- Three day battery life
It may appear to be a good-looking feature phone on the surface, but does the Nokia 301 have more ‘smart’ up its sleeve than it first lets on? Despite Nokia’s strong Lumia smartphone family, there are still many consumers who look to Finnish company to offer the latest feature phones too, and Nokia isn’t going to disappoint anytime soon.
Nokia 301 review: Design & screen
Having not personally been a feature phone user since before the arrival of the Apple iPhone 3G back in 2008, it’s interesting to see how the concept has evolved over the years. Whilst the fundamental aspects remain unchanged, the 301 adopts a luxurious appearance, clearly borrowing from Nokia’s Lumia design language with a matt plastic body that provides a premium feel in the hand.
The matt bodywork (which comes in a range of Lumia inspired colours) also acts as a nice contrast to the glossy black bezel, navigation keys and number pad on the 301’s front. In the centre of the removable back plate sits the 3.2-megapixel camera with a metal surround and underneath, a large speaker grille at the base. There are no hardware controls around the sides leaving the lines of the handset clean save for a headphone jack and microUSB port on top and a microSD card door on the phone’s left side.
The feature phone form factor means a smaller footprint at just 114mm high and 50mm wide, however the 12.5mm thickness and 100.5g weight tied to such a small handset is surprising, making a little bulkier than we’d like in the pocket.
The 2.4-inch QVGA (320×240) LCD on the 301’s front offers a usable visual experience, but with a pixel density of 166ppi and only a 262k colours, images, particularly photos lack depth and icons lack clarity. Sunlight legibility is good though.
Nokia 301 review: OS & Multimedia
Based on S40, the 301’s UI offers a clean, simplistic design, purpose built for that small display. By default there are a wealth of apps pre-installed on the device, with more available for download from the Nokia Store. The homescreen which features shortcuts and widgets is also highly customisable too.
Being a snappy 3G-capable handset, the included Facebook and Twitter apps, as well as Whatsapp and the ability to set up multiple email accounts is a welcome inclusion. Google users are able to sync their Google Contacts too, but this requires manual setup and is far from elegant when compared to your average smartphone.
Music playback offers you cover art information, but organising tracks has to be done on the device, which is a little restrictive, whilst the 3.2-megapixel snapper will serve you well in natural light, but gets noisy the moment the sun sets, and with no flash on board, dark shots are pretty poor. The video front is also worth avoiding too, with the maximum resolution limited to QVGA quality, albeit at 30fps.
Nokia 301 review: Connectivity, performance & battery
As feature phones go, the 7.2Mbps HSDPA data speeds are certainly a highlight on the connectivity front and as a result of the lack of WiFi, the Bluetooth 3.0 connection will be your main means of transferring files, that is of course if you’re not near to a microUSB lead; another welcome addition.
The lightweight UI is simple enough to navigate, but it’s certainly not as snappy as any comparable smartphones despite a 1GHz single-core processor inside, with typing on the numerical keypad feeling pretty archaic by today’s standards.
Whether you plan on downloading apps, listening to music or looking at videos, you will need to make use of the 301’s microSD expandability (up to 32GB) as the 256MB of ROM leave next to no space for your own content out the box.
Nokia 301 review: Conclusion
With the Nokia 301, its makers wanted to instil smartphone style functionality in a feature phone package at an affordable price point. Sure the advanced camera UI and wealth of connected apps out-the-box are great capabilities at around £65, but with the cost of hardware continually dropping the likes of ZTE Blade V will offer Android Jelly Bean, a quad-core processor, a 4-inch touchscreen and a 5-megapixel camera for less than £10 more.
It’s clear that in this instance if you want a phone with smart capabilities, buy a smartphone and if you want the simplicity of a feature phone, buy cheaper (or wait for the price to fall) and be prepared for the basic experience such handsets were designed for.