Is Asha OS the 1st world smartphone platform for 3rd world mobile networks?

Asha OS smartphones

Nokia recently announced a new smartphone platform, the Asha OS. We are told that Asha OS is the fruit of their purchase of SmarterPhone last year. The new OS has elements of the lovely user interface that was introduced on the Nokia N9, as well as a number of other features.

I specifically remember that when switching away from Symbian years back, the Nokia CEO, Stephen Elop, kept using the term “primary smartphone platform” in reference to the role that Windows Phone would play in their strategy. Nokia’s official releases made reference to that term as well. I did wonder then what that would mean, and even thought at a time that it meant that the new Belle brand was here to stay as a secondary smartphone platform in place of Symbian. That was not the case. With the announcement of the new Asha OS, it is clear that there was a reason for the use of the term “primary smartphone platform” with reference to Windows Phone. After all, what would be the point of using that term if there wasn’t a “secondary smartphone platform” in view?

It does not appear to me that the new Asha OS is an afterthought. It looks to me like Nokia had this plan in place as far back as that period, consolidated it with the purchase of SmarterPhone, and have now birthed it. Of course, I could be wrong again. Right or wrong about the process that led to this, I daresay that the new Asha OS is a good move. This is Nokia’s secondary smartphone platform.

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A first world smartphone for third world mobile networks?

I have made a case for a first world smartphone for third world mobile networks in the past and still believe that such devices are needed. The Asha OS has gotten me excited about this again. If you have ever used the MeeGo-powered Nokia N9 and found the Swipe-based UI beautiful to use, you already have a good picture of what Asha OS phones will be like. This is not just a case of using similar looking icons. This is the real deal. Nokia claims that the first smartphone of the line, Asha 501, has a standby life of 48 days. That sounds awesome. Even if it falls short of that and all it clocks is 30 days standby in real life scenarios, that would still be awesome. While the 501 has only 2G radio, there’s Wi-Fi there as well. Of course, Nokia promises that more powerful models with 3G are coming. An SDK and APIs are being made available to developers, and already there is a bagful of popular apps available for the platform, with more in the works. But that isn’t all. Asha OS features the Xpress browser which compresses internet data and Xpress Now, an app that recommends content based location, preferences and trending topics. If that does not fit the description of a first world smartphone for third world networks, it is pretty close.

The guys at Engadget took the 501 for a quick spin and came out with this verdict:

During our brief encounter with the phone, everything ran pretty smoothly – it didn’t stutter or hang while cycling through the app menus and testing out these new swipe commands.

That isn’t something that can be said about the budget Android smartphones that Asha OS smartphones will be going up against. Asha may be unable to match Android in terms of sheer number of apps and features, but in terms of resource management (performance, battery life, and hopefully better internet consumption) – things that are badly needed at the low end of the smartphone spectrum, Asha OS looks hard to beat.

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I am looking forward to buying a 501 as soon as it hits the stores in Nigeria. Asha OS is where the excitement is for me. As far as I can see, Nokia has just redefined the smartphone.

Mister Mobility

I started blogging about mobile in 2004 as a fun way to share my passion for gadgets and mobile services. My other interests include digital media, speaking and teaching, photography, travelling, and dancing.

12 thoughts on “Is Asha OS the 1st world smartphone platform for 3rd world mobile networks?

  • May 20, 2013 at 6:01 am
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    That fact that it doesn’t lag like low budget Android phone is a huge plus. I tried the HTC One V on Saturday. Despite its beauty, coolness and it running Android 4.0,it is sluggish, flickers and lags.

    I hope Nokia pushes this well and pulls in through. It should be a kill.

  • May 20, 2013 at 6:20 am
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    3rd smartphone OS? Nokia please stop this line of thought. Africa isn’t that backward, Techno is stealing your lunch over here.
    a smartphone OS in 2013 without multitasking IS NOT A SMARTPHONE OS.

    • May 20, 2013 at 6:53 am
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      a smartphone OS in 2013 without multitasking IS NOT A SMARTPHONE OS.

      Martinkem, at the low end, multitasking doesn’t really exist – even on Android, especially because of the limited RAM. With every budget Android smartphone that I have used, apps close in the background as soon as you leave them and re-open when you go back. Asha is targeted at that low end. It does not seem to me that Asha OS is missing anything in terms of multi-tasking.

  • May 20, 2013 at 7:27 am
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    … and already there is a bagful
    of popular apps available for
    the platform….

    bagful? available where from o?

    that’s all that interests me.

  • May 20, 2013 at 8:15 am
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    Android has a way of saving/caching the last state of your apps before shutting it down unless its a resource intensive game that way u don’t have to start over again,

    apps like twitter, whatsapp can run together without shutting down in the background on the techno N3 (a little birdie told me so)

  • May 20, 2013 at 8:22 am
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    moreover I have had friends buy a new Asha device the touchscreen version and have ended been disappointed that it doesn’t multitask at all, clicking on a link in whatsapp would open the browser and close the whatsapp apps. and firing up whatsapp takes close to 10 seconds or more to open up (even with the 1ghz processor ).

    Mister Mo if you have used a Sony Ericsson feature phone uoubwoild know that multitasking is possible on Java phones which had smaller ram and even slower processors. These Asha devices have better specs even my E71 with poorer specs could handle real multitasking.

    there are ways of implementing a resource efficient multitasking like the way iOS and Wp7.5 does

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  • May 20, 2013 at 8:31 pm
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    Asha will definitely struggle against the numerous offerings from Android manufacturers from the well known brands to other smaller Android manufacturers from China in pricing too while also offering by far more in features and software.

    I can’t even imagine any good reason to recommend any Asha phone over the low cost Android phones if they are not going to be cheaper, except the promise of better battery life which is yet to be proved. Nokia should give it a rest and stop this pointless effort at marketing feature phones as smartphones

  • May 22, 2013 at 5:00 am
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    @martinkem if africa wasn’t really that backward, tecno would not be stealing anything, tecno,s business model is to make and sell phones at minimal cost to third world countries, obviously it’s working, also don’t forget so quickly that Nokia is the one major brand that never forgot the small markets like ours. It just ticks me off when people like you compare Nokia and Tecno citing how Nokia devices are more expensive than Tecnos’ well the difference my friend is quality control, it’s not all about specs.

  • May 22, 2013 at 7:39 am
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    @Emmanuel. I don’t think Africa is as backwards as they think Techno sells well here because of price and specs (yeah that transparent specs screen wrapper screams it).

    and if u have truly read my mini-rant you would know that its not about price but capability. Nokia is trying to pas off a feature phone as a smartphone. This is 2013 every other OS out there has multitasking (whether real or pseudo). Implementing multitasking on it shouldn’t be too difficult (Only Ericsson did it back in 2005).

    Specs wise, Techno Android devices totally trashes the new Asha 501.

    Nokia needs to get it right (why waste this energy on s40 sef when Symbian and maemo is there) and this half measure bullshit (like how they refused to move Symbian forward quickly) is what got them here in the first place.

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