Motorola Defy review

With the new Defy smartphone, Motorola is trying to fill a gap by combining the technology and conveniences of up to date smartphones with a water- and dustproof, scratch- and shock-resistant covering.

Of course, Motorola does not have to tell this to us twice. We subjected the Defy to a thorough durability test in order to see whether the device keeps its promises. Can it call itself a true smartphone?

The Motorola Defy runs on Android 2.1 Eclair, which is a minor setback compared to other Android devices on the market, that run on Android 2.2 Froyo or even 2.3. Motorola promised to upgrade the device to Android 2.2 Froyo this fall. A little extra can be found in MOTOBLUR, an addition that is designed for Android, focusing on social media such as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace. The Defy is fitted with a 5.0 megapixel camera and a 3.7 inch WVGA screen, which makes it comparable to the HTC Desire, among others.

As stated above, with the Defy Motorola brings a water-, dust-, scratch- and shockproof device that can compare itself to the most up to date highlights in mobile telephony. We won't mind you'd prefer to skip our regular test, and continue to our thorough durability test right away.


The Motorola Defy, fitted with a 1500 mAh-battery, is delivered in a red box in a shiny grey sleeve. The box shows pictures of the front- and backside of the device. Underneath the device we find a leaflet, a 3.5 mm headset with a foam rubber protection case and a USB-cable with a piece that transforms it into a recharger. The accessories are of good quality, and they are not any different from the ones that usually come with cell phones.


The Defy is a pretty standard monoblock device without a lot of extras or additions. The device consists entirely of black plastic. At the backside, there is a bit more grip, but this is not very convincing.

The front side is entirely made up of the screen, which has four keys in order to show more options, to go back to the home screen, to go back to the last screen and to search with a quick searching function.

The upper halves of the sides of the device consist out of shiny black plastic, which is solidly screwed in the middle to the mat black backside. On the left, we can find the connection for the USB cable behind a well closeable lid. On the right side, one can find the volume key. This is made waterproof as well.

The bottom side of the device doesn't have any visible parts, but it does give place to the speaker. On the upside, on the left we can find a well closeable connection for the 3.5 mm headset and on the right we can find the on/off key that works as a screen bolt.

The backside consists entirely of mat black plastic with a little more grip than the rest of the device. On the upper side, there is place for the 5.0 megapixel camera with flash. Hereunder we can find the battery lid, which can be closed with a small bolt. When taking a closer look, it appeared that the corners of the battery lid didn't close well. Whether this makes the device less waterproof, will be showed later.

Behind the battery lid is the 1500 mAh battery. We have to take this out in order to reach the SIM card and the SD card.

The battery life of the Defy is fine. The 1500 mAh battery provides the phone with enough power to make it last for some time. Of course, the use of intensive functions, such as internet, camera or video reduce the battery life to a great extend.

There are a couple of functions that can be used to lengthen the battery life. The screen time out can is adjustable, and there is the ‘battery profile' option. Just as with a notebook, one can choose different profiles such as the accomplishment mode, the clever mode, energy saving and the possibility to create your own profiles. There is also a list which shows which processes are using power, like WiFi and the screen: a very useful option for users that want to profit off their phone as much as possible.

Call quality

The conversation sound of the Motorola Defy is of good quality. Conversations are audible and the volume can be lowered or raised, so one can make a phone call in every environment. The hands free function is well audible too. Only with a high volume the speaker creaks every once in a while.

During a call, different options are available. There is the possibility to add a caller, end the call, dial a number, connect a Bluetooth headset, mute the conversation and activate the hands free function. With the left button under the screen the call can be put on hold, and the sound quality of the call can be adjusted.


The Defy is fitted out with a 3.7 inch TFT display, that has a WVGA resolution of 480 x 854 pixels. This screen can display 16.777.216 colors (24 bits) and has an autorotate function, that can be switched on and off. The device doesn't have the biggest or the best display of all smartphones, but it is clear and gives a good contrast. This makes sure the display is clearly visible in every situation. It must be said that the screen is very elongated, which is a nuisance, especially when reading websites.

Not many adjustments can be made to the screen. The screen time out is adjustable, just as the clearness of the screen. The auto rotate function can be switched on and off.

The touch screen works properly and has a good sensitivity. It reacts swiftly to touching, which makes it easy and smooth to work with.


When the device is switched off, we enter the start screen. This is relatively empty when first used, but it can be filled in entirely according to the wishes of the user, using apps and widgets that can be found in another screen.

