Look and feel
The Nokia Asha 210 is a durable plastic device that may look cut-price, but is tough enough to survive plenty of abuse and comes in a range of bright colours.
Ease of Use
The lack of touchscreen controls means web browsing is a slow, mechanical process, and the Asha 210’s physical keyboard will only suit those with dainty fingers. Series 40 OS is distinctly old-school but does the job when you get to know it, although we couldn’t get our Gmail to work properly.
You get bugger all built-in storage, so you’ll need to invest in a Micro SD memory card to carry music, take photos and download apps. The Nokia app store is sadly understocked compared to the likes of Google’s Play store too. However, the Asha 210 does sport a reasonable budget two megapixel camera, FM radio, and decent social media support.
Despite its budget processor, the Nokia Asha 210 runs well for the most part. Occasionally there’ll be a lengthy pause while an app loads or the camera processes an image, but we never saw any worrying stutters or system meltdowns.
As you’d expect, the Nokia Asha 210 can keep on running for days, even with regular use.
Review by Sunetra Chakravati,5/15/2013 4:06:13 PM
Ease of use
Social media integration
Poor app selection;
Preliminary note: The Asha 210 model we reviewed was not final retail version. As well as not being absolute final software, the review model used a 1100mAh battery instead of the retail version’s 1200mAh battery.
Nokia’s Asha range is a low-cost alternative to BlackBerry, rocking a similar physical keyboard and some nifty social network integration to allow you to keep in touch on the move. The Nokia Asha 210 is the latest addition, a sub-£50 phone that handles social media well despite the basic OS and lack of touchscreen, but some email issues, a lack of apps and stilted web browsing make it less attractive than budget Android devices.
Range of colours
With our initial play, we thought the Nokia Asha 210 felt every bit as budget as its price tag confirms. It’s bulky yet light, with an all-round plastic finish that spreads to the QWERTY keyboard, and a back panel that peels off to reveal the battery, SIM card slot and Micro SD memory card slot. At first we disliked the chunky plastic feel of it, but the more we played with the phone, the less we noticed it. Indeed, the Asha 210 is tough enough to take a few knocks, and doesn’t suffer from any obvious weak spots.
Physical keyboards are usually a big seller for fans of email and instant messaging, especially if you hate typing on a touchscreen. The Nokia Asha 210’s keyboard feels a little more cramped than BlackBerry’s boards, and indeed you’ll need fairly dainty fingers to keep from mashing more than one button at once by accident, although at least the keys are rounded to give them texture. All of the most-used punctuation is within easy reach, with a fast-access symbols menu for smileys and other bits. We also like how the keyboard is backlit, so we can send ill-advised texts when staggering home from a late night pub session.
If you’re bored of plain black and white mobile phones, you’ll be pleased to hear the Nokia Asha 210 comes in a range of bright colours, as well as the standard offerings. Our review device sported an attractive blue finish, but you can also bag it in yellow or magenta.
The Asha 210 uses Nokia’s own Series 40 OS, which is very much old-school but has the advantage of running smoothly on basic budget devices. You get a single desktop with space for a couple of widgets, for instance a calendar tool that shows your next appointment and an email widget that displays your latest messages. With a shortcut bar you can quickly access your favourite apps, else you can scroll through all available apps in the menu.
The 2.4-inch screen isn’t touch-sensitive, so you have to navigate around using the D-pad and physical buttons. This may sound archaic when you can get touchscreen Android phones for £50 or less, and indeed we kept prodding the display by mistake to try and select options. However, once you spend some time with it and learn your way around the menus, you’ll find it takes little time to do what you need.
And while the Asha 210 has a basic processor, it copes admirably with general tasks. Occasionally an app took a while to load, but we didn’t see any performance meltdowns and you get a projected 46 days of standby time – something we couldn’t fully measure, but the battery happily lasted for a handful of days with regular use.
