Nokia has given its Series 40-based range of touchscreen Asha smartphones another push to try to keep up with the low end reach of Google’s Android platform today. The mobile maker has announced a new addition to the range — the Asha 501 (pictured left & below) — which also ushers in a new version of the Asha touch UI that’s designed to be quicker and slicker, and has a focus on swiping gestures to make it feel more fluid.
The three-inch capacitive screen Asha 501, which has Wi-Fi but no 3G and costs $ 99 before taxes & subsidies, is expected to start shipping in June, via some 60 carriers in more than 90 countries worldwide. Nokia’s Asha range typically targets emerging markets in Africa, Asia and South America but Asha devices have also been ranged in Europe.
Although Nokia has retired its other in-house platform Symbian, to concentrate its smartphone efforts on Microsoft’s Windows Phone OS, it has continued to expand its portfolio of low end Android alternative S40-based devices — adding in a variety of new hardware and software features to devices in the range, including full Qwerty keyboards; dedicated keys for Facebook/WhatsApp; refreshed industrial design; its Bluetooth sharing technology Slam; its Xpress browser to lighten the data consumption load; preloaded social networking apps; free games downloads; and a focus on long battery life.
But keeping up with low end Androids also means improving Asha’s usability — and that’s what its latest platform refresh is all about. The Asha 501 is in fact the first fruit of Nokia’s 2012 acquisition of Smarterphone, a Norwegian company that made mobile OSes for feature phones designed to give them smartphone looks and capabilities.
Nokia said the new Asha platform is faster and more responsive. It also introduces a touchscreen UI refresh — with a dual homescreen view: the Home screen is a “traditional icon-based view for launching individual apps or accessing a specific feature”, while the new Fastlane view changes based on device usage, showing things like “recently accessed contacts, social networks and apps”.
Fastlane “provides a record of how the phone is used, giving people a glimpse of their past, present and future activity, and helping them multi-task by providing easy access to their favorite features”, according to Nokia’s press release. The feature sounds a lot like certain portions of Motorola’s Android skinning software — such as the widgets deployed on 2012 devices like the Motorola Motosmart.
The overall idea of the design refresh is to make it easier for Asha users to get to the apps and features they’re after, according to Nokia – with the two main screens accessible by a “simple swipe”. ”Fastlane is integral to the whole Nokia Asha 501 experience, but so is the ‘swipe’ motion,” a spokeswoman told TechCrunch. “With swipe as you experience it on the device, we were able to make optimal use of screen space, so you see just what you need. You swipe to everything else, including pull-down menus and of course, Fastlane. The whole user experience is faster and more responsive.”New Asha, New Apps
So what about apps? The new Asha platform does require developers to rework apps for it — either by writing them afresh or porting them over. Which does mean Nokia is pushing the reset button yet again, but the company would probably argue that at this price point with these price-conscious consumers, users aren’t expecting hoards of apps — just select key apps. It’s also added in-app purchases to the new Asha platform, offering developers a new way to monetise Asha apps, along with its Nokia Advertising Exchange and carrier billing network.
“A good percentage of existing apps can be ported to the new platform,” said Nokia’s spokeswoman. “We already have many developers working on this. Going forward and with the new Nokia Asha Software Development Kit, developers can write an app once, and it will be compatible with future devices also built on the new Asha platform, with no need to re-write code.”
Apps that are already available for the new Nokia Asha platform include CNN, eBuddy, ESPN, Facebook, Foursquare, Line, LinkedIn, Nimbuzz, Pictelligent, The Weather Channel, Twitter, WeChat, World of Red Bull and games from Electronic Arts, Gameloft, Indiagames, Namco Bandai and Reliance Games. Nokia said its HERE location software will also be available as a download, starting in Q3 this year — and will “initially include basic mapping services”.
Messaging giant WhatsApp is noticeably absent from the list but Nokia’s spokeswoman suggested that may change in future, noting: “WhatsApp and other key partners continue to explore new Asha.”
In select markets, certain carriers are also offering data-free access to apps including the Facebook app and mobile website on the 501 for a limited time, offering another hook for the target cost-conscious consumers.
