Nokia Asha 503 review

A bargain handset that is full of features, but not that smart

Nokia Asha 503 review
Almost everything you expect from a smartphone in a bargain package

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The Asha Operating System on the 503 is a stripped back and raw version of the now deceased MeeGo platform the Nokia N9 used. Nokia decided to bin the project they had created with Intel after they had "lost faith" in the product.

The homepage on the Asha 503 consists of a vertically scrolling page of the apps. By default there is access to all the stock apps along with any extra apps installed.

Nokia Asha 503 review

As with other platforms, if an app has any notifications, a number will appear in the corner of the app to tell you how many there are.

You can't take screenshots on Asha OS, so I had to resort to photographing the screen, and unfortunately you can't create folders either. Icons have to be dragged and dropped into new positions.

Pressing the back button from the home screen or swiping left or right will reveal your Fastlane, which displays a stream of data showing everything you have done on the device.

This includes opened apps, recent calls, Facebook and Twitter updates, calendar entries, and much more content which can be customised in the settings app.

Pulling down the screen refreshes the page giving you the latest data, social information and a timeline split into different days. There is some basic native Facebook and Twitter support, which is integrated in such a way that it feels like part of the device.

Nokia Asha 503

There is also support in the email app for Gmail, Outlook (Hotmail) and Yahoo accounts. This integration is very limited but it is remarkably easy to set up and add an email account on the 503.

A simple swipe left or right from the edge of the display will return you to the home screen, a great idea that's slightly flawed in practice. Many features in apps require a swiping motion, and sometimes a swipe can drop you onto the home screen without you wanting it to, which can be frustrating.

Swiping down from the top reveals a very basic notification/control panel. Here you are able to toggle Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, mobile data and silent mode.

Alongside these buttons, the Asha 503 also displays a preview of received texts or missed calls, along with the name of the Wi-Fi network and any Bluetooth devices you are connected to.

Theme support is not an option for the Asha 503, so you will have to make do with the icons available. Fortunately, these are inoffensive. You can customise the wallpaper on the lock screen and the homepage, and as always there is a long list of ringtones to choose from.

Nokia Asha 503

It is worth noting that you will have the option to choose one of your personal photos as wallpaper for the lock screen, but the homepage wallpaper is restricted to one of the 12 preset images already stored on the device.

There is a nice tactile feedback vibration when the back button is pressed, or when certain tasks are performed such as opening an app.

Nokia has introduced the 'double tap to wake' feature, which is present on several of the Nokia Lumia series devices, as well as the LG G2.

The feature is stated to use more battery life but is an enjoyable and intuitive way to wake the device. I found I had to tap the device quite hard, as two gentle taps would not get the job done.

Overall the device is responsive quick and easy to use, although it is rather basic. It's capable of performing most functions you'd expect from a smartphone, albeit a scaled back version, but developers have been creative with the amount of space on offer on the 3-inch screen.