Saturday, 27 April 2013

A colorful QWERTY with a social heart : Asha 210

The newly announced Asha 210 brings a healthy splash of colors plus a dual-SIM option along for the ride. As before, social networks feature heavily, but the focus clearly remains on low-end and developing markets. We know Nokia can do budget, but is a full keyboard, a design update and a dedicated WhatsApp button enough to make it appeal to anyone. The first thing you notice here is the design language. As with the budget 105 and 301 offerings, the Asha 210 owes a lot of its looks to the current flagships, with more than a whiff of Lumia about them. This influence also spills over into the color options, which include the usual cyan, magenta, yellow and black plus white. 

We have to say that for a phone at this price point, it really isn't bad looking. The finish is soft-touch plastic, and while it's not one piece of polycarbonate, Nokia's at least gone to some efforts to make it look slightly similar. The casing is designed to appear as seamless as possible, and the phone looks all the better for it. As well as dominating QWERTY, there are menu and navigation buttons above and below dedicated WhatsApp and camera keys. Nokia was very keen to play up the WhatsApp integration which not only provides quick access to chats, but includes use of the service for free, for life.

A slight twist here is that in some markets, the Asha 210 will actually have a dedicated Facebook button instead. Whichever social network flag you fly, it still won't take you very long to get there, as the Series 40 software it runs on has been set up to put them all front and center on the homescreen anyway, with WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter coming pre-installed. As before there's a "premium" download pack of 15 apps and games on offer after purchase.

It is still running on 2G, so no 3G / HSPA to ease the deluge of all those tweets and messages you're expecting. But, there is WiFi to ease some of that pain. The rear camera is 2-megapixels, which is quite a jump up from the 205's meagre VGA shooter, and should make good use of dedicated button. The lack of a front-facing camera might initially turn the confirmed socialite a little sour, but don't worry, you can still take those all important "selfies" with the clever self-portrait mode that we also saw in the 301. Nokia at this price-point RAM and processor speeds are likely not the buyer's primary concern. However, it's lingering somewhere under the 1GHz mark.

The software does feel noticeably slow. Pressing the WhatsApp key took a second or two for the app to open, and generally navigating with the buttons will test your patience. However, this may improve between now and when it finally hits the stores nearer to summer. On the upside, Nokia claims that you'll get 12 hours of talk, and over 40 in standby to give you plenty of time to do everything.

Overall though, in the hand the phone feels light, yet solid. The bright color design is attractive and the keys all have a firm, responsive action, though perhaps a little clustered for those with larger digits. At $72 , it's feels mean to pick fault with some of the Asha 210's features. The design is great for this price, the social features will please many, and there's just about everything you might need for photos and sharing. The UI may feel a little sluggish, and the continued lack of 3G will write it off completely for many, but for mobile users starting at the lower rungs, who want a well built phone with core functionality, Nokia's made a very reasonable proposition.

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