Rather than simply produce a small Android phone in a market swamped with similar smartphones, Motorola has opted to make it ‘life proof’ by toughening the phone up
What a crazy year Motorola has had, releasing a number of handsets that should have been able to fight alongside Samsung and HTC, but struggling to be taken seriously by the UK networks.
As a result, we’ve had the Milestone XT720 and the quirky FLIPOUT almost arrive and disappear without trace, unless you seek out the former from the likes of Expansys, or the latter in a selection of Orange stores – if you can in fact find one at all.
In September, Motorola unveiled the Milestone 2 and the DEFY. While the Milestone 2 is little more than a facelift of the original, the DEFY is something rather special.
Not only is it smaller than a Milestone, but it’s also a handset designed to cope with users who are somewhat less gentle with their handsets than they perhaps should be.
Although you can now buy a range of toughened handsets, Motorola isn’t pitching this as a phone for plumbers, builders or people doing extreme sports. Although the DEFY has a high IP rating for water resistance (to one metre) and has a toughened display to avoid scratches from accidental bumps and scrapes, it is being marketed as being ‘life proof’.
The Gorilla Glass, which has also been used on other handsets including the iPhone 4, means you can use and abuse the phone without (much) fear. It should be stressed, however, that this isn’t a phone to throw off a roof or under a tank. Still, we’d have to hope that you don’t generally find yourself in situations where either of these are likely scenarios.
Inside the phone, which has a rather basic look and is held together with screws and a tight seal around the battery cover, is an Android smartphone that ships with Android 2.1. It means losing out on things like Adobe Flash support, although Motorola has confirmed an update to 2.2 will arrive in the first quarter of 2011 (we hope that they will actually change this to 2.3, but we shall have to wait and see). Either way, Flash support should be coming soon.
The 3.5-inch screen is the same as the Milestone models, and is an LCD capacitive screen that has a good contrast ratio, but more importantly a high density display that squeezes in 480×854 pixels. Not quite as high as the iPhone 4, but not far off.
The tough screen is highly responsive and helped along by an 800MHz processor, which if the Milestone 1 is anything to go by, should be easy to overclock to 1GHz and beyond.
But, even before the overclockers get to work, the DEFY is no slouch and overclocking is not neccesary. Any apparent slowness is more likely down to Motorola’s home screen, but there are loads of third-party ones you can switch to via Android Market.
The phone also comes with MotoBLUR, which can gather together all of your email, picture updates (such as Picasa) and social networking updates in one unified inbox, or displayed in various ways through the use of widgets on the homescreen.
Although not quite as powerful as HTC’s latest online version of Sense, MotoBLUR does allow you to remotely locate your phone via the web, or securely wipe the device (but not the memory card) if the very worst happens and you lose your phone or get it stolen.
There’s also a nice loud speaker, which is a trademark of most Motorola devices. Not only does it work well in speakerphone mode, it also comes in handy for watching movies.
Audio quality can be adjusted with a series of equaliser options, and the phone has CrystalTalk PLUS, with a selection of modes from standard, described as ‘warm and full of bass’, to bright and extra bright to have the voice ‘jump out at you’. Scary.
So, that’s the display and audio covered, so what of the battery life? The phone may physically survive a night out longer than you do, but will it still let you make a call in the small hours?
Well, things start well with a mighty 1,500mAh battery, but if that isn’t enough then there’s a Battery Manager so you can set profiles to reduce consumption at certain hours of the day, from adjusting the brightness to disabling data during the night, then getting it online in the morning to download your latest emails or updates.
Throw in a data monitor so you can make sure you don’t exceed your data allowance (and, what’s more, it shows you the apps that use the most data – so you might find yourself ditching any serious offenders) and Motorola isn’t just protecting the handset, but your phone bill too.
The camera is the same as the Milestone, with the same LED lamp. There’s no camera button this time around, but Motorola has even thought ahead and created a new function that can be activated by a double press on the home key.
Meanwhile, text entry is speeded up considerably by shipping with Swype, the on-screen keyboard that lets you glide a finger through the letters you’d normally stab at individually.
Although the DEFY only comes with Android 2.1, Motorola has included the updated Android Market app that allows you to automatically update apps. They’ve also kept the phone free of unwanted apps to take up storage, although there’s 2GB onboard for apps, which should be more than ample ahead of the 2.2 update that lets you install on optional memory card.
It’s hard to think of anything else this phone would need to do to become any more perfect.
Everything needs a unique selling point, and Motorola is selling the DEFY as a phone that is ‘life proof’, and we’re certainly not going to complain about a phone with a toughened screen, plus water and dust resistance. However, there’s more to the phone than that. Inside is a very powerful, yet power efficient, Android smartphone that has an amazing screen, great audio and an acceptable camera that gets the job done (but there’s no HD video recording). So it’s fast, efficient, tough and Motorola has committed to updating the OS. What more is there to say?
Ratings (out of 5)
[wpgalleryimage title="Editors-Choice-5Star" float=right]Performance: 5