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.
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.
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.