Nokia Asha 311 Gray WiFi Touchscreen Unlocked GSM QuadBand 3G Bar Cell Phone
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- 3.2 MP Primary Camera
- 3-inch LCD Capacitive Touchscreen
- Expandable Storage Capacity of 32 GB
- 2G and 3G Network Support; FM Radio
- Wi-Fi Enabled
- Unlocked cell phones are compatible with GSM carriers such as AT&T and T-Mobile, but are not compatible with CDMA carriers such as Verizon and Sprint.
- This cell phone may not include a US warranty as some manufacturers do not honor warranties for international version phones. Please contact the seller for specific warranty information.
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The Nokia Asha 311 is a stylish device which comes in a rectangular frame with nominally curved edges. The phone comes in dimensions of 52 x 106 x 12.9 mm and weighs in at 95 g which makes the device both slim and light in weight. The display is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass which is an extremely thin and light glass engineered to resist damage by scratch or force. The display also includes effective sensors such as an Accelerometer which rotates the screen depending on the orientation of the phone and an Ambient Light sensor which adjusts the screen brightness according to the surrounding light.
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To understand why the Asha line isn't found among North American GSM carriers however, one must first understand that North American network success is measured by profitability first and THEN innovation. Nokia has reversed that equation in two ways: (1) By compressing high speed data through their own servers, one can take full advantage of the internet without a required high-cost smartphone data plan and (2) The Asha is LOADED with features and apps found on phones 3-4 times its price. In other words, the Nokia Asha 311 is not economically advantageous to any carrier that would prefer seeing its customers shackled into a 2 year service contract with an expensive smartphone data plan. Not surprisingly, the Asha line is VERY popular in countries outside the US. Indeed, more than 26 million Asha phones have been sold on the global market.
With the Nokia Asha 311, one can use a low-cost feature phone data plan and have full access to Facebook, Googletalk, Twitter, Nokia Maps, Weather Channel, WhatsApp, etc, and still save 3/4 of what you would spend for the same thing otherwise. For example, with the Nokia browser one can easily access email and YouTube. US GSM carriers have rendered this next to impossible on their feature phones. One would assume that with all the Asha features, battery strength would be an issue? Not at all. One can easily go several days between charges, even with regular use. Amazing.
Bear in mind, the Asha 311 is NOT a 4G LTE smartphone. However, it IS one of the best 3.5G feature phones available at any price. Perfect for everyday use or international travel, no other phone at this price range offers you a capacitive touch screen with Corning Gorilla Glass, 3.5 megapixel camera with video, built-in WiFi, VoIP, expandable memory up to 32GB, multiple languages, FM stereo radio, internet radio and even Angry Birds. Buy it, you won't regret it.
Wifi connects well (I'm not a very heavy user of the internet over the phone, but I have streamed videos occasionally and didnt think it bad). I do not use the 3G feature so I'm not bothered about it. The screen size may not be the best for watching videos (having said that I don't think a 4-inch screen does any better). The 3.2mp camera is good (again I'm not very picky about the images). There is no flash (but the flashes I've seen on many phones were not so impressive, so I don't miss it). There is a qwerty keyboard while in landscape mode.
I have synced up my email and calendar so I get email and also meeting reminders on my phone (the syncing happens when I'm connected to WiFi)! My son loves playing games on it.
I wanted a good looking, not too large, touchscreen phone which operates very well as a phone and moderately well as a camera, video/audio player, internet browser, email device, etc.. and I can say for sure I got it.
If you use the internet on your phone at all times, this probably isn't the phone for you. The standard Nokia browser sucks and is kinda slow. Plus, the smallish screen size makes typing an exercise in pronounced concentration and backtracking to delete typos.
If you text up a storm 24/7, this also probably isn't the phone for you. Again, the dodgy keyboard.
But if you're looking for a nice solid phone as an upgrade to your old "dumb" phone, then this might be the phone for you. Remember what cell phones used to do? Y'know, make and receive phone calls? Well, if you're one of those old-fashioned types who still use your phone as ..... well ..... as a phone, then the Asha might be the right phone for you. I personally went with the Asha because reviews said that the call quality was very good, and I can confirm this in most situations.
