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Nokia Asha 501

The long list of innovations behind the Nokia Asha 501 doesn’t end with its standout design and bold colours, the new Asha Platform or the swipe-tastic Fastlane user interface.

Nokia’s reinvention of the affordable smartphone also extends to compelling and inventive benefits – long after you’ve bought the device and when you are using it on a daily basis.

A key example of this approach is a new partnership between Nokia, Facebook and the mobile network operator, Airtel, which offers data-free access to the standalone Facebook app, as well as the mobile site

This means that current Airtel subscribers in Africa and India will be able to use Facebook on their Nokia Asha 501 without incurring any data charges for a period of time.

Worth the flight

Vaughan Smith, Vice-President, Mobile and Corporate Development, Facebook, was onstage with Stephen Elop, Nokia’s CEO, at the recent launch event for the Asha 501 in New Delhi.

Shortly afterwards, Vaughan sat down with Conversations and started by telling us how excited he was to be with us in India.

Vaughan Smith

“I don’t usually fly around the world for partner events but this is pretty unusual and hopefully I conveyed my excitement about the bundle of Asha 501 coming with free Facebook,” he said.

“We think it’s really important for getting new users online. It’s an excellent combination of a great device experience and free Facebook. It’s a great recipe.”

The smartphone experience

Facebook has always gone to great lengths to make their services and apps accessible on feature phones. However, Vaughan acknowledges that their users also tend to be more active when they have a better smartphone experience.

This is where the sub-$100 Asha 501 can make a difference.

“We love that smartphones are getting better and the prices are coming down. We hope to help drive the transition in India, China and in other countries, which is from feature phone to smartphone,” says Vaughan.

“We think it’ll be great for the local economies, great for Facebook and great for Nokia as well.”

Nokia Asha 501

The data plans

Over the last couple of years, Facebook has worked closely with several mobile operators around the world to help more people get access to mobile data.

Initiatives have included free Facebook messenger and a free version of Facebook without photos – all of which have seen operators get ‘many millions of new customers through Facebook promotions’.

“The main learning is that of all the levers an operator has to get someone introduced to data, and get them to stick, is that Facebook is the most compelling.

“We’re excited to try this with a device manufacturer, Nokia, for the first time.”

Vaughan describes it as a ‘win-win-win’ for all partners involved and says he’d like ‘Nokia to take this everywhere around the world’. 

Great partners

Finally, there is the intriguing question of why Facebook are doing this at all. 

You could argue that they already provide the service and apps – does their obligation really go any further than that?

Vaughan has an eloquent answer to this.

“Facebook has over 1 billion users and 5,000 employees. If you do the maths, that’s 200,000 users per employee. It means we have to stay focused and be a natural partnering company.

“We try to make partners happy and make them successful. Nokia has been a great partner for us and we want to reciprocate that.”