Look and feel
The Asha 306 has shied away from the rounded edges for something that looks like it’s been styled with a hatchet. The matt battery cover gives some grip to a handset you might be happier to let slip through your fingers.
Ease of Use
A resistive touchscreen makes the 306 feel like ancient technology. Frustrating and unresponsive.
A lack of 3G and GPS while the lure of the internet and Nokia maps make for uneasy bedfellows but the Asha 306 throws in a FM radio and useable camera to stem the disappointment. 40 free EA titles to download from the Nokia store.
Laggy and disobedient thanks to the touchscreen. Painfully slow internet access on GPRS and not much better when connected to Wi-Fi.
The sole benefit of 2G technology is that it offers a longer battery life. Expect 3-4 days between your charge with everyday calling and texting, slightly less if you’re using the music player.
While all eyes on Nokia have been firmly focused on the Microsoft powered Lumia range, the once go-to name for mobile phones have been quietly working on its Asha range of budget handsets. Marketed as ‘Ready To Take On The World’, we were less than impressed by the range-leading Asha 311, so things weren’t looking great for the 306 - but with an open mind we pressed on...
Don’t be fooled by the Gorilla Glass touch screen and chiselled looks - the Asha 306 is an entry level mobile phone, not a smartphone. By chiselled, we mean the chamfered edges which are a welcome change from the off-the-peg smooth round look favoured by many manufacturers. Our test handset was smoke grey and black but it’s also available in red, blue and white.
With Nokia’s trademark Call/End keys below the display and a stylish curved side profile hosting a volume rocker and lock key on one edge and microSD slot on the other, the 306 is doing okay so far. On the top edge is a 3,5mm headphone jack, mini charging socket and usb port. Rather than the predictable high-gloss fingerprint magnet battery cover, Nokia has gone for a matt finish which gives the handset an element of grip.
Fire up the 1GHz power plant and you’re faced with the same Series 40 platform as on the Asha 311, with a home screen full of colourful, Android-inspired icons. Swipe the screen right and you land on a second screen, customisable with up to 16 shortcuts for your apps and contacts.
Actually, it’s not quite as straight forward as that because of the resistive touchscreen. Remember resistive? They’re rubbish. Every keystroke or screen selection consists of multiple prods and pushes as the tech tries to keep up with your actions. Coax the 306 into dragging the homescreen left and you land on a full-screen dialler. We noted with the 311 that being so accessible this was a plus-point but with the 306’s level of response, not so much.
The 3 inch, 400x240 display is tightly packed with pixels (~155ppi) so the display looks well defined but reading websites full-page is definitely out. Talking of which, if web-browsing is your thing you might be quicker nipping down your local library. With no 3G, the Asha 306’s browser moves at a pensionable pace. Even while connected to Wi-Fi, Nokia’s browser is embarrassingly slow for new technology so the pre-installed Facebook and Twitter apps only serve to rub salt in your wounds.
Nokia has adorned the Asha 306 with a 2MP camera that’s good for happy-snapping in good light but the video capability is low-res and juddery to say the least. There’s also Nokia maps preinstalled but good luck if you ever got lost and need to rely on it. With no GPS chip, the Asha 206 relies on GPRS triangulation to work out your approximate location. Eventually. And it doesn’t like directions to routes over 10km. In fact, it even makes the much-maligned Maps app on iOS6 look good.
For fans of music on the move, the player can handle the usual file formats with reasonable sound quality and the speaker on the rear of the handset is loud if a bit thin-sounding. Nokia have also bundled a FM radio player as is standard on their Series 40 OS.
As part of a deal Nokia have struck with EA for the range, Asha owners can download 40 free titles from the games giant’s range within the first 60 days of accessing the offer. The games are all basic Java apps but will pass the time if you have a big enough microSD card and the time to wait while they download.
The Nokia Asha 306 is indicative of why Nokia has fallen from favour so spectacularly. What could be a solid, basic handset is dressed up as an Android-lookalike with the price tag to match but none of the ‘droid’s functionality. A bad display, bad touchscreen and bad browser is going to disappoint at every turn. Actually, to be fair the battery’s not bad.