Nokia Asha 230 is Nokia's cheapest yet (hands-on)

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/ Updated: February 24, 2014 5:27 AM PST

BARCELONA, Spain -- Of the new Nokia phones announced at Mobile World Congress, the Nokia Asha 230 is the only one to run the company's Asha mobile platform.

Although this is a decidedly entry-level Asha "smartphone," the 230 carries over the same apps that you'll see on other Asha phones, such as the unique-looking 503. It also uses the same two-screen layout that includes an apps home screen and the Fastlane display.

Physically, the Asha 230 looks a little different than past designs. It's squarer than we're used to seeing, and it feels proportionately wide in the hand. Rounded corners are common in phones, but matched with the phone's shape, it comes across looking bubbled and "cute" to the eye.

The Asha 230 comes in the screaming colors we now associate with Nokia. I saw it first in vibrant green, and dang, it'll get you noticed. You can also pick it up in yellow, red, cyan, white, and black.

As a budget device, the trade-off between pricing and features is apparent the moment you cast your eyes on the phone's 2.8-inch, 320x240-pixel screen. It looks low-res right off the bat, with fuzzy icons.

The 230's price/performance hot-potato is also apparent in the 1.3-megapixel camera that Nokia chose, which has an even lower resolution than the 2-megapixel shooter used on the far simpler Nokia 220 cell phone. At this image resolution, casually sharing photos online will be the best use for pictures taken on this phone.

Device storage is 4GB, but you can expand it by up to 32GB more through the microSD card slot. For some markets, Nokia will even throw in an extra SIM card slot, for a dual-SIM device.

As a bonus, the 230 will launch with Nokia's new Asha 1.4 software update, which integrates Twitter messages into the Fastlane stream, adds Nokia's Mix Radio service for Pandora-like music complications, and helps you navigate the treacherous world of selfies by listening to your voice guidance on how to center your shot. This last feature may be new to the Asha series as a whole, but it made its debut on the Asha 301, which launched at MWC last year.

By the way, other Asha phones will get the software bump sometime in April.

CNET's full coverage of Mobile World Congress

Nokia also underscores its relationship with Microsoft and its ecosystem by way of Microsoft OneDrive integration in the Asha 230. As a reminder, OneDrive was until very recently known as SkyDrive and nets the phone owner 7GB of free cloud storage.

The Asha 230 retails for 45 Euros ($60, £37) and will start selling almost immediately, hitting its first global markets in the first week of March. Because of its squatter dimensions and lower-end specs (like that hazy resolution), the 230 already isn't my favorite Asha phone -- not by a long shot. Yet, it is a sturdy-feeling device, and the Asha 230's price isn't just competitive, it's aggressive.

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Nokia Asha 230

Part Number: ASHA230
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