Nokia Asha 305, 306, 311 Push the Limits of Feature Phones

Nokia continues to reach out to the Internet's next billion users, with three new touch-enabled, low-cost Asha phones. With fast browsing, email, cameras and in some cases 3G and WiFi, these devices push the definition of "feature phone."

Nokia, as part of its quest to get the next billion people onto the Internet, has introduced the Asha Touch family of devices€”the Nokia Asha 305, 306 and 311. These phones bring Nokia€™s total number of Asha phones to 10 and push the envelope on what most people consider a feature phone to be.

While the phones, in juicy, clearly youth-oriented colors, run the Java ecosystem, not the Windows Phone operating system of Nokia€™s Lumia line€”truly the mark between feature versus smart€”the Asha phones come with 1GHz processors and Nokia€™s Browser 2.0, a technology that takes advantage of Nokia real estate in the cloud to reduce data consumption on the phone by 90 percent, keeping costs low for users for whom pricing is a particular incentive, while also making the browsing experience three times faster.

While features are scaled down, there€™s little the phones can€™t do, or don€™t offer.

The Asha 311 features a 3-inch touch display, has a 3.2-megapixel camera, built-in WiFi and always-on 3G mobile Internet. A music player and an FM radio are on board, along with a video camera with four-times zoom, GPS with Nokia Maps, Nokia Messaging, plus Gmail, Windows Live and Hotmail, Yahoo mail, and support for three email protocols.

It will also arrive with 15 levels of Angry Birds installed, and in color choices of aqua, a fuchsia-red color, brown and gray.

The Asha 305 is an Easy Swap dual-SIM phone€”meaning users don€™t have to power it down to switch SIMs€”with a 3-inch display that lets users swipe to shortcuts. There€™s 2G GPRS connectivity, a 2MP camera with video capabilities is on board, along with an FM radio, a music player, GPS and Nokia Maps for navigation, all the email and messaging options of the 311.

The Asha 306 is called a sister phone to the 305, sharing many of its traits, but also featuring built-in WiFi for streaming music and videos. Like the 305, it will come in color choices of aqua, gray, fuchsia and silver-white.

Buyers of all three phones will receive an €œexclusive gift,€ Nokia said in a June 6 statement, of 40 free games from EA (Electronic Arts) that they can download for free and keep forever.

The Asha 305 is priced at approximately $78 dollars U.S. and will ship during the second quarter. The Asha 306, at closer to $85, and the Asha 311, priced around $115, will arrive during the third quarter.

The phones are being launched in high-growth markets such as Asia, where Nokia has a foothold that€™s threatened by low-end BlackBerry devices from Research In Motion. €œAsha€ means €œhope€ in Hindi, which Nokia needs a good reserve of, as it works€”through efforts such as the Asha line, as well as its Lumia smartphones at the higher end of the market€”to regain some of its former glory.

Research firm IDC, in a June 6 report, said it expects feature phone shipments to decline by 10 percent this year, as device owners €œin light of uncertain job and economic prospects€ hold on to their phones. Despite an expected growth rate of 38.8 percent year-over-year for smartphones, reduced feature phone purchases are expected to result in overall mobile phone shipments of 1.8 billion units this year. Up from 1.7 billion units in 2011, the expected 4 percent annual growth rate will be the industry€™s lowest since 2009.

On May 15, from Pakistan, Nokia introduced two other feature phones, the Nokia 110 and 112, both also relying on cloud technology to compress background browsing operations and offer users increased speeds and reduced fees.

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