Nokia Asha 306 Review: In Depth

The Nokia Asha 306 is the second Nokia OS phone we’ve seen. We like where Nokia have taken their feature phone touch OS and the Asha 311 did have some really compelling features, at over £100 though, it just isn’t competitive with Android handsets in the same price point. Can the Nokia Asha 306 fare better with its lower price and humbler spec-sheet?

Nokia Asha 306 Design and Screen

Looking like a cross between the Nokia X7 and a Gundam toy, the Nokia Asha 306 kicks things off to a quirky start. High gloss metalic plastic up top and bottom instantly prevent the phone from having mass appeal and the diamond-esque bevelling effect will be like marmite – we didn’t warm to it. The matte plastic back however does feel good in isolation and the 306 sits well in the hand.

All the ports are at the top of the phone and these include a 3.5mm headphone jack, Nokia proprietary charging port and a micro USB port for data and charging. The fascia includes a 3-inch display, call and end button as well as the in-call mic. To the right is the volume rocker and lock button while to the left hidden underneath a flap is the microSD card slot.

The 3-inch display on the Asha 306 is resistive. This means unlike 99% of other touch screens available, for a finger press to be registered, pressure needs to be applied. For a 3-inch touchscreen device running a swipe heavy OS, this is a one-way road to a terrible user experience. Couple that with low resolution and fixed brightness, and there’s very little positive to say about the 306’s display at the £80+ price.

Nokia Asha 306 User Interface

As with the Nokia Asha 311, the Asha 306 runs Nokia OS. This means 3 homescreens consisting of 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.

We’ve discussed the OS in our Asha 311 review, but will summarise by saying we’re fans of it as a concept and certainly appreciate its improvements over S40 in terms of touchscreen use with a more complete app selection and keyboard. That said, we’d almost like it to be simpler as right now, it’s akin to a wannabe smartphone OS in S40 clothing.

With Nokia OS being heavily swipe dependent, the resistive screen makes the 306 feels markedly clunkier than the 311. Add to that the slower processor resulting in painful strain and stagger and once again, we’re left wanting with the Nokia Asha 306, especially when you can pick up a silky smooth Nokia Lumia 710 for under £20 more.

Nokia Asha 306 Camera and Multimedia

The 2-megapixel fixed focus camera found on the Asha 306 will do a good enough job of taking a picture that looks good on the phone itself, however you just need to look at the specs to realise that it’s not a particularly strong camera phone. Detail is weaker than most and thanks to the lack of flash or autofocus, low light and macro shooting is out of the question from the offset. There is decent noise suppression for dusky shots though and print outs at 6×4 will look passable if captured in good light.

In contrast to the 311, the Asha 306 isn’t as pumped up with codecs so won’t handle all the video file formats you throw its way. The music player is comprehensive with an attractive UI that matches the form factor well and sound from the loud speaker packs a punch.

Nokia Asha 306 – Connectivity and Storage

The Asha 306 offers Wi-Fi and GPRS (or 2.5G) as well as Bluetooth. With no 3G therefore, intensive mobile web browsing on the fly is slow when not using Wi-Fi. The browser itself is an improvement over that of S40, but is especially un-intuitive with the resistive screen and won’t rival Android handsets in the price-range.

There’s a minimal amount of storage on board the Asha 306 however thanks to the microSD card slot there’s room for up to an additional 32GB of memory.

Nokia Asha 306 – Performance and Battery

Without the 1GHz processor of its bigger brother, the 306 doesn’t quite speed through the new Nokia UI as fast as we’d like it to. In fact, on occasion it down right stutters and stops. Call quality also suffers somewhat with audible background noise and slightly muffled sound, though volume tends to be audible.

There is one area the 306 excels thanks to the lesser hardware though – battery. With the CPU being slower than the 311 and the lack of 3G you’ll get over two days out of it with moderate use.

Nokia Asha 306 – Conclusion

The real problem with the Asha 306 is that it tries to beat Android at its own game – affordable touch screen. This was always going to be a big ask, but at a higher price point and packing inferior hardware, namely the resistive screen, it’s not even a fair fight. For £10 less, you could go for a Sony Xperia Tipo, for £10 more you can pick up a Huawei Ascend G300 or the fantastic Nokia Lumia 710. Until the Nokia Asha 306 falls considerably below the £50 price mark therefore, it’s just not compelling for a UK buyer.

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