A surprising little gem from Nokia.
Performance, UI and Apps
I have to admit that when I first started using the Asha 311, I was not too impressed by its speed compared to other phones that I’ve recently tested. But then I took a step back and realized that I wasn’t the target market that this phone was designed for. This phone is designed for anyone who’d like a very basic phone that has a touchscreen, and has a few apps or features that would stand it apart from other entry-level phones. So it was only fair that I had the phone tested by someone other than myself, or I would be constantly comparing it to other phones that were more powerful. I handed the phone over to a family friend who’s never used a touchscreen phone in her life. After inserting her SIM card and teaching her a few basic functions of the phone, she was able to swipe around confidently to get to the dialer, and was even able to operate the camera and music apps to her delight. For her, it was an incredible step up from the clunky phone she was currently using, and its bright display, minimal buttons, and large text made navigating around the phone very easy.
The UI for the Asha 311 is bright and simplistic – the main screen lists all of the installed apps and icons for the various features of the phone, such as contacts, camera, music, etc. The phone comes preloaded with a few games as well as social apps for Twitter and Facebook, and you can download more games and apps from the included store. While most of the games are sadly Java-based, they are perfect for the phone’s hardware. You can also quickly assign some apps as your favorites, so they’re quickly accessible from the main screen by simply swiping to the right. You also have a pull-down notification bar, similar to what’s seen in Android and iOS, where you can quickly turn off Wifi or Bluetooth, or also access shortcuts to music, phone, and SMS.
The web browser however needs serious work – even after downloading an update the browser was hard to use. You only have two zoom levels, which makes reading sites quite hard. Of course there’s no flash support which is a good thing, as that would probably bring the phone down to a crawl. When zoomed in you can read text fairly clearly, but a lot of sites (including ours) showed up with alignment issues or pictures taking a long time to load. Another app that was a bit of a disappointment was the Maps application – this is usually a strong suit for Nokia, but since this phone doesn’t have GPS it’s unable to triangulate destinations accurately.
Screen and Camera
The 3 inch 240×400 screen isn’t much at first, but it’s bright enough to be used outdoors, which is something a lot of smartphones often fail at. Pictures and video show up with slightly washed out colors, but it’s hard to critique this given the 155 ppi pixel density. As it’s a TFT capacitive screen it’s not as responsive at times (especially when you’re trying to play Angry Birds), but for navigating around the phone and launching apps the screen works well.
The camera sadly is just 3.15 megapixels, and fills in a lot of noise when taking photos. It’s also got a fixed focus, so you’ll need to fiddle around a bit when taking photos to ensure that everything is in focus. There is a ‘pro’ mode where you can adjust the lighting and exposure, but given there’s no flash provided you’re going to have a challenging time taking half-decent photos with this thing. I think if Nokia had at least included an LED flash, that would have made some of the photos at least a bit better.
Sound & Call Quality
The sound quality on the Asha 311 is decent; when listening to music on the loudspeaker (as some people often love to do when in public) tunes were quite loud, though at times a bit shrill because of the average speaker. But for such a tiny device, I was pleasantly surprised by how loud I could crank the volume up to. Call quality was also very good, with callers sounding clear on the phone without any interruption or noise.
Battery life on the Asha 311 was great, with the phone only dying out after nearly two days of use – this was with Wi-fi always on, and plenty of phone calls. Obviously if you listen to music or play a lot of games, this may drop the battery life a bit, but you can still get a full day’s use out of the Asha 311 before you need to charge it.
So what exactly have Nokia got on their hands with the Asha 311? Well as said before, it’s a phone for anyone who’s not quite ready to splurge on a smartphone, but still would like a touchscreen phone that can pull off a few tricks. For its low price point, the Asha 311 will certainly get the job done as a lightweight touch-enabled phone that doesn’t necessarily pack too many features, but can still be a smart purchase.