Dec 26, 2012

Nokia Asha 303 Software Review, The Stylish Entry

The Nokia Asha 303 made a commendable impression on me hardware-wise, its attractive, fashionable and solid, anybody holding it up close won't suspect that its an entry level phone, it feels premium and expensive. To read my full hardware review, CLICK HERE.

Touch and Type UI

The phone is currently the flagship device of the Symbian Series 40 Operating System (OS) running the Touch and Type User Interface (UI). The difference between this platform from older Series 40 versions were that its fully suited for finger touch, had a fully refreshed icons, bunch of added optimization setups, newly created interface commands like side swipes on the menu page, among others.

Being one of the recipients the earliest version of the UI, the phones touch system was yet inept. It wasn't as fluid and smooth like the Nokia Belle devices but more likely similar to the touch responsiveness of low grade versions of Android-running entry level devices, and that its more stable and responsive. The Asha 303 make use of capacitive touch technology mechanized by a 1Ghz processor.

Another drawback of the UI is the absence of multitasking support. Users need to close currently running application in order to use another. This doesn't apply though to the music player since it can be played on the background while using other features. Yes, the phone had some shortcomings but it is core-rooted on a prime and mature Symbian Series 40 thus inheriting the system's simple yet reliable performance.


The Homescreen was typical among all mobilephone platforms, it is full of command shortcuts that can be customize, but unlike others, only one is available for use on the phone, no left or right side swipes. Other prominent features of the Homescreen are the shortcut buttons which by default were assigned for for "Go To" and Names (Contacts) functions. "Go To" brings out another shortcut page to applications that can be modified.
Main Homescreen
As I mentioned earlier, the new UI got an icon rehashed, it now had the same design that of Symbian Anna and Belle. I actually like this move of Nokia, aside from platform uniformity, the new icons looks youthful and full of life, more fitting to the market bracket its being positioned to.

"Go To" Page

The main Menu is typical among colored Symbian Series 40 variants, its icon base in a Grid format with no option to change its view to Single or List or arranged it to preferred order.

Main Menu
Another outstanding new feature of the Asha Touch UI is the side swipe in the Menu page. Users can now side swipe left or right to bring out two more additional screens. By default, the left screen draws out a Homescreen-like page where users could add application icons, reminders or contacts while the right screen is the application folder. These left and right swipe commands can be change to users preference.

Call and Messaging

Contacts is yet usual on the Asha 303 except that their was now an option to add images as part of the information list aside from the usual names, number, postal or email address, birthday, nickname, among the rest of the possibly needed details for contacts specification. Pressing one of the contacts displays the following options; call, message, email and go to web. The latter will allow users to search information online about the contacts saved webpage data, smart!

Of course, users can fully utilized the mechanical call and shortcut keys, on top of the QWERTY keypad. Pressing the call key will bring out the log file of the phone for easy access to received, dialed and missed calls.

Messaging on the other hand is the strongest feature of the phone being fully design for one. The phone, as mentioned on my Hardware Review, is one of the best mechanical QWERTY set up on its class. Writing messages on the phone is glorious that I just want to text everyone, important or not.

The inbox by default shows a conversations mode but can change to folder mode in the options. Text editor is rather easy to configure and with its lower screen being added with virtual keys for the letter case, left and right arrows and symbols. The arrow keys were very helpful actually since users could precisely point the courser on the writing space where its wanted as compared to Android system where you can only move the courser through thumb, I actually hate this system of Android.

Their is also a shortcut mechanical key for the messaging feature on top of the QWERTY keypad. Nokia didn't leave any stones unturned here for the phones messaging feature, everything is covered.

Web and Email

One of the main selling points of the new Asha range is its web and email connectivity. Nokia created the could-based Xpress Browser which is said to provide a higher speed and more affordable access to the Internet through its compression capability of up to 90% per page. It's very capable indeed in rendering full web pages and navigable enough but I still prefer to use Opera Browser being faster.