The 501 comes preloaded with Nokia’s cloud-based data compressing Xpress browser. Nokia has also created a new web app, called Nokia Xpress Now, which ”recommends content based on location, preferences and trending topics”. It said this will be available via the Browser homepage or as a download from the Nokia Store.
“Nokia has surpassed expectations of what’s achievable in the sub-100 USD phone category with a new Asha handset that is unlike any other, with design cues from Lumia and a mix of features, services and affordability that is valued by price-conscious buyers,” said Neil Mawston, executive director, Global Wireless Practice, Strategy Analytics, in a supporting statement.
Commenting on the launch via Twitter, Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi added: “Asha 501 shows what you can achieve when you design bottom up rather than strip down features to hit the right price point.
“Asha 501 Dual SIM with hot swap very important to users but what is most striking on this device is the user interface.”
The full device specifications for the Asha 501 are as follows:
Dimensions: 99.2 x 58 x 12.1 mm; 98 grams
Camera: 3.2 MP
Single SIM standby time: up to 48 days
Dual SIM standby time: up to 26 days
Talk time: up to 17 hours
Additional memory of 4GB (card included in box), expandable up to 32GB
Forty free EA Games worth €75 downloadable from Nokia Store
Available colours: Bright Red, Bright Green, Cyan, Yellow, White and Black
Suggested pricing is 99 USD before taxes and subsidies.
Ever wonder how Google can make such grandiose claims for the sheer amount of Street View imagery it collects? Here’s how. Google’s Masrur Odinaev has posted a snapshot of a central mapping car parking lot that shows dozens of the camera-equipped Subaru Imprezas amassed ahead of future runs. While it already represents more Street View cars in one place than anyone outside of Google would normally ever see, what’s most impressive is remembering that this addresses just a portion of the entire vehicle mix — aside from the local cars you don’t see in the photo, there are extra units worldwide providing street-level coverage alongside tricycles and underwater expeditions. Odinaev’s look reminds us just how much effort is needed to make Street View a common feature — and that there are are legions of Google staffers whose low-profile work goes a long way towards making our navigation easier.
While being able to schedule DVR recordings from your mobile device is nice, an update currently being pushed to some Comcast DVRs is adding the ability for users to check exactly what shows are stored there from an app or web browser. Previously the only remote info users could get from their DVRs was the percentage of storage currently in use and what recordings were scheduled to take place, but now users can see individual recordings, choose to watch any of them now, change their deletion priority, or even delete them remotely. Hopefully that doesn’t lead to any unintentional interhousehold griefing as users manage the often inadequate hard drive space in their cable DVR, but it can certainly put ones mind at rest to know The League (or whatever your show of choice might be) was successfully archived.
The update is quietly being pushed out as a software update for the DVR itself, and should appear automatically for users on the web or in their iOS app’s DVR manager (Android users can access it as well, but via the browser). We noticed the change after our Motorola DVR got an update that also made the name of a channel appear under the number when typed in from the remote. It worked well, although a few much older recordings were not listed online every new one was, which could explain the quiet rollout that Comcast confirmed to us jsut began yesterday. One other change taking place at the same time is a new Xfinity TV Player app for iOS that is focused solely on streaming VOD, mirroring a similar app already out on Android. While the Xfinity TV app on the platform has handled streaming duties since 2010, the dedicated player has a different menu and even player interface, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see the feature excised from the general app eventually.
Note: Worthwhile higher-res version HERE.
This is the eXtreme Deep Field, a composite shot of all the galaxies in a teensy view of space, taken by the Hubble Space Telescope’s two primary cameras over the past decade. Look at all those galaxies! And, I hope you’re sitting down — they’re all in this amount of space!:
Everything in the main picture is contained in that little box next to the moon. It’s estimated the universe is ~13.7-billion years old, and the eXtreme Deep Field depicts galaxies as old as 13.2-billion. Another 0.5-billion and we could see God flipping the light switch on! But that’s not what I came to talk about, I came to talk about aliens. If there are that many galaxies in that small amount of space, there must be all kinds of aliens out there. Big ones, little ones, green ones, purple ones — I bet the universe has them all! And, fingers crossed, strip clubs for every kind. Excuse me alien, but is this a male or female club? “Our species is entirely asexual, human.” Hoho, so both kinda! How much for a private dance?
