Ask today’s tech savvy Kenyan to mention any budget phone and the likes of Galaxy Pocket, Huawei Gaga, LG Optimus L3 and other droids of the same caliber won’t miss in the list. Has anyone however taken time to look at what Nokia has to offer?  The Nokia Asha 302 for instance comes in the same price range and outperforms most of the droids in certain aspects.

From my week long experience with the Nokia Asha 302, I wouldn’t put it in the category of low end devices despite its attendant low price tag. The Galaxy Pocket, Huawei Gaga and the LG Optimus in comparison are tagged ‘low end smartphones’ by their manufacturers. In the smartphone world, this generally places them in the category of foot soldiers; they absolutely won’t surprise you with any bells or whistles.

The Asha on the other hand mimics the Nokia Symbian S60 but not completely. You won’t find a quad-core processor thrown in there, but it’s sure to give you certified S40 performance. In its price range, the Nokia Asha 302 comes second to none. It’s a head-turner, it boasts of a bold premium look and verve under the hood that is sure to charm a startup entrepreneur or an already established CEO in equal measure.

Do you recall the looks of the good old Nokia E6? Yeah; if the two ‘siblings’ were laid down side by side, many wouldn’t notice the difference despite the Nokia E6 still going strong at an average price of Ksh. 30,000.

In contrast to the other competing droids, the Nokia Asha 302 comes with a physical QWERTY keypad that has generously spaced keys, satisfactory tactile feedback and thank God the keys are plastic, not rubber. This makes texting on the Nokia Asha 302 quite a breeze. It almost makes you never look forward to tapping on those cramped onscreen keyboards  of the Galaxy Pocket and Huawei Gaga (The Optimus differentiates itself by coming in a slightly bigger screen!)

Of course no one wants to carry around a battery that goes from green to yellow then to red faster than traffic lights, that’s what capacitors were invented for! The 1320mAh battery of the Nokia Asha 302 lasted me two full days before asking for a charger, during which I was making calls (at most 30minutes a day), texting all day and occasionally checking Facebook and Twitter updates as well as rather ‘aggressively’ browsing blogs and news sites on the Opera Mini browser.

On a similar review of the Samsung Galaxy Pocket, all these activities drained the battery by the end of the day. Other than the LG Optimus L3 (which differentiates itself by its higher capacity battery and has received great scores for it) most competing low end droids seem to have inherited battery problems from their predecessors. The Galaxy Pocket gets it from Galaxy Y and Huawei Gaga from Huawei Ideos, you see the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

How does the Nokia Asha 302 do its math? With a 1 GHz ARM 11 processor, the same processor that ships in with high end Nokia smartphones (Nokia 500, 600 and 700); the phone is very responsive to say the least (I know, I know…Android fan boys and girls can easily overclock their Pockets and Gagas to par with the Asha’s so be nice with your comments).

Before making a hasty move to get that droid, why not consider the uncelebrated but loyal companion in the Nokia Asha 302? It is designed to be a messenger, to pick and make calls all day without turning up its nose. The call quality is exceptionally good although it doesn’t come with any special technologies for its microphone and earpiece. Above all else it is fast, the battery is great, and has more pixels per inch on its screen thus making images and text appear sharper when compared to those of the competing droids.

Do you think the ‘low end smartphones’ engineered for emerging markets in Africa and Asia are worth their price tags?