When you think of web browsing on a phone, you are probably imagining 4+" screens, LTE speeds and blazing benchmarks, but it's actually a phone like the Nokia Asha 306 that can really bring Internet connectivity to the masses - Nokia's "next billion" plan.
The 2G-only mobile data connection isn't ideal, but the phone's browser opens compressed web pages, which saves on both time and data allowance. You can also opt for Wi-Fi hotspots to get a faster connection for free.
The 3" WQVGA resistive touchscreen on the Asha 306 isn't the best there is, but it gives you Facebook and Twitter that are much easier to navigate than on an old-school keypad. The chat and email services that run in the background also boost your online presence, even without full smartphone functionality.
The two biggest issues with the Asha 306 is the dated chipset, which renders the otherwise good software sluggish, and the touchscreen, which just lacks the sensitivity of a capacitive unit.
It may sound unfair that we're complaining about these things, but let's look at what you can buy at or around the price of the Asha 306.
The Nokia Asha 311 is the obvious first choice as it resolves both complaints, but it is pricier than the 306. Or, you can go dual-SIM with the Asha 305 but you will loose Wi-Fi in the process.
The newly announced Nokia Asha 309 is a bit of a middle ground between the 306 and 311, but that one isn't out yet.
If you insist on a touch-operated feature phone, then a Samsung S5260 Star II offers a screen with the same size/resolution but of the capacitive variety, plus there's a 3MP camera with QVGA@15fps video and the Star II is actually cheaper than the Asha.
Pretty much the same goes for the Sony Ericsson Mix Walkman.
Android phones have ventured as far down as the sub-€100 price range off contract. A Samsung Galaxy Pocket costs nearly the same as the Asha 306. True, it doesn't provide the smoothest of rides or the highest quality screen, but it's still a full-fledged droid. An LG Optimus L3 even has a bigger screen and a 3MP camera at the same price point. Both of these droids have 3G too.
Nokia claims that their Asha Touch range has "full smartphone classification from global market research companies and analysts such as GfK and IDC" but, unfortunately for the Asha 306, it's competing against actual smartphones and cheaper touch phones in its price range.
Sure, the swipe interface is as good as feature phone UIs get (we're still reluctant to call the Ashas "smartphones") and the Asha 306 does have the Nokia pedigree. But in the end, the slow chipset, resistive touchscreen, no 3G and limited choice of apps make it hard to recommend the Nokia Asha 306 over a low-end Android or even against the Asha 311. Let's not forget though that there are still plenty of S30 phones around, whose users will find the Asha 306 a worthy upgrade.