Nokia is hosting a global announcement in Delhi on May 9 where it is expected to announce two new Asha devices. The announcement comes at a critical time for Nokia after Asha shipments plummeted by almost 50 percent in the last quarter. CEO Stephen Elop has mentioned a refresh is around the corner and I believe that the upcoming announcement will give the Asha series a new lease of life with a completely new design language and user interface.
The biggest problem for Nokia has been the white box Android smartphones in emerging countries and that’s what these new Asha phones would target. Unlike the earlier Asha phones, these will have to look and feel closer to smartphones than a feature phone trying to act smart. In my opinion, the next Asha devices will share the same design as Nokia’s Lumia smartphones to persuade buyers they belong in the same product line-up and share the same values. This reminds me of the photo leak earlier this year that suggested what the next generation of Asha devices could look like.
The new UI is expected to be livelier with a more “alive” homescreen than the existing S40 interface. We are looking at no physical menu buttons, which could be an onscreen button now. Leaked images suggests that the only physical UI key would be a back button, which would be a capacitive one for the higher-end Asha device and a plastic one for the relatively lower end device.
The photos also suggests that the UI supports an always-on screen that would display the time and other notifications. The two devices have the same Lumia design language with smooth curves and funky colors. One of them also has a removable cover like that found on the Lumia 820.
If these are the two devices Nokia is indeed launching on May 9 (I am confident they will), then Asha would become a formidable competition for entry-level Android smartphones. With the right mix of design, UI and features (one of the phones has a 5-megapixel camera with flash), the new Asha series would play a critical role for Nokia’s smartphone revival.