Web and email
Browsing the web is sadly a clunky experience, as you’d expect when you have to move an on-screen cursor using buttons instead of simply scrolling and tapping. Standard websites are too blocky when viewed full-screen because of the low resolution, so you need to zoom right in to make out text, while images are often pixelated. There’s a YouTube app which loads the video sharing site in the browser, but videos are again far too blocky and glitchy to enjoy, unless you really enjoy squinting until your eyeballs hurt.
Thankfully mobile-optimised websites are a lot friendlier, with text and photos fitting themselves to the compact screen, and the browser does at least save your history. If you only want to use the web to occasionally check the footy scores, it’s serviceable. Anything more complex and you’ll be swearing enough to scare your granny.
Our email experience was a definite lowlight, and given the Asha 210’s social leanings that’s a big negative. We personally use Gmail, and every time we tried to set up our personal account, our inbox was always displayed as empty except for a single message, from March 2012. The fact that our other email folders (including the sent folder) loaded fine made this even more puzzling.
We also experienced some gremlins when attempting to compose a message. Occasionally we tried quitting out by hitting ‘cancel’ or mashing the decline/power button, with no luck – we had to send the email to escape. We also found ourselves trapped inside the symbols menu, which led to us restarting the phone in desperation.
These issues may be down to the fact that we were reviewing a not-final-retail model, but we still weren’t able to import our Gmail calendar or similar basic functions that would be a breeze on a budget Android device.
Media and apps
If you’re a music fan you can listen to your MP3s on the Asha 210 or rock out to the FM radio, but the 25MB of built-in storage means you absolutely have to invest in a Micro SD memory card to carry your collection around.
That also applies if you plan on downloading apps from Nokia’s online store. This gives you access to all kinds of tools, games and even videos, in the form of football highlights and trailers. Sadly the selection is limited compared to the likes of Google Play. Most games categories contain only a handful of titles, and the ‘latest games’ section had only three from this year. One of the most popular, ‘Bikini Bubbles Amy Rose’ is basically a simple and ugly puzzle game featuring low-res pics of a woman in swimwear, while most of the others on offer are straight out of the SNES era.
This limited selection continues with the standard apps – all you need to know is the top ten downloads includes ‘101 Romantic Ideas’, ‘Love Calculator’ and ‘Daily Love Messages’. Thankfully there was nothing with the words ‘Bieber’ or ‘One Direction’ in the title.
Of course, the Asha 210 comes with some apps pre-installed, including social media services Facebook and WhatsApp. Nokia has bigged up the social media aspects of the Asha, and there are two different models, one with a dedicated Facebook button which launches you straight into the app, and another with a WhatsApp button.
The Facebook app is presented similar to the main Series 40 menu, with access to various features including your news feed, profile, photos, conversations and more. It’s intuitive and easy to use, although once again photos are a little too blocky to enjoy. WhatsApp is also well implemented, allowing you to quickly send messages to your friends – similar to texts – except you can see when your message has been received and read.
Overall, the social media side is one of the Asha 210’s strongest suits, making the most of an interface that is lacking a touchscreen.
You can launch the Nokia Asha 210’s two megapixel camera by pushing the dedicated button on the front of the phone. This allows you to take basic photos for sharing online. The lack of focus means some shots, particularly up-close, come out rather blurry and ugly, but the camera is perfectly serviceable for general family shots. Our only real complaint is that occasionally the phone will spend a long time ‘processing’ photos after taking them, giving you a lengthy pause until you can shoot another.
There’s no front-facing camera, but Nokia has included an interesting Portrait Mode, which tells you exactly where to hold the phone to take a snap of your beautiful mug. It’s a unique feature that works surprisingly well. You can also take incredibly blurry videos, which are basically unwatchable on a decent sized PC monitor or TV.
Although the Nokia Asha 210 is highly affordable and tries its best, packing in some decent features for the price, there’s a lot of rough to go with the smooth. The lack of a touchscreen makes web browsing a cumbersome experience, while a lack of decent apps made us long for an Android phone. Still, if all you’re after is a colourful budget blower for texting and keeping up with social media, the Asha 210 will happily fill that void.