And if you think of the other smartphone-y functions as merely a bonus, then this phone works well in that regard. I don't have a data plan, so I can't vouch for the data plan connectivity. The Asha, however, connects easily to my home's wi-fi network (it's pretty easy to turn on and off from the home screen). Checking Facebook and email is a cinch whenever I turn on the wi-fi antenna.
Other smartphone-y functions:
- If you text only occasionally, this phone works fine. Receiving and reading texts is a cinch, however.
- The calender/to-do list is a bit clunky, but it works fine after you get used to it. Very useful function if you keep daily reminders.
- The camera's quality is meh, but it's available. The camera can also record video.
- Despite the small screen, video quality is pretty impressive.
- You can play games on it like Angry Birds. (Don't bother using the EA Games app if you're in the U.S. You can download some of those games here: [...]
- The Nokia maps, though a bit clunky, work fine. However, without a data plan, the maps are essentially useless, right? Wrong. Even though you can't automatically locate your position without a data plan, you can still download map data to your phone via wi-fi by panning over your desired locations. Even without a data plan, if you've already downloaded the map data for your current location, you can see the individual streets and intersections for that location. This is more useful than you than you would think, especially if you're touring a city/town/anywhere and don't feel like carrying bulky paper maps.
The phone's storage is also expandable up to 32 GB. Basically, you can vastly increase your current phone's capacity for only $10-$20. The phone's battery life is good (another Nokia trademark, besides good call quality), and the battery can be replaced easily and rather cheaply.
Now for some cons, besides the ones mentioned above:
- The orientation sensor isn't anywhere as good as that of the iPhone 5 (or most other smartphones, I suspect). It takes a second or two to switch views when you turn the camera, if it switches views at all. I don't know what the rules are as to when the phone software decides it can switch views, but it gets annoying when you want to go to landscape view to use the QWERTY keyboard but you remain stuck in portrait view. In those situations, the already small typing screen becomes even smaller. I took at least a half star because of the Asha's dodgy and frankly awful orientation sensor.
- Frequently, whenever I play Monopoly on the phone for 30+ minutes, the game will freeze and the phone will act up. I don't know if this is the game's problem or the phones problem, but I'm guessing a bit of both. The phone gets noticeably hotter at times, and I'm unable turn off the screen with the side button when it gets hot.
- The shiny back panel is a scratch and fingerprint magnet. They really should have made the back panel from the same matte plastic that they used at the bottom of the phone (under the call and disconnect buttons). It's basically my old iPod Nano first gen problem all over again (as opposed to my new iPod Nano 6th gen, which feels like it will take a diamond in order to scratch it).
- Speaking of scratches, this con has more to do with the screen protector than the phone itself. That said, if you do buy the screen protector sold on Amazon, anticipate a difficult and imperfect installation process (with more air bubbles than you'd like) as well as a ton of scratches on the protector a few weeks after you've installed it. The Gorilla Glass screen might have been fine in resisting scratches by itself, but I'm paranoid like that. I'd rather have a crappy screen protector scratched up than the actual phone screen scratched.
Basically, my phone is looking pretty beat up after a month and a half of use. But I don't look at my phone as a fashion accessory. I look at it as a phone, and thus far, it has done its job.
EDIT (8/2013): I have a new phone plan that includes data (30 MB, which is more than enough for what I need right now), so now I can review the Asha on its data connectivity.
The data connectivity is fine. I believe you get a max 3.5G connection, which is fine for most non-streaming tasks. I use it to check email with the app (works just as well as wi-fi), the Facebook app, and the internet on occasion. The browser works fine for checking sports scores, news, and other small tasks like that.
In addition, the Asha makes it really easy to turn on/off data, wi-fi, and Bluetooth connections. Simply swipe down from the top of the screen to access the quick connectivity/sound/calling/texting menu. For small data plans like mine, it is imperative to have the ability to easily turn on/off the data connection.
I've also used the Bluetooth to connect with my car's Bluetooth system. It works very well as long as you're doing one task at a time. Calls via Bluetooth are crystal clear, and music/podcasts played from the Asha via Bluetooth sound fine as well. But don't try to do two things at once because the Asha can't multitask like normal smartphones can. I tried once to pick up a call while a podcast was playing via Bluetooth to my car's speakers; it did not end well. I couldn't hear anything on the phone line, and was forced to restart the phone to reboot everything.
