Egads it’s a phone with a keyboard! Behold the Nokia Asha 210.
Ah a good ol’ QWERTY keyboard. I know quite a few people who really want a nice cheap phone with decent battery life and a QWERTY keyboard, and that’s what the Nokia Asha 210 promises to be. And then some.
Announced earlier this year, the Nokia Asha 210 is a Dual-SIM phone (single SIM version also available in some regions) that offers the basics of what you’d expect from a modern mobile phone, in a package that is easy on your wallet. Sorta like the Nokia Asha 205, but with better specs.
While you might disregard S40 for being very simple to use, the operating system has a lot of new technology built in, from Nokia’s SLAM feature which lets you send files over Bluetooth without having to pair devices first, to the Xpress browser which uses data compression to save on your data usage.
After using one for a while, here’s what we think of it.
At 111.5 x 60 x 11.8 mm, the Asha 210 is just a tiny bit smaller than the Asha 205 which measures 112.8 x 61.1 x 13 mm. It’s pretty petite by today’s standards and fits very well in your hand.
There’s just the slightest curve at the back, which makes the 210 comfortably to use. And since it only weighs 97 grams, you can very easily use it one handed as well.
We got the black color version for review, but you can also get the Asha 210 in a striking yellow color, the usual white color, a shade of magenta, and my personal favourite, cyan blue.
Build quality is very solid, and I’m pretty sure this little phone can survive quite a lot of drops and falls. There were no creaks or loose parts on our unit, which isnt really a big suprise considering it’s a Nokia mobile phone after all. The materials used dont feel cheap at all, and the glossy hard plastic at parts of the front, coupled with the matte keys and the matte back panel, do make for a pretty interesting appearance.
That being said, the glossy parts of the front around the screen, are a bit of a fingerprint magnet, so you’ll end up wiping it every so often. Especially the display.
Coming to the front of the phone, you have a 2.4 inch 320 x 240 pixels, 167 ppi pixel density, 65K colors, LCD landscape display. Exactly the same size as the screen on the Asha 205. 6 years ago, this would have been considered a huge screen, but by today’s giant phone display standard it’s a bit small. Still for this segment, it’s more than large enough, and gets the job done very well, and since the screen is in landscape, it appears quite large, even though it’s actually the same size as the 206 screen, which is in portrait. You’ll notice color degradation even at mild viewing angles, but it’s not too bad. Resolution is a bit of a downer though, but the pixel density and colors is stil higher than the asha 311. Legibility in outdoor sunlight was also pretty good, though you’ll have to manually pump up the backlight to it’s maximum setting. Incase you’re wondering, the keyboard backlit is a constant brightness, independent of the display brightness setting.
Above the display, you have the lone, centrally located earpiece. Since this isnt a touchscreen device, there’s no need for a proximity sensor. There’s no accelerometer built-in either, nor any front facing camera. But at this price point it’s no surprise.
Below the display is where all the excitement lies. There’s the full QWERTY keyboard underneath a 5-way D-Pad which is flanked by left and right softkeys, and the usual calling keys.
You’ll also notice two shortcut keys, one with a prominent Facebook logo, which as you can guess, is a dedicated Facebook key that opens up the Facebook app for you to immediately update your status and so forth.
In select markets like India, this will be replaced with a button featuring the WhatsApp logo instead, for quick access to the free messaging service.
The other shortcut key has a camera icon on it, but you can configure it to open any other app of your choice, say for example the music player, or email, etc.
Below that, is the four tiered QWERTY keyboard, with each key individually raised at a curve.
The keys have very good feedback to them when pressed, and we were typing out plenty of words-per-minute after getting used to it within a couple minutes of usage.
Each key is easily identifiable, and the key placements are intuitive enough. But that being said, I thought the keyboard was a tiny bit cramped compared to the Asha 205, requiring you to type with your nails or fingertips. Or maybe I’m just too used to touchscreen phones.
At the top, you have a standard oldschool Nokia charging port here, which requires the proprietary Nokia charging pin. There’s also a standard 3.5mm audio jack, to which you can plugin in any pair of headphones. But right in the middle of the two, is a microUSB port which allows for connectivity and charging.
This is a huge advantage over the Nokia Asha 205, which is a great phone but doesn’t have a MicroUSB port. You’ll also notice a notch here to remove the back panel situated here.
On the right side, you have no ports or buttons, keeping things minimalistic.
