The Finns have updated both the hardware and software of the new-generation Asha smartphones. All three devices will come with an additional "ice layer" on top of the characteristic bright colors - essentially a clear shell covering the back of the device. It captures the light and makes the color of the plastic beneath it really pop. The dual layers are also intended to keep the Asha 500 and its brethren away from scratches and damages.
Other than the new transparency layer, the new Asha phones sport basically the same design as the Asha 501 they replace. Colorful as ever, the new phones will be available in black, bright red, bright green, yellow, and cyan.
The button layout of the Asha 500 (502 and 503, too) hasn't changed at all - the volume rocker and Power/Lock key are located on the right hand-side and feel solid as ever. The hardware Back button is the only control below the screen and doesn't protrude as much as on the Asha 501.
The hardware might've not changed that much, but the software sure has. Nokia has revamped the Asha software, updating the Fastlane experience as well as including a new swipe shortcut for quickly launching the camera - it's done with a swipe up from the lockscreen. You can also swipe left and right to access snapped images and camcorder mode, respectively, and there's also one tap sharing to Facebook.
Thanks to the addition of WhatsApp messaging application, the Asha are now more social than ever. Typing on the tiny keyboard is still somewhat of a struggle and isn't really a possibility for people with larger hands.
Anyway, the differences between the three little fellas are small, but essential, considering the kind of users they target.
The Asha 500 sports a QVGA 2.8" display and is 2G-only. At the back, there's a 2MP snapper with no flash. In comparison, the Asha 502 and 503 feature a bit larger 3" display.
The Asha 502 is again just 2G-enabled, but sports a bit smaller 1,010 mAh battery. However, the microSD slot with support of 32GB of additional storage and 5MP camera with LED flash make up for the smaller juice pack.
Finally, the Asha 503 adds 3G to the equation and sports the aforementioned 5MP camera with LED flash, microSD card slot as well as the larger 1,200mAh battery. It also sports Gorilla Glass 2 screen protection.
The Asha 500 and Asha 503 are available in both single and dual-SIM configurations, unlike the Asha 502, which only has a dual-SIM version.
When the Asha 501 was released to the market, Nokia asked $99 for it, so the $69 price tag of the Asha 500 is a nice step towards broader market appeal. The Asha 502 and 503 will cost $89 and $99, respectively with an expected launch in Q4 of this year in Africa, Asia-Pacific, Europe, and the Middle East. Latin America will see the launch of the Asha 500 and 503 around that time as well.
All in all, the new Asha smartphones are a step in the right direction for the Finns. Some people may find the "ice protected" casing not to their liking, but it's hard to argue that they deliver a compelling set of features for their respective price points.