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Nokia Asha 501 availability kicking off in Thailand, Europe to follow

The Western world is flush with expensive and high-end smartphones, but those in developing nations don’t have access or can’t afford those devices. Dirt cheap Android phones is one way to snag that market, yet Nokia is going to push ahead once again with its range of Asha phones. The Finnish company has announced that it will launch a new line of low-end Asha devices, with the first being the Asha 501.

New Asha devices will make use of software Nokia acquired with its Smarterphone purchase last year. The new UI is supposed to bring a smartphone-like experience to feature phones, so you can imagine why Nokia scooped up the company. The new Asha OS now features split homescreens: one is the closest to a traditional icon-based view that displays all your available apps, while “Fastlane” provides notifications as well as social networking updates.

There are also some small little easter eggs cribbed from the beloved Nokia N9. Double tapping on the lock screen, for instance, will wake the phone up, and there are elements of Swipe UI at play too. In an interesting move, those in India using the Bharti Airtel network will be able to access Facebook on the Asha 501 without incurring any data fees for a “limited period of time.” Business wise, it’s smart: Nokia gets to shift increased numbers of the affordable handset in the country, and Facebook potentially adds to its massive user base while expanding on its Facebook Zero scheme.

As for specifications, don’t expect anything too fancy. The Asha 501 includes a 3-inch touchscreen, a 3.2-megapixel camera, 2G radio, Wi-Fi connectivity, a microSD card slot with 4GB ready to go (expandable up to 32GB), and dual-SIM support. The battery life is really the main selling point of the device, though. Nokia claims that the dual-SIM variant can reach 26 days of standby, with the regular handset with a single SIM slot stretching all the way to 48 days.

Nokia is aiming to sell the Asha 501 for $99, or €75 in European countries – that puts it around £63. The handset is intended for poorer markets, and Nokia is still keen to push Windows Phone in bigger markets, so it’s not going to see a massive rollout across the globe. Until Nokia can gets Windows Phone devices cheap enough, the Asha line will simply have to suffice. The company says that the Asha 501 will begin shipping in June.

Update (24/6/13): Although we were initially given a approximate launch date of June, Nokia has now painted a more detailed picture of where and when the Asha 501 will hit stores across the globe.

To begin with, consumers in Pakistan and Thailand will be able to get their hands on this smart feature phone first, with sales kicking off later this week. India – a huge market for Nokia and the Asha family as a whole is then next on the list, followed by Europe, the Middle East, Africa, the Asia-Pacific region and Latin America in the weeks following.

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