Early rumored at MWC2013 with a leaked press image, Nokia has finally released the Asha 501 today, at an event settled in India, a key market for the Nokia strategy.

What’s so important in this phone? Well, take a look at this video, presenting the N9 in the 2011:

And now take a look at the 501’s video:

Did you noticed any similarity, did you? Well, the 501 shares a lot of elements with the Swipe UI from the N9, although under the hood there’s nothing in common – a Java-based s40 embedded OS vs. a Linux-based, Qt-powered and full multi-tasking featured MeeGo, but the Harmattan UI is right there, still alive.

Nokia N9Nokia Asha 501

The 501 shows off what Harmattan would have been if Nokia hasn’t ditched its development; just watch at that Fastlane, an enhancened Event View screen. All the other MeeGo goodies are right there; douple-tap to wake, swipey notifications on the lockcreen, even the beautiful minimalistic clock is right there.

Nokia Asha 501 - FastlaneNokia Asha 501 - Clock

Look at this pic, this is the first comment posted under the official 501 launch video, on YouTube:

Asha 501 user's comment

I’m not saying Windows Phone isn’t good – it’s fast, simple and it will provide a perfect integration with Windows in future, but Swipe would have given that “wow effect” that Nokia desperately needs. Something that Windows Phone, with its classic button-based interaction, doesn’t give. The 501 shows that the N9 wasn’t geeky stuff, the Swipe UI, even after 2 years its release, still shines and, since it has pushed on a low-range device, Nokia itself considers it extremely easy to use. This also shows as who made this UI has even planned it to be scalable – and don’t forget that Ubuntu Mobile, BlackBerry10 and even Android have taken hints from the N9 UI. Is this a legitimation of how good the Swipe was?

So, as a MeeGo fan, what should I think? The Elop’s Nokia strategy completely screwed up MeeGo and cut off even its support and now its user experience appears there, on a “lite-smartphone” (as Nokia loves to call it). At the today event, Elop talked about the Swipe UI to be as something new, unique, fresh and intuitive, so why did Nokia emphatize this buttonless all-swipe interaction if they are stuck on classic button UX on their higher-end devices? This confuses me.

Nokia N9Nokia Asha 501

They are using as much elements as possible from the N9; the design language for their Lumias (and even cheaper phones, such as the 301) and now the Harmattan UX/UI – so, why don’t just carry on the OS itself?

Furthermore, companies tend to unify their UX/UI experience; Nokia has done it in the past, with s40/s60 as well as Smasung does with TouchWiz/Bada/Tizen/embedded Oses (like the Rex series), so why hasn’t Nokia pushed down something more WP-like? The only WP-ish thing on the 501 is the keyboard and some tile here and there.

What does it mean? Is it a hint Harmattan isn’t die and it will come back as WP’s exclusively ends? Is Nokia crying out “this is what we would do, if we weren’t stuck on WP”?

I hope this Asha will outsell Lumias, just to show what would have been if Nokia had continued with MeeGo and that the upcoming Jolla phone will grab much of attention. You know, such a “Revenge of the Swipe”.

Of course, please let me know what you think about in the comment section below or on Twitter @fravaccaro.


6 thoughts on “Nokia Asha 501: The Revenge of the Swipe

  1. Great post mate. As an N9 owner and fan of MeeGo Harmattan, I can’t help but think that it’s a shame nothing more was done at Nokia HQ. And will they ever bring back MeeGo? No, not after they fired the MeeGo R&D team who have now set up shop as Jolla. That’s where our next big smartphone purchase will be from. It’s not Nokia, but it’s the spirit of the N9, for damn sure.

  2. Thank you Andy, it’s always a pleasure to read you.

    I have such a feeling (well, maybe it’s only a hope) Nokia would consider to aquire Jolla back as part of their hypothetical “plain B”.

    I place so much hope in Jolla, those guys are moving good.

  3. I’ve been fortunate to have to review several mobile phone side by side from a UX point of view. The interface, from a UX point of view, on the N9 was fantastic and I used it to show best practice for many aspects of the OS. Compared to the car crash that’s on Samsung phones it solves so many problems simply – mostly down to the swipe mechanism. I hope Asha becomes at least a cult hit. As you said, it would prove how good MeeGo was. I’d love to get my hands on an Asha 501 just to see what they’ve kept that worked so well on the N9.

    1. That UX is addicting. Being abe to switch between apps swiping on any point of the display height, I’ve just forgotten bottom-located menu button.

      Keep an eye on Sailfish as well, UI is totally different (trasparency vs matt), but UX is the ideal continuation of what the team have done on the N9; you will be able to use short swipe (as in gallery) to go one step back into apps, swipe to access to the app menu, short swipe to interact to apps in the multi-tasking window and so on so forth.

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