consumers to change SIM cards without having to turn off the device
Impressive standby time: up to 47 days with single SIM and up to 28 days with dual SIM
The estimated retail price for the Nokia 206 is around 62 USD and it is expected to start shipping in the fourth quarter of 2012.
The new devices take full advantage of the Nokia Xpress Internet platform, which uses Nokia's cloud technology to reduce data consumption by up to 90%, helping consumers enjoy more affordable Internet access. They also feature Nokia Nearby, a web app that helps consumers discover points of interest such as restaurants, shopping and ATM machines close to their location.
*Slam currently not compatible with iOS and Windows Phone devices
**Available on single SIM variants only