On the left side, you’ll find the second SIM card slot, protected by a plastic flap.
Both simcard slots are for regular simcards, incase you were wondering. None of that microSIM or nanoSIM card nonsense here, heh.
Coming to the back, there’s the lone 2 megapixel camera, in a very Lumia-styled module and the loudspeaker located towards the bottom. No LED flash unfortunately.
The camera resolution is quite bad by today’s standards, but we’ll discuss that later on.
The loudspeaker is quite loud though, about the same levels as the Asha 205.
And finally, coming to the bottom, you have no ports at all.
All in all, a pretty cute looking QWERTY phone, with very “classic Nokia” build quality.
The Asha 210 isnt a smartphone, so you cant really expect it to have insane specs. Because S40 doesnt have multi-tasking abilities, and is more or less a very efficient mobile operating system, things are generally quick all over, with no slowdowns as such. Unfortunately I could not find out any information on the processor or RAM inside the Nokia Asha 210.
There’s 64 MB of internal memory, which isnt much, but you do have a microSD card slot present as well.
Apart from that, there’s GPRS/EDGE, Wifi, Bluetooth v2.1 with EDR, and an FM radio with FM recording as well. Nokia’s new “Slam” technology works great, and is basically an easier way to share files over bluetooth, working in a similar way to the “Bump” app for iOS and Android.
The fact that the 210 has Wifi is yet another advantage it has over the 205. No GPS or 3G support unfortunately.
Ah now things get interesting. The Nokia Asha 210 runs Series 40 User Interface, which is much different from the Series 40 full-touch-UI on the Asha 311, which itself is different from the swipe-based UI in the Nokia Asha 501. The layout is much more traditional, and rather similar to Symbian, with a set active homescreen pane that you can tweak slightly.
By default you have a list of your SIM cards which are active in the SIM card 1 and SIM card 2 sections, the time & date, a shortcut to music, shortcut to radio, and a row of icons below which by default contains shortcuts to the browser, camera, Nokia music store, Nokia Store and a new section called ‘Notifications’ where you can see… well…. notifications for events like a new text message, missed call, etc.
The left softkey takes you to the ‘Go to’ shortcut menu, while the right softkey takes you to the SIM card manager. In the center, is the shortcut to go to the main menu, which contains a familiar grid of icons, through which you can scroll down.
There are also keyboard shortcuts, like how you can long press the Sym key to get toggle Bluetooth on/off, or you can toggle silent mode by long pressing the Ctrl key or toggle wifi with the space bar. Long pressing the 0 key takes you to the Internet Browser.
Then there’s also the Facebook button on the left side that takes you to the pre-installed Facebook app. As I mentioned earlier, some markets like India, they sell the Asha 210 with a WhatsApp button which takes you to the preinstalled WhatsApp messenger app instead.
Honestly, it’s all the usual S40 that we’ve seen on various Nokia budget devices before. You cant multi-task any application outside of the music player though, which is no surprise since this is the way S40 has been handling things for a while now. Everything is quick enough and while loading apps can take a second, the entire phone is generally very responsive. The only mildly annoying thing was that most phone settings are buried under a set of menus that you’ll have to navigate through to find what you’re looking for. Pretty much the same as previous S40 phones.
Coming to messaging, the Asha 210 excels thanks to it’s full QWERTY keyboard. It’s easy enough to type one handed, though I personally could only type quickly using both hands. As I mentioned before though, it can take some time to get used to the QWERTY keyboard.
Software-wise, the word correction works well enough as well, and you can insert various media content to turn an SMS into an MMS. You can insert images, a short video clip or audio recording, etc.
A quick note about the calendar. It’s very inspired by Symbian and works in pretty much the same way. Does the job well enough.
Coming to the internet browser, it has definitely been one of S40’s weakest features so far, so we didnt head in with very high hopes. You dont have 3G/HSDPA but there is Wifi here, you’re not not stuck with just EDGE or GPRS which can be a little slow depending on your carrier. The mobile versions of most sites load quick enough, though some can be a long wait. Nokia’s Browser also uses intense data compression to save bandwidth, which can come in useful if you’re on a limited data plan. And ofcourse, there’s no flash support incase you were wondering.
The email client onboard is pretty capable, having support for Gmail, Mail for Exchange and much more. It offers very basic functionality though so you know what to expect. There’s also IM support for Google Chat and a couple others.
