Nokia is still a major player in mobiles thanks primarily to the sheer volume of feature phones in peoples hands around the world. These feature phone run an interface called S40, an interface designed around buttons in the 90s. It’s not the 90s anymore though, and in this touch screen world, S40 has recieved a long overdue finger friendly refresh, has been renamed Nokia OS and is being shown off on the Nokia Asha 311.
Nokia Asha 311 - Design
Before we delve into Nokia OS, we have to look at the design on the Asha 311. Off the bat, it’s small. The 3-inch touchscreen and curved and glossy back, make it feel even less imposing and it packs smooth corners. There’s a matte chin at the base, removable back cover and an array of ports up top, including a micro USB port and Nokia proprietary charging port. Below the screen sit call and end buttons while to the right is a volume rocker and lock toggle.
Unfortunately, the Asha 311 feels cheap. The high gloss backing doesn’t contrast well against the matte base and the build feels hollow. Considering the Asha 311 is more expensive than the WVGA Lumia 710, the 200x400 resolution of the 3-inch capacitive display is also too low, despite being responsive, with ok viewing angles and brightness levels. The use of Corning Gorilla Glass is good to see but it doesn't save it on the whole.
Nokia Asha 311 - UI
Borrowing heavily from MeeGo, the Asha 311 runs Nokia OS. It packs three homescreens: all apps, favourites and a widget. All apps is just a simple list of apps which can be rearranged. Favourites allows you to make a page of favourite apps and contacts. Finally, the widget page can display either a dialler, music player or FM radio.
This new user interface is a huge step forward when compared to S40 devices of old and feels natural and easy to get to grips with thanks to the Asha 311's capacitive screen. There are plenty of pre-installed applications and games onboard including Angry Birds, as well as a host of organisation tools and Nokia Maps. The keyboard is also very usable, more so than Symbian phones ironically.
While Nokia OS blurs the lines between smartphone and feature phone more than ever before though, it won't compete with the likes of Android or Windows Phone. Built on S40, the UI isn’t as slick and the app support isn’t flexible enough. In the same breath, it’s easy to get to grips with, should be familiar to someone coming from a Nokia handset and will make a good early teenager’s phone, with key apps like Whatsapp and Angry Birds available for free.
Nokia Asha 311 - Camera and Multimedia
There’s a fixed focus 3.2-megapixel camera on the Asha 311 with no flash. Naturally, it won’t handle macro and the nearest focal distance is 30cm, though the user interface is comprehensive and there are fun elements you can apply to the pictures such as frames. Unfortunately, picture quality leaves a lot to be desired. Detail is weak, shots come out dark (the images below were taken during the day) and there’s a blue hue applied to output. Video doesn’t fare much - ultimately content you capture on the Asha 311 is best left on the Asha 311.
In contrast, media playback is pretty great. While the screen isn’t great for movies, Nokia loads up the 311 with a range of codecs and we played a couple of AVIs with no issues whatsoever, bettering stock Android and Windows Phone in this department. Thanks to its size and expandability, not to mention music player widget page, it also makes for a great MP3 player.
Nokia Asha 311 - Connectivity and Storage
Physical connections include a micro USB port and 3.5mm headphone jack, with wireless connections being Wi-Fi, 3G and Bluetooth. The web browser has improved since the S40 browser and workes better with the capacitive screen, though without pinch to zoom or text wrapping, it won’t rival smartphone browsers.
There’s no memory on board, though thanks to microSD expandability, you will be able to get 32GB storage.
Nokia Asha 311 - Performance and Battery
With its 1GHz processor, the Nokia Asha 311 performs smoothly. There isn’t much slowdown and as we mentioned, video files are handled commendably. Audio quality in phone calls isn’t bad with clear treble, though the microphone isn’t as sensitive as it could be.
Battery life is something of a let down. With the phone being an S40 successor, we expected days out of it, maybe even a week. The 3G, Wi-Fi and touch screen seem to do a fair bit of damage though, the 1100mAh battery fares more like a smartphone than an S40 device of old. You’ll get a day to two, don’t get us wrong. Just don’t expect a weekend away without a charger.
Nokia Asha 311 - Conclusion
We're not sold on the Nokia Asha 311. It's a good feature phone that costs more than some great smartphones. The design is middling, the screen underwhelming, the camera poor and the functionality limited. Its interface is charming, it has plenty of pre-installed apps and when the price drops below £80, it will be more compelling, but in excess of £120, we'd sooner recommend a Nokia Lumia 710, Sony Xperia Tipo or Huawei Ascend G300.