Nokia takes on low-cost Androids with trio of Asha phones

Nokia's new Asha models cost between $US69 and $US99 and will ship before the end of the year

Nokia hopes to better compete with low-end Android devices with three new Asha phones, including the Asha 503 with 3G for $US99.

The Asha family has become important for Nokia, as its Windows Phone-based Lumia devices are still too expensive to appeal to a broad swathe of consumers in developing countries. But the Asha phones too are under price pressure from low-cost Android-based products, and as a result sales have suffered.

Nokia hopes to change that with the introduction of the Asha 500, 502 and 503, which were all announced at its Nokia World event on Tuesday and will start shipping before the end of the year. The three phones all use an updated version of the user interface the company announced on the Asha 501 earlier this year.

Users can, for example, swipe on the screen to start the camera; long press to access camera settings, and swipe to switch from the image mode to the video mode or vice versa. A key feature in the user interface is Fastlane, which shows recently accessed contacts, social networks and apps. It can now be personalized by users, who can choose what content they want it to show.

Nokia has been working hard to grow the number of apps available for the new phones, and now announced that WhatsApp is on the way.

The Asha 503 3G phone is the new flagship model of the family and will cost $US99 before taxes and subsidies. It has a 5-megapixel camera and a 3-inch screen protected by Corning's Gorilla Glass 2.

The Asha 502 also has a 3-inch screen and a 5-megapixel camera, but there is no 3G, which helps make it $10 cheaper than its big brother. The last addition to the Asha family is the 500 model, which costs $69 before taxes and subsidies. For that users get a phone with a 2.8-inch screen and a 2-megapixel camera.

All three models can access the Internet using Wi-Fi, and hold two SIM cards. Just like most of Nokia's phones they come in a variety of colors -- this time red, bright green, yellow, cyan, white and black -- but to make the new Ashas stand out, Nokia has added a translucent layer of plastic on top of the body.

The phones will be available across Africa, Asia-Pacific, Europe and the Middle East, Nokia said without elaborating on specific countries. The 500 and 503 models will also ship in Latin America.

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