Nokia Email works ideally on the phone. Users can add any email accounts on it from different networks like Yahoo, Gmail, Ovi, etc, and it can support multiple accounts. It also supports push eMail. Overall, its not the best but very much capable.

Nokia recognized the growing trend of web connectivity towards social networks and with it a fully configured applications dedicated to such, the Nokia Social and Nokia Chat. The Nokia Social allows users to connect to Twitter or Facebook all under one Social account and all at the same time. Users don't need to log-in or log-out to this social network site every time they'll used one or another. I actually find this very useful being a Twitter fanatic, my problem with this app is its sluggish interface and limited functionality. Nokia Chat on the other hand combines all chat networks into one Chat account but unlike Social, the app supports every possible chat sites from Yahoo@ Chat, Google Talk, Facebook, Ovi Chat, Windows Live Messenger, MySpce IM, etc.

Users can make fully make use of these internet features and functions via the phone's built-in WIFI or through HSDPA, EDGE or GPRS.

Music and Radio

I've used several Symbian Series 40 devices in the past and its nice to discover that Nokia made a massive improvement of the music player on the new Asha Touch UI. One of the prominent is the ability to adjust sound equalizers, preset or not. Then theirs the ability to shuffle songs and repeat songs as part of the options, and the re-sized album image that makes use of the majority of the music player space. The Music Player can play MP3, WAV, WMA and AAC files.

One of the music players biggest drawbacks though is its inability to copy playlist from the Nokia Suite. Users will need to manually create playlists and add or remove songs on it.

Radio player is casual, its capable of detecting and playing stereo FM stations with RDS support. Finding and saving these stations is just a few press away but like any other mobilephone phones at the market at the moment, it wont work without the headset, lame!


One of the few surprises for this phone is its wide range of video support codecs. It can play MP4, H.264, H.263, WMV player and believe it or not, DivX and Xvid files. Then again due to the phones limited screen, watching video on it is not ideal as compared to tablets or full touchscreen devices.

Camera and Photo

As a still camera, the phone's 3.2MP can take casual images best preferably under bright lighting conditions. It produces the type of images clear enough for Twitter or Facebook uploads. Though camera features were limited being only fixed focus, compared to the previous versions, the Asha 303's overall camera set up was greatly improve with the current one tailored to look like its Nokia Belle siblings. The rest of the phone camera's feature includes face detection, self timer, effects (Greyscale, Sepia, Negative, Solarise) and white balance (Daylight, Incandescent, Flourescent), among others.

Camcorder is capable of capturing VGA of up to 15 frames per second.

                                           Sample images below

Port Pilar, Ozamis City, Philippines
Birhen Sa Cotta, Ozamis City, Philippines
Cotta Beach, Ozamis City, Philippines

Being a phone positioned as an entry level device, majority of its market will be adolescents and young professionals making the Gaming features crucial in the competition. Nokia clearly recognizes this thats why their throwing quite a bunch of premium games with it. Out of the box, it had a full version of Climate Mission and Gedda Heddz and a trial versions of the following games, Angry Birds with 10 Free levels, Asphalt 4 Elite, Brain Challenge 3 and Bubble Bash 2. Tons of free games can also be access and downloaded via Nokia Stores.

Angry Birds

Asphalt 4 Elite

Brain Challenge 3
Concluding Thoughts

The Nokia Asha 303 has a lot of first on its belt, the very first Nokia Touch and Type device with a QWERTY mechanical keyboard, the first entry level device to have a capacitive touch among Nokia breeds and the first to offer the touch optimized Asha Touch UI on top of the Symbian Series 40 platform. I find it more fitting to be called an experimental device in terms of market positioning, an experiment that paid off wholesomely. The device became a benchmark for all entry level devices, that its possible to create a modest device that is hardware adept  and software efficient without compromising much thats why I'm giving it a go recommendation.

Also, the users mobilephone habit also plays a vital part on my overall assessment, the phone is best fitted for people who wants loves texting, chatting and all sociably driven matters with its QWERTY keyboard, on the other hand its not for those who wants bigger screens for playing games or video watching. Balance is key, it just so happen that I like enjoy both worlds.


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