Hit the jump for a video of a simulated fly-through the eXtreme Deep Field. Get high and pretend you’re in a spaceship!
Because how useful is is a map that doesn’t include some explorable underwater reefs (still pretty useful truthfully), Google has begun adding underwater shots to Google Maps, starting with the Great Barrier Reef (links to actual map). I clicked around for awhile hoping to spot a mermaid, but with no luck. I did find this sea turtle though. He might not be as sexy as a mermaid, but that’s only because you and I aren’t sea turtles. Hell, I’d probably have fallen in love with him if I was a frog.
The survey will take up to 50,000 360-degree panoramic images that will be added to Google Maps, focusing on areas in the Great Barrier Reef and locations in the Philippines and Hawaii. Check out some sample imagery in our gallery.
“Now, anyone can become the next virtual Jacques Cousteau and dive with sea turtles, fish and manta rays in Australia, the Philippines and Hawaii,” Brian McClendon, vice president of Google Maps and Earth and a self-described snorkeling enthusiast, wrote on the Google blog.
Hey, look at me, I’m the next virtual Jacques Cousteau…clicking around on my computer like the world’s least intrepid underwater adventurer. Still, at least there aren’t any sharks. Man, this reminds me of when I used to click around in Google Maps pretending I was a UPS driver. SAD TIMES, BROBRO.
Thanks to Stevie and greggula, who don’t like any nature exploring that isn’t voiced-over by David Attenborough.
Secrets have been hard to keep in the camera world lately, and now Olympus has undergone its second leak in as many days, but this time with a couple of higher-profile actors — the E-PL5 and E-PM2 mirrorless cameras. Both will use the Olympus E-M5 sensor with TruePic VI image engine and touchscreen, and are reported to be priced at €399 ($ 520) for the E-PM2 with a 14-42mm kit lens (in silver, below the break) and €599 ($ 780) for the E-PL5 with the same lens, shown above. That follows earlier leaks from Sony, Fujifilm and others, along with two upcoming lenses from Olympus that were also outed ahead of time. Hopefully, there’ll still be a couple of surprises left when Photokina rolls around next week.
[Image credit: Digicam Info]
Filed under: Cameras
Maggie Valley, NC mountain view. With a country music band in the background down in the valley. Taken after sunset with the Samsung Galaxy SIII.Related Posts:
Many photographers will tell you that their least favorite shooting situation involves a portrait with the sun to the subject’s back: there’s a good chance the shot ends up an unintentional silhouette study unless the shooter meters just perfectly from that grinning face. Apple has just been granted a patent for the metering technique that takes all the guesswork out of those human-focused shots on an iOS 5 device like the iPhone 4S or new iPad. As it’s designed, the invention finds faces in the scene and adjusts the camera exposure to keep them all well-lit, even if they’re fidgety enough to move at the last second. Group shots are just as much of a breeze, with the software using head proximity and other factors to pick either a main face as the metering target (such as a person standing in front of a crowd) or an average if there’s enough people posing for a close-up. You can explore the full details at the source. Camera-toting rivals, however, will have to explore alternative ideas.
A Reddit user found this video recorded on his brand new HP laptop. It was stored in the My Documents folder and clearly depicts the mundanity of life inside a hardware manufacturing plant. This was taken in the Quanta Chongqing Manufacturing City in Chongqing and the worker seems to be testing the camera on this particular model.
Usually evidence of this testing is wiped out. It wasn’t in this case.
Essentially, you’re looking at the face of modern manufacturing. He’s not mistreated, he’s not chained to his desk, but he’s building the same thing, over and over again, a prospect not many of us would relish. It’s a mundane view inside a fairly secret world that we as consumers rarely get to see.Related Posts: