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Nokia Asha 503 Review

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Rating: 6/10


  • Beautiful design
  • Outstanding build quality
  • Great camera


  • Limited Operating system
  • Sluggish user experience
  • Old architecture


The Nokia Asha 503 is tiny by smartphone standards, with its 3 inch touch screen. It has a rather large bezel and is thick at 12.7 mm.

The 503 is solid. Its build quality outshines many more expensive phones and the inclusion of a Gorilla Glass screen adds to its overall durability. I love its look and applaud Nokia for pushing the boundaries of design on a budget phone.

The placement of USB port, audio jack, power buttons and volume rocker have been well thought through and the capacitive back button is well positioned below the screen. One’s fingers should not get in the way of the camera when taking photographs.


Considering a phone’s price is essential when evaluating it and I feel that Nokia has dropped the ball with the 503’s internals. The MTN Steppa has 8 times more RAM than the 503 and is half the price.

Navigating the operating system is bearable most of the time, but the 503 does show a fair deal of lag due to its low specs. I am aware that the Asha platform is aimed at the budget consumer, but the 503’s price tag is pretty steep for a budget, feature phone handset.

Battery life is well above average. The 503 lasted around 30 hours during our music playback test and it managed the toughest 16 hours day with ease.

The camera on the Asha 503 is astonishing considering the phone’s price. Images in any light are prone to noise, but this is only evident when magnifying a photograph. The camera’s low light performance is amazing. It outshines the cameras on phones twice its price.

Operating System:

The Asha operating system is based on the S40 platform that Nokia has been using for years on their budget handsets. It has an app store with some big title apps such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and WhatsApp. Nokia provides a dozen paid games for free, if you download them within the first 60 days of getting your Asha.

The Asha OS is excellent for the feature phone segment of the market. Fast lane keeps one up to date with any phone activity that one chooses to include in that section. Messages, emails, recent web pages and your latest photos can all be displayed in Fastlane.

Asha 503 WDC 2014

The Asha 503

Bar the big name apps and games, the general quality of apps is rather poor. Many apps are unstable and overwhelmed with ads. Some paid apps are expensive for the functionality they offer and often do not work as advertised.

I must note that the default email client does not support HTML mail. This is thoroughly disappointing, as many Asha users will not have access to another device to view their HTML emails.

As good as the Asha operating system may be for the feature phone segment, it has been mismatched with the Asha 503. Its R1000 price tag warrants a platform with far more functionality. Nokia’s custom Android platform solves this problem, but unfortunately the 503 was designed prior to its release.


The 503 has a 262 thousand colour screen and while most phones boast 16 million colour screens these days, the average user will be hard pressed to notice the difference on the 503.

The screen is bright, vibrant and has excellent viewing angles. It is small for a smartphone, but text is still easy to read. The 503’s resolution is on the low side at 240 by 320 pixels. Phones half the price sport half VGA screens these days.


Pricing is so important and that is why I feel the Asha 503 is a paradox. It possesses an excellent camera and flaunts amazing design, but is married with under spec’d hardware and a limiting operating system. To put it in perspective, many budget Android phones offer consumers more of a smartphone experience at similar and lower price points.

The Asha 503 isn’t a completely lost cause. It is a great fit for someone on a tight monthly budget, who can’t afford massive data costs and is wanting a phone with the essential messaging and social networking apps, a great camera and beautiful design.

I don’t believe it offers great value for money and all things considered I feel it deserves a 6 out of 10.

Writer and editor for Tech Net Africa.

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