This morning, I awoke to the news of Nokia offering a new mobile device, the Asha 501. I happened to be looking for a cheap mobile to replace my N8 (since moving to the N9, I’m looking for something low-end to just keep on the side). What I saw with the 501 made me think that (in part) Nokia’s got part of the “smartphones for the rest of the world” part down. And it has to do with how the interface has been designed.

Simplicity with smart.

That’s one of the endearing qualities of the interface of the N9 that I like a lot. Not just that I like that there are no buttons and therefore you get thru the device with just swiping along the screen. But, that it forces many of the solid apps to reinvent themselves, and even more the core of the device.

With the 501 you get this active homescreen concept, just like with the N9. But, then I like what they did to the stream of information that you get. It shows everything that you’ve done on the device irrespective of the app. Its like the Activity Stream on the N9, but on the kind of steroids that would make sense to someone who had not had a smartphone before. So much that it would actually seem… smart in its simplicity.

On the other side of the conversation, you have the devices/platform that’s coming with FirefoxOS. A disruption with the same kinds of aims (getting smartphones into the hands of people who might not have had them before). But not with that compelling interface or reason as to why that makes sense.

Just take a look at all that’s talked about in this Ars Technica article. Its nothing but specs, and nothing that speaks to what makes having a smartphone relevant to the people who don’t have one. In fact, the argument actually speaks more for the carriers than it does for users.

I get that much of these devices, platforms, and experiences are all about feeding someone’s itch to connect and make a few pennies. But, when it comes to these devices, I think that what will work best for all is an approach that speaks to keeping things so simple that it looks smart.