Review: Tough Motorola Defy Does What It Says With Gorilla Glass

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Motorola defies the idea of the smartphone being an ultra-sensitive piece of delicate technology with its weatherproof Defy that lives up to its durability promise.First impressions are made quickly on this front with the simple yet confronting design that mimics the no-frills look of weatherproof cameras.

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The plastic coating is fitted with six micro screws that hold the back and front plates together. The microUSB and earphone jack are each covered by their own rubbery cap to ensure waterproofing.

At first, it isn’t the most attractive look, but the black on white colour scheme really works, and the overall look is still quite subtle for a ‘heavy duty’ phone. It doesn’t promise the all-out rugged experience, but it’ll easily fend off bumps and shocks.

On that same note, the screen is a notable plus. The 3.7 inch screen is made of Gorilla Glass that won’t take a crack or scratch from knocks, bumps or falls, let alone a few finger nails.

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That’s the durability – but it’s also got a plus for usability. The touch functions run end-to-end, so that users can swipe their finger over the screen edge to the bezel and still register their touch. This makes swiping across multiple ‘home’ screens and menus simpler, while the hardware on the backend supports quick browsing through files with minimal lag at the same time (running pretty sharp for an 800MHz processor).

 

For a $600 phone, the software could be better though. By default, the phone runs on Android’s slightly older face, version 2.1.

On the plus side, Motorola has customised the user interface enough to make the phone unique in quite a few handy ways – from web browsing and typing to playing and browsing through media.

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The home screen features seven customisable panels that can be laden with apps, as is the case with all Android phones, but also Defy-specific widgets that centralise media.

MotoBlur is a handy and simpler aggregator of all your social media and email into a few simplistic boxes that are easy to navigate, though the usefulness isn’t quite there. Showing the most recent updates with images is easy on the eye, but not very deep – so you’ll still be going into your browser or apps to check your Facebook.

The media tab is the star widget here though. While the others seem to oversimplify, the all-in-one music and streaming tab runs music from your saved files while at the same time being able to search through YouTube for videos and info. Rather than opening a dedicated YouTube app or browser window, it searches and plays straight out of the small widget on the home screen – a clever little tool for simplifying the process, minimising clutter and avoiding flooding the small phone’s processor with applications.

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On that note, the phone deals with video well despite its small size and processor, with no lag when skipping between bits of streamed video. Sound quality is fair, but the high volumes that the speaker can be pushed to give it a few bonus points here.

There are also a range of buttons placed on the far right home screen by default that toggle connectivity. A simple tap can turn on Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or other connections without the need for trawling the Settings menu. A simple addition again, but a practical one.

 

The ability to stretch and shape the widgets on the home screen, like the social media, email and entertainment blocks, adds a level of customisability that makes the widgets feel more at home rather than a tacked-on additive (like you get with some of the current Nokia widgets).

On the browsing side, sites are worked fairly quickly and there’s not much differentiation here between other Android 2.1 and 2.2 phones in this regard. The differentiator here is in the user interface that receives a slight tweak.

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The keyboard has the ‘Swype’ ability pre-installed for users who want to type quickly without raising a finger. There are also small, but noticeable, extras like the red, circular crosshair that follows your finger along blocks of texts to make it easier to move the cursor into place between letters and sentences when you’re editing text.

On the talking side, the phone is clear and reception is solid, though countryside users may shed a tear over Telstra recently stripping off its Blue Tick reception rating from the phone after further testing. While it might not be the prize possession of farmers anymore, it’s still perfectly apt for anywhere else.

One of the features that top the deal here is the in-car docking capability that turns the Defy into a veritable sat nav. A pre-loaded in-car app opens up a six tile screen with voice controls that places maps, navigation, music, calls and customisable apps into a driver-friendly window.

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Coupled with a Defy-specific car dock that’s sold separately, the Defy’s Google Maps-based navigation is a potential alternative to the navigator for anyone who doesn’t already have a GPS device.

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