The Nokia Asha 501 is a sweetly compact device at 99.2 x 58 x 12.1 mm that weighs just under 100 g. It's a pleasure to handle - it was almost a novel experience after those big (or just plain huge) phones we've been dealing with lately.
There's design and build of the Nokia Asha 501 has got little to do with older Asha generations. And we mean that in all the good ways possible. The phone manages to make an impression with its colorful outer shell. The back cover that folds around the inner body comes in a candy-box variety of colors.
Up front, the 3" screen has an ample bezel around it but that's nothing out of the ordinary in the price bracket. The bigger problem is that the black front is a bit at odds with the bright-colored rear. On a positive note, the capacitive touchscreen is quite responsive and comes with a scratch-resistant coating. The hardware Back button is the only control below the screen, the earpiece symmetrically placed across. The microphone is in the bottom right corner.
There's no brightness sensor but Nokia has included a proximity sensor, which turns the screen off during a call. The back button is pleasingly firm and springy, slightly raised above the surrounding glass surface and therefore easy to locate by touch.
The Asha 501 essentially breaks down to two parts, which is obviously the second most solid construction after unibody. The colorful shell folds around the inner body, resulting in a slim colorful frame around the screen as an accent. At the back we find the 3.15 MP camera lens along with a Nokia logo and a nub at the bottom to push the phone out of the case.
The plastic used is nice to the touch, with a soft matte finish that completely rules out fingerprints.
Overall, we quite like the Asha 501's design. The phone is extra pleasant to hold and work with. What we're most impressed with is how such a simple design makes a huge difference compared to the older Asha generation. The Lumia influence is easily spotted - a great way to update an old, stale look while providing consistency and continuity in the Nokia portfolio - from feature phones to smartphones.
The eye-popping colors also add to the fresh feel of the device.
Nokia has managed to perfectly balance materials and finish, battery life, Dual-SIM support and costs. The Asha 501 is a perfect mix of affordable and portable, but also good-looking and up-to-date.