When you buy an expensive gadget like today’s smartphones that cost as much as your monthly salary, you’d like to guard your precious from being a victim of a clumsy accident. But life is full of such sorry surprises, and there are times when we drop our phones – sometimes fortunately on office carpet floors, while sometimes on concrete roads. Worse is a fact that most phones today have large touchscreens, and god forbid if it were to fall flat on the face resulting in a cracked display.
And its not just phones falling, there are other circumstances that may wreck your phone. Using you phone duing a heavy downpour is also quite tricky. I cannot even imagine the plight of somebody who suffers from excessive sweating and has to constantly wipe his phone for the fear of the ear-piece going bad.
To counter this, there have been attempts by phone makers to make something that can withstand these troubles. The most recent of these is the Samsung Marine. But other than the commendable toughness, it was a mere spartan phone and not something that the gadget-savvy person would want to use.
On another topic, I had also expressed my desire to have that one good mid-range Android phone that gives me less compromises without costing a bomb. Enter Motorola DEFY — the answer to both the above mentioned problems. It is an Android phone that’s made to last, without making you sell your kidney in exchange. Read on to find out about our Tough Love for this ‘Rola!
Design and Build
The Motorola DEFY is a tough phone; it’s built to withstand water and dust. The darn thing is built like a tank and feels extremely solid in hand. We’ve tried throwing this phone on the floor, dipping it in a cup of water, and it has survived our torture till now. The display is protected by Corning’s now famous Gorilla glass — that is resistant to scratches. Rubbing pointy keys on it didn’t leave any sign of damage. The phone may appear large in the press shots, but trust me when I say that this is THE most comfortable 3.7-inch screened phone I’ve held. The dimensions and weight are fairly petite and it comfortably slips in and out of your pocket.
Most of its front face is occupied by the touchscreen. It is sufficiently large, and the high 854 x 480 pixel resolution delivers good crispness while reading text or photos and videos. It is sufficiently bright and the ambient light sensor makes it quickly adapt to surrounding lighting conditions. The touch response is also pretty accurate. Below that are all four of the Android-specific keys — menu, home, back and search. Their touch response is equally spot-on and they’re backlit too.
Above the screen is an earpiece that’s well-protected from not just dust particles but even water droplets. There’s a tiny LED status light next to it that blinks if you have missed a phone call or received any other notification like a text message. There are only three physical buttons on the phone — the power button and the volume control keys. They are a little hard to press but we assume that’s a side-effect in trying to avoid any passage of water or dust via them. Once you get used to it, they aren’t too bad to use. The other two openings – the 3.5mm earphone jack at the top and the microUSB port to the left – are protected by rubber coverings.
At the back, you’ve got the camera sensor and a tiny singular LED flash. There’s a tiny hole next to the lens that acts as an opening for the secondary noise-cancellation microphone. The rubberised back plate is easily removable by the flick of a switch; revealing a fairly large 1540 mAh Lithium ion battery. The SIM card slot and the microSD card slot lie underneath the battery. The speaker opening is also at the end of the backplate.
Overall, we were hard-pressed to cut any points when it came to the phone’s exterior.
User Interface and Performance
The DEFY runs Google’s Android 2.1 OS, which is two generations behind the latest 2.3 (Gingerbread) version. But when most new phones selling in the market feature at least Android 2.2 (Froyo), we were slightly disheartened.
Nonetheless, this version of Android is decorated with Motorola’s MOTOBLUR UI enhancement. Despite people’s opinion about it, we like it. There are a total of seven homescreens that can be easily sifted through, thanks to a bookmark-like menu that appears at the bottom. There are many things to like about it, such as the extra widgets that let you put a calendar in monthly view or toggle flight-mode or even add a sticky note; these are things that aren’t seen in vanilla versions of Android.
The Motorola on-screen QWERTY keyboard is well-designed and a breeze to type on with good word prediction and correction. If the keys feel too cramped in portrait mode for you, then flip it over sideways and you should find the landscape QWERTY keys to be well-sized and well-spaced. There’s also Swype built-in if you fancy text input without having to tap on those on-screen keys.
Adjusting the cursor on the screen is ripped off from the iPhone, with a magnifying rectangle instead of a typical magnifying glass. But hey, it works so we aren’t bitching. The default music player automatically downloads lyrics, thanks to the integration with the TuneWiki service that we’re fans of — nice touch Motorola, nice touch. Lastly, There’s a file manager built-in too.
Let’s talk of UI swiftness. The DEFY is powered by an 800 MHz ARM Cortex A8 processor with an ample-sounding 512MB RAM. In our experience, never did I feel the phone to be slow or laggy at any point of time. Yes, it may not be buttery smooth, but it definitely can’t be called laggy. Probably the only area we felt it lag was during pinch-zooming photos in the Gallery app; we assume that’s because all the images were stored on the memory card. Pinch-zooming on the browser on the other hand was fairly smooth. Thanks to the good screen resolution, reading websites on the browser was a pleasant affair; especially when you flip the phone sideways into landscape mode.
Another complaint we have was with the playback of our test DivX files, some of which had a slightly stuttered frame-rate. Note that these exact files may have played smoothly on an HVGA-screened 600MHz processor phone (like the Optimus P500), but we guess here the 800 MHz processor has to flex more for the DEFY’s higher WVGA screen resolution.
It is unfortunate that the DEFY runs Android 2.1, but it does implement a 2.2 feature in this version — mobile hotspot, which lets you turn your mobile phone into a wireless router. Also, you may not be able to install apps on an SD card on the DEFY yet, but the phone comes with an ample 2GB internal storage, out of which roughly 1.2GB storage is free for you to use. Another cool trick — this phone is DLNA certified and also has a built-in app for two-way sharing and streaming of media onto another DLNA certified device like a TV or a gaming console.