Text messaging has been better than expected as compared to my previous review above. Yes, the keyboard is still too small and you'll still make typos. But like everything, you get better at something as you get more and more used to it.
The cons mentioned above are still pretty much there.
I managed to get a better sense of how to use the orientation sensor: when I turn my phone and the screen remains in the same position, I tap the bottom of the phone (bottom of whichever orientation I'm in, that is) to try to turn the screen. It works some of the time, doesn't work other times. Like I said above, the sensor still stinks.
The scratched-up back screen has worked its way to the camera window. Pictures are blurrier than ever, and they weren't great to begin with. I'm not sure why Nokia didn't bother to put Gorilla Glass or some other scratch-resistant material there. To get around the scratched up window, simply take off the cover when you want to take pictures. (Don't forget to hold the battery so that it doesn't fall out!) It's like night and day between the two. Pictures taken without the cover are now of acceptable quality, if not better. That said, it still sucks that you need to go through such gymnastics to take decent pictures.
One other con I might add: the screen lock button on the side doesn't feel sturdy anymore. It feels like it may give out after one too many uses. Let's hope that's not the case.
EDIT (1/2014): The phone works perfectly fine if you don't use Nokia Suite, but becomes much improved if you do use it. I finally used it this week and have been pleasantly surprised.
Nokia Suite allows you to do a couple of things. First, it allows you to update the phone's software, which gives you newer versions of some apps (like Facebook) as well as some new apps and games. The best part of the updates are the new games, which are all far better than the games originally included (other than Angry Birds).
Second, Nokia Suite allows you to download maps of entire countries directly on your phone. Remember my advice above about saving map sections by panning and zooming with a wi-fi connection (if you don't have a good data plan, that is)? Forget I even mentioned it. Once you've download your country's map via Nokia Suite, you won't need to bother with such gymnastics since you now have access to every street and block in your country.
The only negative is that the complete US map takes up 2 GB of space, which takes a long time to download and a lot of space on your phone. So do yourself a favor and buy a 16 GB micro SD card for $10 (which you really should be doing anyway).
And finally, don't even bother using the Nokia Xpress browser. My review above stated that Xpress sucked and was slow. For several months, I just accepted that the Asha was just not a good web browsing phone because of how crappy Xpress was (despite periodically updating browser). But I finally got fed up and looked for a new browser on the Nokia Store App. The Opera Mini browser was highly recommended, so I downloaded it.
All I can say is, WOW! Using Opera Mini to browse the internet is like a complete night a day difference in speed compared with Xpress. Websites load immediately, and it feels like you're browsing the internet over a true 3.5G connection Opera Mini's general layout is also far superior to Xpress. So do yourself a favor: download Opera Mini and get rid of Xpress from your life.
The only thing to note is that Opera Mini is no longer on the Nokia store after I updated my phone with Nokia Suite. So you should either download it before you update the phone's software, or download it from the web via Google.
EDIT (7/2014): Because my needs have exceeded what the Asha could deliver (mainly, I needed a more reliable email phone for my new job), I had to abandon the Asha a little over a year after I bought it. I've replaced it with a Lumia 521 (which is a true smartphone at a budget price).
Based on my one-month experience with the 521, you should absolutely NOT buy the Asha if you are even a casual to moderate phone internet user. The Lumia 521 has shown me what a true smartphone is like for internet browsing and emails. There is simply no comparison between the two here: simply put, the Asha is not built for internet browsing or email reception.
As I have mentioned above, you should be okay with the Asha as long as you treat it like a slick feature phone with some smartphone-like features (touchscreen, internet capability, email capability). With its easy to use interface and very good call quality, the Asha is a fine phone for those who only need to use their phones to make calls and do some other minor functions (listen to music, text a bit, put in some calendar reminders).
But if you are expecting more from your phone, look elsewhere. I would suggest the Lumia 520 or 521, which can do 75-90% of what an iPhone can do for 1/10th the price. I bought the 521 for $60, which is an absurd deal considering that I bought the Asha for ~$110 and purchased a Nokia candybar phone for my father a few years back for $85. And to put the 521's bargain price into further perspective, I had to replace a broken Samsung contract phone back in 2006 (back when Samsung made crap phones) with a basic Nokia candybar phone. The price back then? $60.