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We got our hands on a black colored Nokia Asha 502. Let's try to find out if it lives up to its hype as the “phone for the masses.”
Flaunting the latest Asha OS version 1.1, the phone runs on a single core 1.1GHz processor. It has minimal RAM of 64MB and internal storage of 512 MB -- quite low by today's standards. In order to make up for that, Nokia has added a memory slot which is expandable up to 32GB. One of the main attractions of the phone is its camera. It is a 5MP shooter and can be accessed directly from the lock screen. You can use two SIM cards on the phone to stay connected and both the ports support GSM only. It supports Micro SIMs only, which means you will have to get your standard SIM cards cut into a proper size for them to fit in the slots. It has WiFi and Bluetooth for wireless connectivity. The phone features a 3-inch touch screen with a resolution of 240x320 pixels. It also has a 1010mAh battery. It also comes bundled with a 4GB memory card for extra storage.
Build and design
Featuring dimensions of 99.6 x 59.5 x 11.1mm, the Nokia Asha 502 is one of the smallest feature phones available in the market. The phone is inspired by the Asha 501 and has a similar design. The only new feature is the transparent plastic on the removable back cover. The front is also covered by the same kind of plastic which gives the entire phone a transparent layer on top when the back is attached. The plastic layer on top also looks glossy and gives the phone a smooth feel when held in the hand. When compared to the Asha 501, the transparent layer is the only physical difference which is evident at first glance.
The phone feels like a small tile and looks like a smaller version of Nokia's Lumia phones. The edges are sharp and pointed at corners which makes the phone feel like a perfect cuboid with a slightly curved body. This makes the phone comfortable and easy to hold.
The back is removed the same way as on the Nokia Asha 501. The back panel covers the back and the sides of the phone and includes the physical buttons. To remove the back cover, you need to pull the panel by pushing the Nokia logo on the back and pulling the panel from the front edge. The panel is very well built and you won't break it while removing it.
After removing the back you get access to the two SIM slots and the removable battery and memory slot. The SIM 2 slot is accessible directly and the SIM 1 slot is accessible only after removing the battery. You can insert a SIM card even without turning off the phone in the second slot. The expandable memory slot is also easily accessible and is present on the left side at the back.
The power/lock and volume rocker keys are located on the right. The micro USB port (for charging and data transfer) is located on top along with the 3.5mm headphone jack. On the front, the phone features a capacitive key which functions as the 'back' key. The camera is located on the back accompanied by an LED flash. There is no front camera available on the phone considering this is a very basic feature phone. The phone is available in black, red, yellow, green, blue and grey colors.
The Asha comes with an average pair of earphones which are the earbuds variety (and not the in-ear type) with average sound quality. Nothing special here when it comes to listening to music.
The Asha 502 features the same display as its older version, the Asha 501. The screen is a 3 inch TFT display with QVGA (240 x 320 pixels) resolution and 256K colors. The display is not sharp since it only offers 133 ppi pixel density. However, it supports 2-finger multi-touch. The display is difficult to use under sunlight as it is not bright enough. Although we didn’t like the touch response, the touch does feel smooth but at the same time the phone just ignored some touches.
Even though the phone is filled with social networking apps, we found that the small 3 inch display felt quite cramped while typing, as there isn't much room for a well laid out keyboard.
The whole body including the display, being glossy plastic, is prone to smudges and fingerprints but thanks to its size, it's easy to clean at the same time as well.
After turning the phone on, you are greeted with a welcome message from Nokia followed by a tour which explains the basic functions. After pressing the unlock key, you can swipe left or right from the edge to unlock the phone. By default, the phone always displays time and unread notifications even without pressing any key. This feature can be turned off in display settings by turning off 'Notifications' but we found the feature quite handy -- although it does affect the battery life.
UI and apps
The Asha OS is meant to be used as it is and there are not many customization options. You can only change the wallpaper to make it look different. The other thing that you can do is change the positions of the apps in the app drawer by long pressing on them.
Swiping down from the top reveals the notification panel which gives the network information, WiFi status, Bluetooth status, mobile data connectivity and an option to toggle between sound alert modes. The design and information on the notifications panel is very minimal and simple.
