Nokia Asha 303 review: Type smarter

GSMArena team, 4 January 2012.
Pages: «12345678»

Tags: Nokia, S40, Touch UI

Unboxing the Asha 303

The Nokia Asha 303 retail package is simple and to the point. There is a charger, the familiar short Nokia microUSB cable, a single-piece headset and some printed stuff. There is a 2GB microSD card inserted in the phone as well.

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The modest retail package

Nokia Asha 303 360-degree spin

The Nokia Asha 303 measures 116.5 x 55.7 x 13.9 mm –not too big, but not impressively compact either. The QWERTY messenger isn’t remarkably slim but the curved shape gives it a rather comfortable fit in the hand. At just 99 g, the Asha 303 is lightweight and easy to handle.

Design and build quality

The Asha 303 has the body shape and styling of the Nokia X2-01 – adding a prominent accent in the brushed metal battery cover. Surprisingly, the Asha is a bit more compact and weighs less than its all-plastic predecessor. It is a simple yet stylish handset even though the messenger form factor doesn’t allow too much creative freedom.

Budget or not, the phone doesn’t feel and look cheap. The finish is simple but quality and the whole thing feels solid and well-built. Resistance to fingerprints is a point in favor too. There’s a touch of metal on the rear, which doesn’t add too much weight.

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Nokia Asha 303

The 2.6" capacitive TFT touchscreen has QVGA resolution and can display up to 256K colors. Despite its decent brightness, the image quality is nothing to get excited about. The sunlight legibility is decent, but not perfect.

Display test 50% brightness 100% brightness
Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio
Nokia Asha 303 - - - 0.76 377 498
HTC Rhyme 0.43 265 609 0.58402 694
HTC Explorer 0.26 201 763 0.47358 755
HTC Sensation 0.21 173 809 0.61 438 720
Samsung Omnia W 0 118 0 358
LG Optimus 2X 0.23 228 982 0.35 347 1001
Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc 0.03 34 1078 0.33 394 1207
Samsung I9100 Galaxy S II 0 231 0 362
Samsung Galaxy Note 0 287 0 429
HTC Incredible S 0.18 162 908 0.31 275 880
Apple iPhone 4 0.14 189 1341 0.39 483 1242

The 2.6” display is on the small side – for a touch phone – but it does the job. The first capacitive unit on a S40 handset is nicely responsive without overdoing it. It’s tuned to ignore very light presses, which we usually prefer over displays that seem to detect your finger midair. The touchscreen offers the trademark Nokia haptics we’ve been consistently impressed with. Wherever you tap on the display, you’ll feel the vibration right under your fingertip.

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The 2.6-inch display is OK

There are four keys under the display with a smooth black glossy coating: two Call keys and two shortcut buttons (Messaging and Music). They are all decently sized and with distinct press – and their finish sets them apart from the keyboard. The color contrast between the keyboard and the glass covering the touchscreen creates an impression of a QWERTY slider, rather than a simple candybar. The illusion is reinforced by the screen coating edging above the top row of the keyboard.

The four-row QWERTY keyboard has well defined and reasonably sized keys. The nicely convex buttons are pleasingly tactile and size shouldn’t be an issue unless you have really big thumbs. The backlighting is impressively sharp and solid.

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The keyboard is reasonably comfortable • the white backlit

The only things to note on the front are an ambient light sensor and the earpiece at the top.

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The earpiece and the ambient light sensor

The left-hand side of the Nokia Asha 303 has nothing but the lanyard eyelet. The right side is more crowded, featuring the lock key and the volume rocker. There is no dedicated camera key on the Asha 303, which isn’t such a big deal – not with a fixed focus camera anyway.

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The bare left and the crowded right side

The top of the Nokia Asha 303 features the microUSB port, the 3.5mm audio jack and the charger plug. The phone can be charged off the USB port and there’s even USB On-the-go.

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There are three jacks on top

The mouthpiece is integrated in the keypad, so there is nothing to see at the bottom.

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There is nothing at the bottom

The back panel of the handset features the 3 megapixel camera lens at the top and the loudspeaker grill at the bottom. There‘s no LED flash and the camera lens has no protection against scratches.

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The 3 megapixel camera lens and the loudspeaker grill

Removing the steel battery cover reveals the SIM compartment, the microSD card slot and the 1300 mAh BP-3L Li-Ion battery. To access either of the card slots you need to get the battery out of the way, so no hot-swap for the Asha 303.

Quoted at up to 8 hours and 10 minutes of talk time and 720 hours of standby in 2G networks or 7 hours and 10 minutes of talk time and 840 hours of standby in 3G networks, the battery really sounds like something. Nokia also promise up to 47 hours of music playback.

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Checking what’s under the hood

Impressive is a difficult word to use to describe a basic package like the Nokia Asha 303. If anything about it comes close to that though, it’s the build quality. In fact, it should be one of the phone’s key selling points alongside the QWERTY keyboard and the capacitive touchscreen. We shouldn’t be surprised though – we had the same pleasurable experience with the Nokia X2-01, which clearly is the Asha 303’s prototype.

The Asha 303 is the first S40 phone to combine a touchscreen and a full QWERTY keyboard. It’s the first capacitive screen for the platform too. Of course, the QVGA resolution (and the generally poor display quality) is something to warn against but in terms of ergonomics and build, the Asha 303 is a handset that won’t let you down. And there’s plenty of new skill, some of which you wouldn’t normally expect in an entry level phone. Stay with us, as we continue to explore the new generation of S40.

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The Nokia Asha 303 held in hand

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