Motorola DEFY – Rugged Smartphone that Gives Extra Value

Posted by at 12:59 pm on November 10, 2010

Back at CITA in San Francisco, the Motorola people showed me most of their up coming phones.   Being from Pacific NorthWet, they said I would love the Motorola DEFY.   To be honest I was more interested in a couple of their other phones. But with the  DEFY being the world’s first Android GSM rugged smartphone, I knew it would end up on my must review list.   Fast forward to a few weeks later, the DEFY dropped on my door step just as I was starting to get over a nasty cold that was my souvenir from the conference.

The DEFY’s core  specs are Android 2.1, 800 MHz processor, 5-megapixel camera, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth.

First thing I noticed when taking the phone out of the box, holding the DEFY is an unexpected pleasure. The phone is surprisingly light, weighing just four point six  ounces, but feels very sturdy.    This was just one of many pleasant surprises the DEFY had in store for me.

Weather Resistant Design

This phone is meant to take pounding in real world and keep running.    The build quality is outstanding.   The entire back portion contains seals and gaskets, and the rear of the battery cover has a small amount of sealant, all designed to keep water out.   Behind the cover is where you find the battery, the MicoSD card slot  (it comes with a 2GB card, and  can take up to 32GB card), and the sim card slot.

The very bright and legible screen, 3.7 inches 480 x 854 (pixels), is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass, which is  a specially formulated glass  that is much stronger than standard glass.   That glass can really take it, as found I out this summer at the SID conference.

All the ports such as headphone and  microUSB, have fully sealed covers  which keep dust, dirt and water out.   Being in Seattle that was not hard to test.    The DEFY is one  rugged device.

Motoblur

I love Android and I have not been a big fan of device maker’s custom UIs that sit on top of it.   The version of Motoblur on the DEFY, changed my mind.   I  love way Motorola uses it to make the whole smartphone experience just a little bit more user-friendly for the uninitiated.   This is a great smart phone for both the newbie and the old hand.

On the DEFY there are a total of seven customizable screens, including the home screen, with no end to the number of different widgets a user can add to the display.   Tutorials galore are available if you get lost at any point. Even video one right  on the phone.

Setting up social networks for real-time display on these screens is prompted upon setup of the device. Users can be checking their Facebook, Twitter, E-mail  at a glance within minutes of setting up the phone.

Users can also create widgets specifically for contacts, which is a nice feature if there’s someone you talk to or correspond with on a daily basis like you boss or a  major client. There’s also the “Family Room,” which allows a user to configure a widget to track correspondences between family members.

In short Motoblur gets everything that’s important up front and easy to find without  having to dig for it.

Great Music Phone

Motorola also included a better music player than the default Android version.  The music app supports the built in FM radio, displaying song lyrics,  streaming radio and music recognition through Soundhound.   Soundhound is like Shazam but comes for free on the DEFY.   The phone supports music in AAC, MP3, MPEG-4, WMA9, eAAC+, AMR NB and AAC+ formats.   So you can even play non DRM music  you have gotten from  iTunes without the need to convert it.

DLNA Support

Another bonus is the DEFY comes with a Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) support. This means you can stream, store and share content with compatible devices around the home like HDTVs, game consoles and PCs.

Here are some examples of what you can do with the DEFY and other DLNA supported devices:

  • Stream music, video and photos from your DEFY to any DLNA device such as a Playstation 3,XBOX, or a DLNA-capable TV, PC or A/V Receiver.
  • Send a picture from your DEFY to your PC
  • Send an MP3 from the phone to the PC
  • Stream a Video from DEFY to the TV using the handset as a controller
  • Browse the Videos stored on your PC using your DEFY and then stream it over to your TV using your HDMI cable and the DLNA app.

Great Call Quality and  Signal Champion

While for many smartphones are all about the screen, there are still many of us who need to make calls with our phone.   The sound quality on both ends of the call is outstanding. In tests with people on landlines and other cells phones on all four major carriers we found the sound quality was great. The speaker phone is way above many other phones, even one that cost double the price of the DEFY.

We also found in our testing that DEFY was able to get signal  and place a call in many of the known weak single areas for T-mobile in our city  when other phones couldn’t place a call.

We also found the bluetooth to be good, as well.

Wi-FI Calling

Another  pleasant surprise on the phone is the addition of T-Mobile’s Wi-Fi calling app. The DEFY supports Wi-Fi B, G and even the very fast  N standard.   This new Android feature allows you to access the T-Mobile network using Wi-Fi.   Please do note that minutes still come out of your plan, but this is great for those areas where you just can not get a signal.

When you go outside the country, you simply pull up a Wi-Fi connection and you’ll be able to make calls. And while this technology is not new, the DEFY is one of the first to offer it on Android with T-mobile.

It is very simple to use.   Connect to a Wi-Fi network and  then run the Wi-Fi calling app.  No need to sign up for anything extra or  configuration necessary – it just simply works.  

The DEFY also does a great job with the Skype App.

Camera

The DEFY sports a  5MP camera with LED flash, but there is not  dedicated shutter button.   The Camera might be its weakest feature.   Photos  are quite good when there is enough light and the subject matter is too contrasty.   Indoors, the camera can use its flash, but the results are hit or miss; too close and they are too bright, too far away and they are too dark. Video is only in VGA resolution, so no HD shots from this smartphone.

ToT staff knows  people still look at mega pixels over the other specs, but I would have traded this camera for a 3MP one with better dynamic range.   Over all the camera is fair and far from the weakest in its price range.

Great Support on the Desktop

The DEFY also ships with the   capability to connect to your PC via Moto Phone Portal and a USB cable.   When you access the Moto Portal you can view all of the information that is found on the phone including: detailed contact information, call and message logs, photo and videos. There is a Settings view where you can choose ring tones, wallpapers, add bookmarks, add file, add music/videos  or manage your browsing history.   You can also find out about any new software or driver updates and check the signal or battery status of the handset.

Only Android 2.1

The Defy runs Android 2.1 – which is a bit of a disappointment, because it means your brand new phone already comes one version below the current Android 2.2 AKA Froyo. I’m hoping this will eventually be updated.   I asked my contact at Moto were there plans to take the phone to 2.2 or greater and here is the answer I got:

“Motorola works closely with Google and our carrier partners to ensure an optimized device experience. DEFY, as well as other devices, is currently under consideration for upgrades.”

Moto has a good track record of upgrading their phones, though they do tend to take their time to do it.   For you as the end user, Android 2.2 lets you get updates to Gmail, You Tube, ect. without Google/Motorola/T-mobile needing to do a full OS upgrade.   This lets the mobile apps have feature parity with the desktop version mush faster than waiting on full Android OS upgrades.

Price and What is in the Box

Included in the box is the phone, battery, battery cover, a 2GB MicroSD card, MicroUSB cable, a charger and a headset.

The Motorola DEFY is for sale now from T-Mobile for $99.99 after a $50 mail in rebate, when purchased on a two-year agreement with a data plan.

Rating 4.5

Defy is a mid-range priced smart phone that gives so much more than it others in its class.  It has  a very nice large screen and is very responsive even when runn many apps at the same.  It is one of the best values out there at this time. It is also one of the few review phone, that both Laura and I will miss being with us when we return to Motorola.   It is just a great phone. Congrats to Motorola and T-Mobile. If you buy one, you will be happy with it.

Pros:

  • Screen is great
  • Sound is great
  • Can find single when other phones  couldn’t
  • Wi-Fi Calling

Cons:

  • Camera could be better and there is no dedicated button
  • Only Android 2.1

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