By default, the phone is unlocked by swiping either left or right after pressing the unlock key. You can keep a passcode in case you want to protect the phone from unauthorized use. After unlocking the phone, you have two screens; one displaying your app drawer and the other screen that displays your running apps which can be shut down from there.
The Nokia Asha 502 features some pre-installed apps like Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter, LINE messenger, WeChat, Instagram and PicFeed which shows that it has been designed for staying in touch with your friends. But there is a limited choice of available apps for this phone, which could disappoint consumers familiar with any Android, iOS or Windows Phone OS based phone.
The OS is loosely based on the Windows Phone OS when it comes to its Today homescreen which displays all your running apps. The today screen also gives you the option to send a tweet or update Facebook status without going into the respective apps.
The UI may be simple but it takes some time to get used to it. There are some frustrating things that pop up when using the phone, such as starting the video camera (you have to swipe from the center of the screen when you are in the camera app), sending items to other devices (it has very minimal options and you can’t select multiple items if you need to send items to another device through Bluetooth) and accessing the phone memory on your computer (you simply can’t).
The Asha OS is made to run on low resources and it actually does a good job of it. The phone rarely freezes even though it does stutter sometimes, while multitasking in a way that we are used to on other high-end smartphones. It did freeze a couple of times in a weeks use while switching between apps; the reason being its extremely low RAM. But when it comes to daily frequent use, it performs quite well.
The built in apps featured on the phone need to be updated before use. An outdated app is completely unusable in Asha OS.
The phone comes with an inbuilt web browser which does an average job of browsing through web pages. If you are an internet addict who loves to spend time browsing websites, we would recommend a higher end phone and not this one. But if you have minimal internet usage, then this phone should suffice your needs. Webpages take a long time to load and the browser even struggles with websites optimized for mobile phones. You can download Opera Mini for a comparably better and faster browsing experience. The phone features the Nokia Xpress browser which is designed to browse faster (even though it doesn’t) by compressing data. So its ideal for people who are on low usage data plans.
We had expected Nokia to release the Asha 502 with 3G support which was earlier missing from Asha 501 but it hasn't, which is a huge disappointment. The only connectivity options are GPRS and EDGE when it comes to data services. The apps that Nokia gives by default with the Asha 502 will work fine on a 2G connection. However, don't expect to watch YouTube on high quality on this phone. The phone runs Java games which aren't impressive when it comes to their graphics. You can play a few popular games like Asphalt 6: Heat, GT Racing 2 Demo, Assassin's Creed and Plants vs Zombies in outdated 2D graphics.
The camera can be started right away from the lock screen by scrolling up. The camera lens on the back is accompanied by an LED flash for taking pictures in low light.
Users can customize the setting for flash and white balance. There's also an 'Effect' option which lets you take photos in black & white, sepia and negative modes. The camera is capable of taking pictures in 2592 x 1944 pixels resolution.
The camera takes good pictures under normal lighting conditions
Camera on the Asha 502 is a substantial improvement over its successor. Bumping up the resolution to 5 MP, Nokia has loaded a decent photo shooter on this phone. But don't equate it to the 5 MP cameras you find on some higher end smartphones.
The camera takes good photos during the day under normal sunlight. The colors look natural but slight noise is present in every photo. It actually took better photos in low light as compared to other phones.
It's a decent shooter when it comes to taking low light photos
The camera on the Asha 502 is good enough for taking casual photos. It also takes videos in a QVGA resolution at 15fps. The videos are poor and nothing special.
The battery backup on the Asha 502 is average considering it's only a feature phone with a few smartphone features. There isn't much effect on the battery due to its low resource functions. Under normal usage, the phone lasted almost two days on a single charge. The tasks that heavily affected the battery backup on the phone were internet browsing, gaming and non-stop chatting. The phone gave up within a day under rigorous use which was expected. So even if you use the phone continuously, it will still last you a day at least.
The Nokia Asha 502 is an average feature phone with no substantial improvements over its predecessor, the Asha 501. It’s designed for users who spend a lot of time chatting online with friends as it comes preloaded with apps like Whatsapp, LINE and WeChat coupled with dual SIM support. If you are looking for a basic touch phone with a minimalistic and simple interface, then it's a good choice. At a price of around Rs .5,700 you should consider this phone only if you are not into Android phones.