Network reception and Call Clarity
We’ve always had a high regard for Motorola when it comes to call quality and network reception. I even went on record with my Milestone review saying that it was the best phone for calling I’d ever used. The DEFY doesn’t let that expectation down — it had a great network reception. I never faced any dropped calls during the time of testing.
The earpiece volume was fairly loud and clear to me, and although people on the other end said that my voice sounded a little different, never did they complain about any lack in clarity. The loud-speaker on the DEFY is quite powerful, especially during phone-calls. On a sour note, people wanting to make video-calls will be disappointed to learn that the DEFY doesn’t have a front-facing camera.
To point out a network-related issue — My GPRS connection from time to time would just stop working. Now, I can’t put the blame on the DEFY since I’ve experienced the same issue with even other Android phones. But generally, turning the flight mode on and off again would resolve the issue in most cases, where in the case of the DEFY, a couple of times even restarting the phone didn’t help. I can’t say if the issue is with the operator or the phone, so till I try the DEFY with another operator, I’m going to give it the benefit of doubt.
The DEFY comes with a 5 megapixel autofocusing unit. There’s no physical shutter button, so you’ll have to use the on-screen one. Now, it won’t autofocus if you place your thumb over the virtual button, but as soon as you release, it focuses and takes the snap in a second. There’s no touch-to-focus either.
I’d call the quality of the snaps as decent. Despite good lighting, the photos appeared slightly dull and the darker colors also appeared a little over-saturated. Still, they were fairly clear and are worthy of uploading to your online photo gallery. The LED flash isn’t powerful and will help illuminate objects that are very close to it. It also captures decent clarity videos although in a low VGA resolution, but they turned out to be fairly smooth in terms of frame-rate. All in all — the Motorola DEFY isn’t a pro-camera phone, but it’ll get the job done when you really need it.
The audio quality via the bundled earphones is average. On connecting a better sounding pair, it did go up well enough for me not to carry my MP3 player everywhere.
Battery life has always been a sore point with Androids, so please don’t confuse our cheer over the DEFY’s battery life of almost an entire day with heavy usage. And by heavy, I mean HEAVY — hours of phone-calls, internet usage, downloading apps, taking snaps and monkeying around with the interface.
There’s also a power optimization tool that prevents the phone from using mobile Internet for certain hours at night. With that and moderate usage, you can expect this phone to last you more than a day.
Price and Verdict
The Motorola DEFY is selling right now for Rs. 18,100 at online stores. We wouldn’t call that over-the-top pricing, especially since you’re getting a really sturdy phone with a fair amount of features. From the time I’ve started using it, I’m absolutely loving this phone for what it is. The only real missing link for the DEFY would be the Android 2.2 update, which is speculated to be released in the second quarter of this year. That’s only going to make the phone compatible with more apps from the Android market, along with an improvement in the UI speed, thanks to the optimizations Froyo has brought upon.
If you’re looking for a good mid-range Android, then the DEFY is your only good choice — and we’re not saying it in a bad way at all! If the price of this phone drops down to Rs. 15-16k, and it gets blessed with the Android 2.2 update, then this deal is going to be really, really hard to resist.
Motorola DEFY Review
A midrange android that’s built to last
Dust/Water Proof and Sturdy Build, Extremely comfortable size and weight, Big high-resolution screen, Speedy interface, Thoughtful UI Customizations, Consistent Network reception, “Loud” speaker, Decent camera performance
Runs Android 2.1 (for now), no front-facing video-call camera, slight stutter in DivX playback
Expert Rating :
||GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
||HSDPA 900 / 2100
||Available. Released 2010, October
||107 x 59 x 13.4 mm
||TFT capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors
||480 x 854 pixels, 3.7 inches
||– Gorilla Glass display
– Touch sensitive controls
– MOTOBLUR UI with Live Widgets
– Multi-touch input method
– Accelerometer sensor for UI auto-rotate
– Proximity sensor for auto turn-off
||Vibration; MP3, WAV ringtones
||Yes, check quality
||Practically unlimited entries and fields, Photo call
||2 GB storage, 512 MB RAM
||microSD, up to 32GB, 2GB included, buy memory
||Class 12 (4+1/3+2/2+3/1+4 slots), 32 – 48 kbps
||HSDPA, 7.2 Mbps; HSUPA, 2 Mbps
||Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, DLNA
||Yes, v2.1 with A2DP
||Yes, microUSB v2.0
||5 MP, 2592х1944 pixels, autofocus, LED flash, check quality
||Geo-tagging, image stabilization
||Android OS, v2.1 (Eclair), upgradable to v2.2
||800MHz Cortex-A8 processor, TI OMAP3610 chipset
||SMS (threaded view), MMS, Email, IM, Push Email
||Stereo FM radio with RDS
||Yes + downloadable
||Yes, with A-GPS support
||Yes, MIDP 2.0
||– Dustproof and water-resistant
– Digital compass
– MP3/WAV/WMA/AAC+ player
– MP4/WMV/H.263/H.264 player
– Google Search, Maps, Gmail, YouTube, Google Talk
– Facebook, Twitter, MySpace integration
– Document viewer
– Flash Lite
– Photo viewer/editor
– Voice memo/dial/commands
– Active noise cancellation with dedicated mic
– Predictive text input
||Standard battery, Li-Po 1540 mAh
||Up to 238 h
||Up to 6 h 48 min
||1.52 W/kg (head) 1.53 W/kg (body)