Motorola DEFY review: Drag and drop

GSMArena team, 10 December 2010.
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Unboxing the Motorola DEFY

The Motorola DEFY comes in a compact box accommodating the handset itself as well as a few standard-issue accessories. Those include a USB charger, a microUSB-to-USB cable (used for charging and data connections) and a set of earphones.

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What’s inside the Moto DEFY box

We also found a few leaflets explaining that you should not submerge the phone in water with all of its lids open. There was also a quick user guide and the complimentary 2GB microSD card was already placed in the device’s card slot.

Motorola DEFY 360-degree spin

Unboxing the DEFY, we were pleasantly surprised with how compact this handset was (especially for a rugged full-touch smartphone). It has the same 3.7” display as the MILESTONE but is remarkably smaller than its QWERTY-enabled sibling, measuring only 107 x 59 x 13.4 mm and weighing 118 g.

So the days of the chunky, heavy and plain ugly rugged phones are over it seems. Here comes the DEFY – tough, yet pocketable, comfortable to handle and pleasing to the eye.

Design and construction

The Motorola DEFY is the first of its kind – a rugged Android smartphone. The phone was first said to meet IP67 standards but Motorola eventually decided to not give any specific protection ratings. In official promos, the DEFY is still touted as dustproof, scratch and splash-resistant.

This is pretty much the same as what the IP67 certification stands for anyway (dustproof and capable of withstanding immersion of up to 1m) but obviously the company doesn't want to be held responsible for any phones ending up drowned or stuffed full of dust.

We did not to test the survival instincts of our DEFY so we can only advise you to strictly follow Motorola’s instructions if you don’t want to void your warranty.

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Will it survive?

Having said that, we can still explore all the other aspects of the phone’s design and construction. As we just mentioned, the handset is actually way smaller than it appears in pictures and more refined than you’d expect a rugged device to be.

The DEFY comes in two flavors – all-black and white on black (T-Mobile USA offers only the white combo). The latter looks quite unusual and certainly isn’t everyone’s cup of tea – but the all-black model looks great.

The front is taken up by the touchscreen and the 4 capacitive buttons underneath. The black frame that goes around the screen is reinforced by screws that seem to hold the two halves of the phone’s body together. The upper half (screen and frame) is very prone to smudges but quite easy to clean using a soft cloth. The lower sides and the back have soft rubbery finish that’s fingerprint proof.

The Motorola DEFY’s screen is smaller that that of the Samsung I9000 Galaxy S and a bit larger than the iPhone 4’s. Quite remarkably though, the DEFY is the most compact phone of the three.

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Probably the biggest screen they could’ve put in such a compact body

For the record, the Motorola DEFY comes with a 3.7” 16M-color capacitive touchscreen of WVGA resolution (480 x 854 pixels), which is covered by a scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass. The image quality is fine with reasonably good-looking blacks (though no Super AMOLED deep) and wide brightness range.

Viewing angles looked quite good indoors and we did expect to be impressed by the screen’s sunlight legibility. However, the screen tends to reflect a bit too much light making it hard to use the phone on a bright sunny day. The screen sensitivity is excellent and multi-touch support is, of course, enabled.

Below the display there are four capacitive controls: Menu, Home, Back and Search. They're haptic enabled and very sensitive, so the transition to and from the touchscreen is seamless. Right below the Search key you might notice the tiny, nearly invisible mouthpiece.

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The four capacitive Android controls

Above the display we find a status LED, the earpiece, as well as proximity and ambient light sensor. The auto-brightness can be disabled if you prefer. The proximity sensor is in charge of locking the display when you hold it next to your ear during calls.

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The earpiece placed next to the proximity and ambient light sensors

On the left-hand side we find the microUSB sealed with a rubber cap to keep moist and dust away. On the right is the volume rocker. There is no dedicated camera key so you’ll have to rely on the on-screen shutter. By the way, the screws on the phone’s sides and bottom do look tough and strong but they tend to accumulate dirt so you need to clean them occasionally.

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microUSB port on the left and volume rocker on the right-hand side

The top hosts the screen lock key which also acts as a power button. It’s small and barely protrudes but we guess it was done on purpose to minimize accidental presses. Next to it is the standard 3.5mm audio jack covered with its own protective flap. The bottom is completely bare (save for the last of the screws).

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Power/screen lock key and 3.5mm audio jack on top

The back of the phone features the 5 megapixel autofocus camera lens and the LED flash placed nearby. As for the loudspeaker grill, it’s also on the back but only gets visible once the battery cover is removed. The camera lens is not covered but is quite recessed, giving it a reasonable protection against scratches (but not against dust).

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The camera lens, the LED flash and the loudspeaker grill are on the back

Removing the battery cover reveals the 1540mAh battery. To get to the microSD card slot and the SIM compartment you need to remove the battery first. The memory card isn’t hot-swap enabled but that’s understandable in rugged handset.

The Motorola DEFY is powered by a promising Li-Ion battery quoted at up to 238 hours of standby and 6 hours 48 minutes of talk time.

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A look under the back cover

The Motorola DEFY fits snugly in the palm and looks more polished than most rugged phones. The compact size has not affected the screen estate. The DEFY’s 3.7” screen is probably the biggest they could’ve used in a phone this size. The comfortably curved back and soft rubbery finish make the phone nice and secure to hold. Those few millimeters of extra thickness are the price you pay for having a rugged phone. The build is rock solid.

We didn’t obviously test the actual ruggedness claims but we have no reason to complain about the look and feel of this phone. The lack of official IP certification is something to consider but it’s also worth noting that rugged smartphones are hard to come by.

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The Motorola DEFY: rugged, compact and comfortable

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