From a distance, the Defy looks a bit like a chunkier version of the third generation iPhone. When you get closer, though, it's clearly much more solid. The small handset is understated, and some visible external screws are the only clue to Motorola's appeal to the 'rugged' market. Pick it up, and you'll be surprised to find the Defy only weighs 118 g. We like the anti-slip, scratch-resistant finish used for the exterior.
The Defy's reinforced body
Although we're not usually a fan of touch-sensitive controls to return to the home screen or launch a search, we can see why they're worthwhile here, because they help protect the Defy from sand and dust. Fortunately, they're not too sensitive either, keeping the number of accidental activations down to a minimum.
You can organise all of these apps on the homescreens
We can't fault the finish: both the choice of materials and the overall build quality are exemplary. We dropped it several times over with no ill effects, and gave the screen some rough treatment too, but it survived without a scratch. When we left it playing a video underwater for half an hour, it didn't complain once. You can even make calls underwater, even if the screen is no longer touch-sensitive when it's wet.
The Defy survived underwater for half an hour
The 3.7'' capacitative touchscreen has a rather unusual resolution of 480 x 854 pixels. We say unusual because in some situations, the display is distorted slightly. The screen proved to be both sensitive and responsive, but the viewing angles were very narrow—too narrow, in fact, to see everything on the screen at once unless you hold it right in front of you. And as we mentioned above, it's tough: even when we went at it with a pair of scissors (!), the screen survived unscathed.
Interface and navigation
Motorola has included a new, updated version of its Motoblur software, of course, which gives direct access to contacts from social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Picasa. All of their status updates are grouped together on a single screen, and can also be shown directly on your homescreen. You can deactivate this feature if you like.
The Defy also offers a series of widgets which you can customise as you see fit. In general, the interface is well-organised, although it can sometimes be frustrating to realise that it's possible to access a particular feature in several different ways, especially at first.
Despite having an ARM Cortex-A8 processor running at 800 MHz, a little slower than the current 1 GHz standard, the Defy does a reasonably good job of offering a fluid user experience, though the results aren't always even. Moving from one homescreen to the next can sometimes cause it to lag, for instance, but opening apps is always fast, even if several are already running at once.
Given how close together the keys are in portrait mode, you're better off writing messages with the screen in landscape orientation. The virtual keyboard is accurate enough, but we were more than a little confused by the 'SYM' key, which is used for both punctuation and numbers.
The audio features are satisfactory, with a pretty crisp signal from the headphone jack and reasonable speakers that manage to do the job; we weren't expecting wonders from headphones like this anyway. There's an FM radio with RDS, which we like. A more unusual feature that some people are certain to approve of is a widget that displays the lyrics of the song you're currently listening to.
Compare the Defy to other cameraphones in our Product Face-Off
Browsing the web mostly proved to be successful, even if pages do take slightly longer to load. Zooming in and out of web sites isn't as smooth as we're used to with some of the Defy's competitors like the HTC Desire or the Samsung Galaxy S. You can, of course, save your favourite sites and subscribe to RSS feeds.
Defy users have a lot of control over how much power their phone needs: you can set it up to turn off 3G and WiFi when you're not using them. The battery life is more than acceptable for a smartphone, and the Defy can go for a good day and a half in between recharges.
- Light, compact
- Decent battery life
- Homescreens could run more smoothly
- Menus aren't responsive enough
The Defy is easy to use and is a good example of a tough smartphone that should be great news for anybody who spends a lot of time working outdoors—or drops their phone a lot. It's solid but still offers the multimedia services we'd expect from a smartphone.