Nokia Asha 501 is an £80 phone that now runs WhatsApp

Nokia's updated its bargain-basement Asha 501 phone so it can now run the super-popular IM app. It's now one of the cheapest phones that can.

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Nick manages CNET's advice copy desk from Springfield, Virginia. He's worked at CNET since 2005.
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If you're looking for a super-cheap phone that can run WhatsApp, the spectacularly popular instant messaging app, Nokia's Asha 501 could be the very fellow for you.

A new update to Nokia's budget blower has given its interface a lick of paint and enabled more sophisticated apps, including the IM giant.

Here's what the new app looks like:

The Asha 501 is £80 SIM-free from most reputable phone sellers. You can find Android phones for less, which will technically run WhatsApp and lots more, but I wouldn't necessarily advise it.

Budget manufacturers such as Alcatel will flog you an Android for £70 or so, and older smart phones from more reputable companies such as Samsung can be found for even less. But today's apps are designed to work on today's phones, and underpowered old blowers can chug and crash when presented with the latest software, even relatively simple apps like WhatsApp.

Nokia's Asha range uses software descended from the old Symbian system. It's designed to be simple to use, but doesn't have the customisability or millions of apps on Android. It's totally controlled by Nokia, which means it's more stable and secure than the experience you get on really cheap Android phones, and its hardware has Nokia's trademark build quality and gorgeous colours.

For a usable Android experience at roughly the same price, the Huawei Ascend Y300 is a surprisingly good effort, but you'll hardly fit any apps in its meagre built-in storage.

Having said all that, we haven't tried the Asha 501 since its update, so if you're considering buying it, make sure you try it out yourself first. Don't expect too much: its small 3-inch touchscreen has a pretty meagre 320x240-pixel resolution, and it doesn't even have 3G, let alone 4G.

WhatsApp gives you unlimited messages free for a year, then charges just 69p every 12 months thereafter. It uses your phone number as an identifier, so only works on phones, not tablets.

What's the best low-cost WhatsApp phone at the moment? Point out the best bargains down in the comments, or over on our cheap as chips Facebook page.