Motorola Defy

Motorola claims its Android-based Defy smartphone is 'Life Proof'… a clever marketing term, but what does it actually mean?

NameSmartphone: Motorola Defy
At a glance:Dust-proof, water and scratch resistant,Android 2.1 with MOTOBLUR,High-res 3.7-inch, 480 x 854 pixel display,Reasonably good battery life
Summary:A capable smartphone in a tougher-than-average package.

Motorola claims its Android-based Defy smartphone is "Life Proof"… a clever marketing term, but what does it actually mean?

Well, it's not shock or drop resistant. It is, however, dust-proof, water and scratch resistant. I put the phone through some fairly rigorous testing, from which it emerged unscathed. The Gorilla Glass face on the 3.7-inch, 480 x 854 pixel display really helps, providing much greater scratch resistance than your average smartphone.

The battery cover seals with a plastic slide-switch, which feels a little flimsy although it produces a good water-resistant seal. I'd much rather have seen a metal locking mechanism – trusting tiny pieces of plastic to be rugged has never sit well with me.

The headphone socket is protected by a rubberised plug, and the micro USB port by a plastic flap. The latter gets slack quickly, and after a month of use I found it barely stayed closed: not great for keeping out water and dust. Altogether, though, the Defy holds together nicely.

At just 59 x 107 x 13.4mm and 118 grams with battery, it's a cute little piece of technology. Its slim, shiny exterior doesn't so much as hint at its somewhat-rugged design.

Under the hood is an 800MHz processor, 512MB of RAM and 2GB of storage – around 1.2GB of which is user-accessible. A further 2GB is provided via a microSD card, which can be replaced by a card up to 32GB in size. Performance in the Quadrant Standard benchmarking app was average among single-core smartphones.

Talk time is advertised as an impressive 6.8 hours maximum, with up to 9.9 days standby. You're never going to achieve either of those figures with heavy use of the phone's smarter features – web browsing, gaming, media streaming via DLNA – but you do get at least one full day, sometimes two before needing to recharge.

The Defy runs Android 2.2, with 'enhanced' Motoblur software on top. 'Not available in all markets', Motorola's website announces. Oh, how I wish it weren't available in New Zealand. I have difficulty working my way through Android as it is, and MotoBlur ruins the experience for me entirely. I'm okay signing up for a Google account to use the phone; I signed up for Live to use my Windows Phone, and signed up with Apple for the iPhone. Google is fine. Having to also sign up with Motorola, before I could even use the phone? Weak.

The Motoblur widgets don't seem to do much besides duplicate functionality that already exists in Android, and provide some extra messaging and social networking functionality that I found myself doing quite well without. I'd far rather plain Android – at least that would allow for easy upgrades to future versions (or, you know, current ones), and my Android-toting colleagues and friends would have a much easier time showing me exactly how my phone works.

If you're known to friends as a destroyer of gadgets, or you need a smartphone you can take to the beach or out on the yacht, the Defy is a worthwhile investment. If you're not already familiar with Android, Motoblur isn't going to make it easier… but at least once you've signed up, you can ignore most of its features and just use the apps Android and its marketplace provide.

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Harley Ogier

Harley Ogier

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