From the first screen, one can reach three other pages on each side with a sweeping movement of the finger. On these pages there are some options installed, such as the interactive widgets Weather, Calender, settings for WiFi and Bluetooth, Messages, Contacts, Media Player and a Google searching function. The non-interactive shortcuts to apps are Accounts, Market, Maps, Browser, SMS, Voice command, History, Contacts, Favorites, Media Share, Camera, Camcorder and Picture Gallery. These apps or widgets are divided over 7 pages, apparently without any order or system.

For example, at the bottom of a page there are some shortcuts to apps and a widget at the top of the page, but the rest of the page is empty. By ordering every of the 7 start screens in this way, a very large and cluttered field appears. Of course, this is standard for Android, but it can make a very user-unfriendly impression on those that are not used to it. Fortunately, it is possible to order the home screens yourself, according to your own wishes.

At the bottom of the start screen is a round menu key that leads to the menu with all the installed apps, a button to make calls with, and a button to show contacts with. The round menu key is positioned is a rather strange place, right above the menu key that is under the display. So, in the start screen there are two buttons that have the same function, placed just above each other. By pressing one of these buttons, we reach the alphabetical list that contains the installed apps and options. The order of this list cannot be adjusted. The only thing one can do, is to drag the apps to the start screen.

According to the settings the phone contains haptic feedback. According to the menu, this consists out of a vibration while pressing the function keys. If one switches on the haptic feedback of the Swype keyboard as well, one feels a slight vibration of the device while typing.


The phonebook of the Defy can be found under the phone key in the start screen. It consists of a list of names we can call to and send emails to. We can look at the profiles that are linked to the names as well.

In the menu, we can also find the so-called ‘contacts key'. If we choose for the option, we enter a list called Contacts A-Z. This is a huge list that, if you installed your email account on the Defy, is filled for the most part with each contact you ever send an email to. The fact that not only the most-used email addresses are showed, but totally irrelevant addresses as well, makes it hard to search through the whole list for one particular contact.

It is possible to add several data to the contacts: phone numbers, email addresses, messaging possibilities, address, organization and more information. The list of contacts can be filtered on email addresses, phone numbers, favorites and groups you added yourself. This makes the list a bit more user-friendly. Still, the email address list is very badly organized. If one sweeps to the left a list appears, in which the last-called contacts are showed. All in all, the Defy has a lot of options in the phonebook, but once you get how the lists can be filtered, the phonebook is user-friendly.


The Motorola Defy makes typing a message very easy. Even though the keyboard, without auto rotate, is a bit on the narrow side, not a lot of problems appear when typing. The Defy has Swype, a new way of entering text. After a short introduction and a few lessons, we already figure out how quick and easy entering text is, using Swype.

With Swype, it is no longer needed to enter the letters one after another. We can draw a line over the display of our device, and the device chooses the right word. At first sight, this system may seem inconvenient, but after a few minutes it is clear that Swype really does work well. When a word is not in the Swype dictionary, this can be solved very easily within a few seconds by showing the device the path to the word, and saving it.

While writing a text message, one can add an attachment by pressing the left button under the display. This way, an SMS changes into an MMS without any effort.

Apart from SMS and MMS you have to possibility of adding different email accounts (Google account, Corporate Sync, Facebook, POP3, SMTP and IMAP4) and several possibilities for instant messaging (AIM, Google Talk, Yahoo Messenger, Windows Live Messenger). Of course, it is possible to download a lot of different apps for chat and social media in the Android Market.


The Defy has Bluetooth in order to connect to other devices. Unfortunately, we were unable to send a file: all we could do was connect to another device. You can switch the Bluetooth function trough settings or one of the start screens.

The device can be connected to WiFi networks without any problems. The device remembers networks on which it has logged in before, and it connects to these systems automatically when it comes near them. The device had several possibilities to share or stream files through a WiFi network: DLNA and Media Share.

The Defy uses the Android HTML Webkit browser with Adobe Flash Lite 3 to surf the internet. This browser works swiftly and smoothly without crashing. In the browser we can open more pages at the same time, look at bookmarks, refresh the page and go to another page. We can add bookmarks, search a page, send a shortcut to the start screen, save the page, select text, look at information concerning the page, share the page, look at our downloads and go to settings under the heading of ‘more'.

Because the display of the Defy is rather elongated, it is not easy to look at web pages when the phone is in its regular option. If we rotate the screen, this improves and the pages are displayed in a good way.


The Motorola Defy has a 5.0 megapixel camera with flash. The camera can be set to take pictures with a 5, 3, 2 or 1 megapixel resolution. The videos can be recorded in a VGA, CIF, QVGA or QCIF resolution.

Apart from the resolution, the reproduction time can be set to 0, 2, 4 or 6 seconds. The lights can be set with a reach of -3 to 3 and the recording tone can be adjusted as well.

