Cheap Rs 5,000 Android smartphones are being launched in emerging markets like India, some of them boasting 1GHz processors, big 4-inch displays with dual-SIMs and all the features that buyers want. But Nokia is not worried and it is betting on its full-touch Asha series of phones to take on and prevail over these entry-level Android smartphones. “Everyone in the world is not the same. We believe in optimization and differentiation,” said Calin Turcanu, the head of Nokia’s mobile phone division for Middle East and Africa, at the global launch of the Asha 310 in Dubai. Also Read - Nokia parent HMD Global trademarks ‘Asha’ brand; is a revival on the cards?
The first full-touch Asha phones were available only in June 2012 and things are looking good for Nokia. “We have sold over 16 million Asha phones so far. The sub-$99 phone market in the region is currently at $52 billion and is expected to increase to $55 billion in 2014,” said Shiv Shivakumar, senior vice president, India, Middle East and Africa. Also Read - Nokia’s new Windows Phone strategy is guaranteed to confuse everyone
But questions remain about the S40 operating system that powers Asha phones, which does not offer many features that typical smartphone users take for granted like multi-tasking and copy-paste. “We have optimized the user interface, the browser and even the hardware is better than competing smartphones in this price segment. We might not have everything but we bring experiences that no one has,” Turcanu said. “As far as S40 goes, think of it as if it had been sleeping all this while and has just woken up. We are working to make it even better and there is lot more to come. We are also getting many big developers to make apps for Asha series.” Also Read - Update: Unknown Nokia Asha phone is not that unknown after all
Nokia is betting that its app store, navigation and music offerings would be an important factor users see when they buy their first basic smartphone. It is also ensuring top quality hardware for its Asha phones as a key differentiation when compared to cheap Android smartphone. The handset maker claims that the Asha 310’s battery offers up to 17 hours of talk time and 25 days of standby time. Competing Android smartphones barely last for 4-5 hours of talk time.
The Asha 310 also marks an important phase for the series by being the first dual-SIM Asha phone with Wi-Fi connectivity. Till now, Asha phones used to come in pairs (think about Asha 305 and Asha 306, Asha 308 and Asha 309) with one dual-SIM model and another single-SIM with Wi-Fi variant. This often created confusion in the market as users had to compromise and choose between dual-SIM and Wi-Fi. Turcanu remained non-commital, but this could very well be the beginning when Nokia started launching just one version with both the features.
Disclosure: Nokia paid for our travel and stay in Dubai to attend their regional round table event.