- Decent keyboard layout
- Good chat functionality
- Slow connectivity
- Laggy apps
- Keyboard not crisp enough
Review Price £59.99
Those with mobile phone contracts rarely appreciate how much their phones are really worth. Paying upwards of £30 a month can net you a model worth upwards of £400, yet such people will often tell you they "got the phone for free". Because not all of us want to be tied into expensive 2-year contracts, phones like the Nokia Asha 201 still have a place on the market. It costs around £50 to buy, without any of the financial ties associated with a contract.
Now that virtually every phone can do the things once the preserve of the smartphone upper class - social networking, email, web browsing and so on - you might think that there's not a great deal of difference between something like the HTC ChaCha and the cheaper Asha 201. They both have keyboards and a social networking slant.
The reality of using the Asha is quite different, though. With slow connectivity and poor app support, mobile phone fiends are better off spending a little more money. If saving cash is a priority, the Asha 201 isn't out of contention yet. It costs less than the BlackBerrys it tries to emulate, while offering some of the typing bonuses associated with Qwerty phones.
Closer to home, the Nokia Asha 201 is a little like the Nokia C3, one of our favourite phones of 2010. However, build quality has taken a hit to get down to a rock-botton price.
It is 100 per cent plastic, lacking the metal and glass that have come to define what an expensive phone should feel like. At 14mm thick, the Asha 201 isn't super-slim either, but Nokia has aimed for a cute, rather than razor-sharp, look for this phone.
While it's prettier than something like the Alcatel OT-799, there are a handful of tacky sprinkles atop its friendly look. The silvery soft keys and expanse of empty frontage ensure it doesn't feel as carefully-designed as it could have been, a reminder that this is an "affordable" phone. The white version uses matt shades for its front and sides, adding a peppering of metallic sparkle to its glossy battery cover backplate.
A work of art it is not, but - as ever with Nokia's budget models - it feels as though it can withstand some punishment. The plastic used is thick and strong, and isn't as prone to shattering on impact as the glass fronts of more expensive phones like the iPhone 4S.
Its sides are fairly bare. On the right edge is an unusually - and unnecessarily - large plastic flap hiding the microSD card slot, and up top are the microUSB slot, 3.5mm headphone jack and little Nokia charge socket. MicroUSB charging sockets have become the standard for almost all phones we review these days, but Nokia's budget models still insist on using a proprietary type. The Asha 201's battery refused to charge over microUSB, which may become an irritation if you already use a handful of microUSB-equipped devices.
The most conspicuous hardware omissions are the volume rocker and a camera shutter button. These functions are catered-for using other keys, which isn't optimal if, for example, you want to change the volume of a music track while the phone's in your pocket.
The star of the Asha 201's hardware, though, is its keyboard. It's arranged in four discrete rows and keys are contoured to make touch typing easy once you're used to its dinky size. Its design is well thought-out, making typing quicker and easier than either with an old clicky numerical keypad or a small touchscreen. However, the action of the keys could be crisper. With an indistinct feel, it doesn't get close to matching the best of BlackBerry.
At present, the Asha 201 is available in black, white and pink in the UK. Nokia also makes green orange, blue and turquoise versions - but there's no word on these coming to the UK at present.