The camera has different scenes such as Auto, Portrait, Landscape, Sport, Portrait by Night, Sunset, Macro and Stabile picture. Under effects we can find Normal, Black and White, Negative, Sepia, Solarize, Red tone, Green tone and Blue tone.

In the recording screen, we can switch the flash on, off or set it to auto. We can switch to the video recording as well.

When we want to take a picture, the camera reacts swiftly and the screen is not shaky. The quality of the pictures is comparable to that of other new smartphones. The flash contributes to the quality of the pictures and is not a useless extra at all. The videos the Defy makes are of good quality, the recording and playing is smooth and the colors are clear.

A button that links to the camera role with all pictures and videos that are taken, appears on the left of the recording screen when we press the display once. Because the role is showed very clearly and is animated very well, we can scroll through our material in a nice way. In the camera role we can choose a slide show, and apart from that, the pictures and videos can be shared and sent through Bluetooth, email, Facebook MySpace, Picasa and MMS.

Available applications

The Defy comes with the following applications: 3G Mobile Hotspot, accounts, agenda, autodock, messages, browser, calculator, camcorder, camera, contacts, DLNA, email, Facebook, file manager, picture gallery, Gmail, settings, phone number selector, Google Latitude, maps, market, media-share, music, MySpace, navigation, phone portal, places, quickoffice, sim card messages, messages, SIM card messages, SIM toolkit, text messages, voice control, talk, alarm.

Applications that stand out are DLNA (which makes it easy to share files through WiFi) and Google Latitude (which makes it possible to show our friends where we are and find out where our friends are at the same time).

Looking at the application list, it strikes us that there are a lot of comparable and even similar applications in it. Maps, Nivagation and Google Latitude partly fulfill the same function and Messages and Text Messages are interchangeable as well.


There aren't any pre-installed games on the Defy. But of course, through the Android Market we can download and install an infinite amount of games and other applications.

Water, Dust and Fall Test

Apart from a phone, the Motorola Defy is above all a device to throw around. It is nice that Motorola states that the device is water-, dust and fallproof, but how does it stand in the real world? We submit the Def to four different tests: falling & bumping, scratches, water & fluids and to complete it all, we take it for a football game.

Test 1: Falling and bumping

Who doesn't know the feeling? Your phones slides out of your hands! That's why we start with a couple of innocent falling accidents.

The Defy can handle a fall well. The backside is made out of a softer plastic than the rest of the device, and this will be the first to show the marks of careless behavior. New scratches seem severe at first, but these wear off after some time, which makes them stand out less.

Test 2: Scratches

Maybe it has happened to you before: you put your phone with your keys in your pocket. Luckily, the Motorola Defy has Gorilla Glass, which should make it scratch proof. We arrange a meeting with our key chain.

We knew beforehand that Gorilla Glass could stand a lot, but we didn't expect it to be free of scratches after this treatment. If your Defy ever happens to meet your key chain for a short rendezvous, this will not cause any damage.

Test 3: Water

Each and every phone is filled with electronics. The only disadvantage is that electronics are bad at handling water. Fortunately, the Defy is not only scratch- and shockproof but waterproof as well. It is supposed to still be alive after a dive in the water. Time to run the bath and take it for a swim!

This is where the Defy fails. Even in a small accident while doing the dishes, water came into the camera. The battery is covered in a rubber closing lid, to prevent incoming water come deeper into the phone. The camera is outside this safe zone and we think this part will give up first. However, this did not occur during our test. If the phone goes for a more serious swim, this will be the case without doubt.

Test 4: Football

This test is not unimaginable for those who have little children our pets. We put on our football shoes and made the Defy sweat!

The football game, combined with the water test, made us go through some exciting moments: for a short while, the Defy seemed to have given up. Our able feet forced the water that had seeped in into places where it did not belong. Still, a night of drying made the miracle happen. After this torture, the Defy is still functioning completely! It must be said that the rolling over the concrete floor in the Mediacentrale pushed the limits of the Gorilla Glass, which caused a lot of scratches. We can't sell the Defy for a new device anymore, but it still works. We should compliment Motorola for that! However, it is striking that the back side can let go when it is exposed to heavy shocks. If the Defy is exposed to water at the same time, the fun will be over quickly. This is a thing you may want to pay attention to.


Now that we have worked with the Motorola Defy for a while, it is clear that Motorola has succeeded in filling a gap. The Defy is no less than its competitors. The fact that the device runs on Android 2.1 instead of a more up to date version, is a flaw. Still, the device does not crash and it is easy to work with. Other disadvantages are the apps and applications that have overlapping functions and the start screens, which are badly organized.

All in all, the Motorola Defy is very solid and resistant, but its appearance, accomplishments and possibilities are intact. This is not the newest or the fastest phone on the market, but it is workable when we keep on thinking about an upcoming update for the system.

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