While the focus is clearly on Nokia's Windows Phone announcements at Nokia World in London this morning, Espoo is also showing a selection of four lower-end feature phones that are designed with emerging markets in mind. The devices are all members of the so-called Asha family, Series 40 handsets that range from 60 to 115 euro ($84 to $160) off-contract before taxes and come in a pretty impressive array of colors from subdued to retina-searing. Follow the break for details, hands-on impressions and video!
At €60, the Asha 200 and 201 are the most inexpensive QWERTY handsets Nokia has ever made, bearing a passing resemblance to their Symbian-powered big brothers like the E6 and E72. The 200 is now the sixth dual-SIM handset Nokia has made (and the first with a QWERTY keyboard) -- the company is really underscoring the enormous success it's had with the dual-SIM concept in markets like India this year, it's no secret that they're going after the same audience with the Asha models. Look for it to ship this quarter; the 201 is the exact same phone, but it only supports a single SIM (it's still €60).
The Asha 300 is the logical continuation of Nokia's "Touch and Type" line of candybars, featuring a resistive touchscreen mounted above a numeric keypad. It's got a 1GHz processor (a rarity in Nokia's stable), HSPA data capability, and a preview version of Angry Birds installed -- the very first port of the inescapable franchise designed for Java. This one is actually already shipping in select markets for €85 ($118).
Finally, the Asha 303 is the flagship of the Asha range, and it's billed as a proper C3 replacement -- a stylish portrait QWERTY device -- and this one's got a capacitive touchscreen to boot. Like the 300, the 303 features 3G data support and should be shipping "shortly" for €115 ($160).
We've had the fortune of playing with all four Asha models this week. You certainly won't be fooled into thinking they're higher-end than they are, but we've got to give credit where credit is due: Nokia continues to find ways to innovate in this hyper-price-sensitive segment, and all four of these phones feel and look good for what they are. Representatives we spoke with were particularly proud of the 200 / 201's styled, glossy, double-shot back with attractive bevels, and I'd agree: it looks great, which is something I rarely say about glossy plastic components. I also loved the style of the 303, particularly in red. Series 40 is a tough (or rather, impossible) sell for the smartphone aficionado, but I'd rather take the Asha line over your typical gray clamshell any day of the week.