Apart from all that, there’s the “40 EA Games” available to download free, including popular franchises like Need for Speed, FIFA and Tetris, which should keep most people more than occupied. This does depend on which region you purchased your phone from though.
Coming to media, Images are arranged in a basic grid of thumbnails in the gallery. They work just as you’d expect it to, letting you share to social networks or over bluetooth or email, etc.
You have basic video playback available, for native resolution MP4 or MWV files only, but they have to be in less than 320 x 240 pixels resolution. The screen is decent enough that watching videos is a nice experience, I guess, considering the price tag, and the video player is pretty simple to use.
Music is a much better affair thankfully, with support for MP3, WAV, WMA and AAC. The loudspeaker is pretty loud and the player itself has all the basic features you’d expect out of it. Audio through the included wired headset is okay, but I’d highly advice using a decent pair of headphones instead. In select countries Asha phones also come with 3 months of free Nokia Music as well.
As we mentioned earlier, there’s also an FM radio available, and you even have the ability to record FM broadcasts as well.
There’s also a variety of apps pre-installed such as Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, eBuddy, Nokia Nearby (tells you interesting places nearby), and more. The Twitter and Facebook apps are rather basic, but do a good enough job.
Incase you were wondering, there’s no Nokia Maps pre-installed, but since the 210 doesnt have GPS, it’s not a huge surprise either.
Apart from that, there’s more than enough apps to cover your basic needs from a phone nowadays, and there’s always more apps available to download from Nokia’s Store, which now seems like it has more content for S40 devices than Symbian.
The Nokia Asha 210 has a 2 Megapixel camera which is much better than the lowly VGA on the Asha 205, but both devices can only record video at just QCIF @ 10fps.
Image results were pretty much what you’d expect for the price, with meh colors and lacking details. There’s no LED flash and as such low-light images can be pretty noisy. Video results are pretty terrible, as you’ll see in the video below.
Here’s a couple camera sample images from the Nokia 210 to give you a better idea:
The Call Quality:-
Call Quality is decent enough, considering this is a Nokia phone. No problems with signal strength or dropped calls. Voices came in loud and clear through the earpiece though they did admittedly sound slightly muffled from time to time.
Folks on the other end of the call, said I sounded loud and understandable, but had a slight hint of distortion to my voice.
The Asha 210 is a dual-SIM dual-standby phone, which means if you’re busy on a call which is using one SIM-card, your other SIM will be unavailable during that time.
There’s a SIM manager app onboard to help you configure how the phone behaves with each sim card.
You can even select one SIM card for mobile data and text messages and there’s also a “Counters” app pre-installed to help you keep track of call durations, mobile data usage and messages for each SIM card.
The Battery Life:-
The BL-4U 1200 mAh battery of the Nokia Asha 210 is rated at 1104 hours of standby time, 12 hours of talk time and 40 hours of music playback which is substantially more than the BL-5C 1020 mAh battery of the Nokia Asha 205 which manages 890 hours of standby time, and about 11 hours of talktime.
On moderate usage, with light web browsing, about an hour of fm radio listening, 10 minutes of camera usage and about 30 minutes of calls, I was able to easily get about three days worth of usage out of the Asha 210.
When I reviewed the Nokia Asha 205, I said it was a great budget phone that boasted solid build quality, a full QWERTY keyboard, stylish design, great battery life and a quick, easy-to-use UI all at an affordable price tag. The Nokia Asha 210 is that, but with Wifi, a larger battery, microUSB connectivity (which is a HUGE advantage over the 205) and a better camera.
If you’re just looking for something for calls and texts, with great battery life and occasional bit of Facebook or Twitter thrown in, and really require a QWERTY keyboard, and dont mind surviving on EDGE or GPRS, the Nokia Asha 205 is where it’s at. If you’d like that but with Wifi, a slightly better camera and even longer battery life, the Nokia Asha 210 is where it’s at. Ofcourse, since it’s not a smartphone, you cant multi-task as much, but the trade-off is that there’s really no decent smartphone at this price range anyway.
At the end of the day, Nokia Asha 210 is a pretty great phone. Ofcourse if you’re not up for a QWERTY keyboard, I’d advice getting the much-more-petite Nokia 206 instead (though you’ll be giving up Wifi and microUSB), and if you’re looking for a touchscreen, the Nokia Asha 311 is priced close-ish. Apart from that, at this price range what other decent competition is out there anyway?