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First Look: The bright budget Nokia Asha 501

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First Look: The bright budget Nokia Asha 501

2:56 /

Nokia is corning the low-end market with a brightly colored $99 touchscreen feature phone.

This tiny phone makes a bold statement with its bright color choices. Hi, I'm Sarah Mitroff with CNET, taking a first look at the Nokia Asha 501. Let's get one thing straight. This is a budget phone for emerging markets like Latin America and India. The phone is only $99, so you shouldn't expect it to have any high-end specs. The first thing you notice about the Asha 501 is its bright color. The phone comes in six colors-- this neon red-orange you see here, or yellow, green, blue, black, and white. As you can see, the 501 is tiny. It's small enough to rest even in my petite hands, and it's easy to grip. The polycarbonate back cover is soft to the touch and wraps around the edges of the phone, giving it a sturdy feel. One of my biggest gripes about the Asha 501 is that the back cover is a hassle to remove. You have to push down on the small cut-out and gently pry the cover away from the rest of the phone-- not an easy feat for anyone with large hands. Behind that cover, you'll find a micro-SD card slot, removable battery, and SIM card slot. Along the right side of the phone, there's a slim volume rocker and power/lock button. At the top, there's a headphone jack, mirco-USB port, and proprietary charging port. On the front of the Asha 501, there is only one button. If you press it once, it goes back one step in an app or website; if you hold it down, it takes you back to the phone's Home screen. The Nokia Asha 501 sports a 3-inch 320x240 resolution touch screen display-- which looks dated even compared to today's low-end smartphones. Colors look muted, and the screen looks dim even at full brightness. Moving around the phone is easy, but some touch controls, like swiping to unlock the phone, aren't as responsive. The Asha 501 is running Nokia's Asha Operating System; it comes pre-loaded with Facebook and Twitter, plus a custom Nokia browser and several games. There's also an app store with other well-known titles including LinkedIn and FourSquare, but it's not as robust to Google Play or the Apple app store. There are two Home screens on the Asha 501, one with the list of every app on the phone, and one called Fastlane. Fastlane shows reminders, notifications, plus a list of recently opened apps. If you swipe down from the top of the screen, a notification bar appears with controls to toggle WiFi, data, sound, and Bluetooth. The Asha 501 has an unimpressive 3-megapixel camera on the back. Photos and video come out looking grainy and over-exposed. Performance-wise, the Asha 501 is actually faster than I thought it would be, even with only 64 megabytes of RAM. The phone can only handle 2G data connections, but in our test, it loaded mobile-optimized web pages quickly. You can read my full review of the phone on CNET.com. I'm Sarah Mitroff, and this has been a first take of the Nokia Asha 501.

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