Nokia X vs Nokia Asha 502, 503 vs Nokia Lumia 520

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Nokia X vs Nokia Asha 502, 503 vs Nokia Lumia 520
Realizing that mobile phone sales in India are largely concentrated at the bottom of the pool, Nokia has provided three new options.



NEW DELHI: For budget phone buyers, there are only two options in the Android market today – either go for the pretty-basic-but-functional Samsung Galaxy Star or choose a phone from Indian players like Micromax, Lava and Karbonn which don’t inspire full confidence in terms of performance, build quality as well as software updates.

In comes Nokia, with new launches Asha 502, Asha 503 and Nokia X. Realizing that mobile phone sales in India are largely concentrated at the bottom of the pool, the phone maker has provided these three new options in recent weeks.

But these are not the only Nokia phones in the segment. Under Rs 10,000, you can also get your hands on Asha 500 as well as the popular Lumia 520. The price of latter’s successor Lumia 525 also dropped below Rs 10,000 recently. And two more Nokia X phones – X+ and XL – are coming in May.

But these are not the only Nokia phones in the segment. Under Rs 10,000, you can also get your hands on Asha 500 as well as the popular Lumia 520. The price of latter’s successor Lumia 525 also dropped below Rs 10,000 recently. And two more Nokia X phones – X+ and XL – are coming in May.

This creates a lot of confusion for buyers, who would – quite obviously – be flummoxed as to why Nokia offers six phones running on three different operating systems in this range! Add to that the question: Which one to buy?

To help solve the dilemma, let us first see what the three new phones have to offer:

Asha 502 and 503
Nokia Asha 502 and 503 have identical hardware: 3-inch screen with 240x320p resolution; 5MP rear camera with LED flash; microSD card support up to 32GB, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 3.0 and microUSB 2.0. The glossy plastic body in the same colour options – white, black, red, blue, black and yellow – drive home their lineage to the Asha family.

Our units of the two phones came running on Asha software platform 1.1.1, which is not much different from the one that debuted last year in June on Asha 500. You get WhatsApp, a crucial app for many buyers in India, and a few more games, but what we had hoped from this software platform has not happened yet.

While reviewing Asha 500, we expected that Nokia will invest more energy and resources in developing this software into a fast-performing alternative for Android at the low-end. However, the platform has stagnated over the past six months, even as its FastLane feature has been integrated into the Android-based Nokia X platform.

Asha 502 costs approximately Rs 5,000 in the market today, whereas Asha 503 is available at Rs 6,500. So what does the extra Rs 1,500 get you? The main advantage that Asha 503 has over 502 is 3G compatibility. It is, in fact, the only model in the new Asha line to offer 3G functionality.

This phone also has a slightly bigger battery (1 ,200mAh) compared with Asha 502 (1,010mAh). However, both phones lasted slightly over a day during general usage in our testing period with mobile internet turned on all the time.

Being budget phones, the two have slow app processing, which can be frustratingly snail-paced sometimes. We would have put stock in future updates, but seeing how the platform has not improved much in terms of content, apps and smoothness in operation, we don’t have much hope.

The user interface feels just slightly better than that of a feature phone, but if you are looking for the smoothness offered by the likes of Android and Windows Phone, then you are out of luck.

In the case of Asha 502, if you are looking beyond Nokia, then Samsung Galaxy Star and Karbonn A12 Plus would be suitable choices.

Asha 503’s case is a little different. It costs around Rs 6,500 in the market today, but add another Rs 1,000 and you can buy Lumia 520 – a vastly superior phone. Lumia 520 is, in fact, one of the best phones under Rs 10,000. It is smooth, has a relatively well stocked app store and offers decent camera quality as well as battery life.

Moreover, Lumia 520’s user interface is much more polished than the sluggish Asha platform. The chinks are ironed out and most apps run smoothly; you cannot run powerful games that demand 1GB of RAM on the smartphone, but the likes of Temple Run operate smoothly.

In fact, one should go for Nokia’s incremental update Lumia 525 only if gaming is what you desire. Else, Lumia 520 remains the best value for money model.

Nokia X
Lumia 520 is even better than Nokia X, the first Android phone by the company. It is also cheaper than the Android model, which costs nearly Rs 8,000.

In our review period, Nokia X had proved to be a poor phone that frustrates the users with a laggy user experience, that stutters even while running even the most basic apps. Playing games is a drag and filled with frame drops. Battery life is among the worse we have seen, going from 100% to 0% in just 7-8 hours (with 3G turned on).

Nokia X’s body is chunky, edges in the front feel rough and lack refinement, the camera (which comes with LED flash) delivers disappointing performance, and web browsing experience is poor.

In fact, Nokia itself has said that the X series of Android phones is meant to be a feeder system to make users upgrade to the Windows Phone-powered Lumia range. This is the reason Nokia has used the Fastlane feature of the Asha series as well as Windows Phone’s tile-based look, so that new buyers are familiar with the WP user interface.

It may also be possible that if users move from the sluggish Nokia X user experience back to a decent-performing Lumia interface, they may feel a stark difference between them, one that makes them swear by the Windows Phone platform more strongly than the Nokia X experiment.

Now that we are done with the three new phones, let us take a look at the older Nokia phones under Rs 10,000.

Asha 500
Like the newer Asha phones, Asha 500 suffers from a feature phone-like user experience, even as it brings better internet access to the table. However, being a 2G-only smartphone, it does not offer fast access to mobile data and limits the user experience considerably. And just as we described above, there has been almost no growth in the platform that users can appreciate, even though it now has WhatsApp – a key app for buyers nowadays.

Lumia 520
As we stated earlier, Lumia 520, in our view, remains the best VFM Nokia phone under Rs 10,000. It offers a fluid, lag-free user experience, decent 4-inch screen, 5MP camera that delivers good performance if you are looking for casual photos. It also has access to most apps on Windows Phone platform, with only high-definition games out of its reach due to 512MB RAM.

Though officially discontinued, Lumia 520 is still easily available in the market for around Rs 7,000 to Rs 7,500, or even less.

Lumia 525
Lumia 525 is the same as Lumia 520, but with more RAM (1GB) and a glossier body (not necessarily the best thing). These are the only two differences between the Lumia handsets available for less than Rs 10,000 in India. And unless you are a mobile gaming aficionado, Lumia 520 will do everything that Lumia 525 does with equal ease.

It is evident that Lumia 520 – despite being a 2012 model – still remains the best Nokia phone under Rs 10,000 even after nearly two years. If you take out gaming, it performs as well as Lumia 525, and is definitely a better choice than the Asha phones and Nokia X, the Android handset sans Google apps and Google Play Store.

For those awaiting the India launch of the newly-unveiled Lumia 630, a word of advice: the phone is likely to be priced above Rs 10,000, making Lumia 520 still your best bet for the coming few months.


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