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Nokia Asha 306 review: Nokia Asha 306

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The Good 40 EA games can be freely downloaded.

The Bad No 3G; Series 40 operating system is laggy, cryptic and error prone; Small low-res screen; Terrible camera; Less extensive app choice than Android.

The Bottom Line With the old Series 40 software on board, the Nokia Asha 306 is already a smart phone with usability strings attached. But it's biggest shortcoming is no 3G, which throttles speeds when you're not able to use Wi-Fi. It's also nowhere near cheap enough to rival a budget Android. Avoid like the plague.

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1.5 Overall

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Nokia reserves the razzle-dazzle for its Windows Phone-powered Lumia handsets, but the once Mighty Finn is still plugging away selling a cheaper range of Asha phones, based on its old-as-the-hills Series 40 software.

Asha phones are mostly aimed at buyers in developing countries such as India, but Nokia's also selling select models here in the UK in the hope of wooing you away from budget Google Android handsets.

They can be described as smart phones with usability strings attached. Yes, you can download apps but don't expect this software to be as slick and easy to use as an Android or iOS device.

The Asha 306 has a low price -- currently it's up for grabs SIM-free for £80 via Expansys -- but is it worth even that modest amount of cash?

Should I buy the Asha 306?

In a word, no. The 306 is Nokia's second all-touchscreen Asha offered in the UK, along with the Asha 311. But unlike the latter device it lacks 3G, which kills its usefulness for web browsing when out and about.

There's no sensible reason to buy the 306. Even if money's tight, you're spoiled for choice with so many capable budget Androids up for grabs. This smorgasbord of cheap 'droids means you can bag something far tastier such as the T-Mobile Vivacity, which packs 3G, apps galore and puts simple-to-use software under your fingertips for the same (and even less) cash.

Buying the 306 saddles you with a frustrating, flaky operating system, a cramped low-res screen and crawlingly slow web browsing when not tethered to Wi-Fi. It's like taking 10 steps backwards into the olden days of mobile.

If you're eyeing the 306 as a back-up blower to use in emergencies when your main phone goes kaput, it's still not worth your while as there are more affordable alternatives -- such as Nokia's even cheaper Asha 201 -- to stick in your drawer.

Screen, design and build quality

The 306 is a small, plasticky candybar-shaped handset with a narrow 3-inch touchscreen on its face. The display is very low res at 240x400 pixels -- so it looks hazy and lacks crispness, while the touchscreen feels dull rather than responsive. I found I needed to press firmly to get my fingers to register.

Nokia Asha 306
The 306's 3-inch touchscreen doesn't offer much space for your fingers to frolic on.

From the front, the phone is all angular edges, as if someone has grabbed a knife and sliced random bits off. Mixed in with the chopped lines are swoops and curves -- especially on the sides and back. There's also a mix of shiny and matte plastic surfaces. The result is a hodge-podge of angles, curves and annoying reflections.

Build quality feels rigid, despite all the plastic, though it's possible you may hear a creak or two if you squeeze the phone really hard.

There are four physical keys on the 306 -- two call buttons on the front incorporated into one long button (the decline call key also doubles as the power key), and a lock key and volume rocker on the right edge.

Ports wise you get a 3.5mm headphone jack, Nokia's proprietary charger port and micro-USB port on the top of the phone (for easily transferring files to and from a PC), and also a microSD card slot handily sited on the left edge of the exterior, underneath a little plastic flap. I found it really hard to get cards out of this though, so you may need to keep a pair of tweezers handy if you plan on doing a lot of card swapping.

The 306's backplate can be removed to get at the 1,110mAh battery and, tucked underneath it, the SIM slot.

Nokia reckons you can get up to 14 hours of talk time from the 306's cell, and up to 400 hours on standby. I found the phone would easily last a day's general use and even longer before needing to be juiced.

Software and apps

The Asha 306 runs Nokia's Series 40 operating system. It's a very old OS that's had a spit and polish to improve usability. Swipe to get past the lock screen and you land on a scrollable screen of friendly-looking rounded icons showing you all the apps on the phone.

Scroll up and down to view apps, or swipe right to get direct to a dialler screen or left to get to another home screen, which you can customise with your favourite apps and contacts to make them easier to access.

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