Review by Sunetra Chakravati,
8/16/2011 9:56:52 AM
Good survival rate through spillage and drops, decent design, Android Gingerbread with some useful Motorola widgets
Moto's social networking app is poorly implemented, camera is decidedly mediocre
Our phones take a lot of abuse. They’re dropped, swiped off desks, and thrust into pockets and bags full of scratchy keys. Then there are all those freak accidents when you’ve ‘tripped’ and dropped your phone into a toilet bowl, or floated it out a third floor window, or stabbed it in an excitable bit of food preparation. Enter the Motorola Defy+, a phone that’s been touted as ‘life-proof’. You’ll never lose a phone to a drunken swimming pool bet again.
The Defy+ is an update to 2010's Motorola Defy, a phone which suffered from slow performance and the aging Android 2.1 Froyo OS. These problems have all been fixed in the latest incarnation – the Defy + runs Android 2.3.4 Gingerbread on a 1GHz processor, making it 25% faster than its predecessor. It’s not a true powerhouse, but the Defy+ is a mid-spec phone that runs without problems. The 1700mAh battery stays alive for about 11 hours at full use – we found it managed to eke a lot more juice out of its final moments than many similarly-specced phones.
The Defy+ is all about standing up to punishment, and consequently it's a bit of an odd beast to look at.
It’s simultaneously rugged and smooth, and at 107x59x13.4mm it has a remarkably compact body given the super-tough 480x854 pixel 3.7-inch Gorilla glass screen that extends almost all the way to the bezel. The Defy+ fits neatly into the hand, and the phone’s slightly rubberised back is grippy and satisfying to the touch. Tough-looking hex screws have been worked into the design of the case: it’s plainly a phone that won’t mind a few knocks here and there.
What’s odd is that the smooth lines of the phone are interrupted by the rubbery caps that cover the 3.5mm headphone jack and the micro USB port. The tight-fitting covers keep dirt and water out, but they protrude rather oddly from the otherwise sleek design. The five-megapixel camera has been set into the back of the phone so that scratches (if any) stay well away from the lens. Camera software is intuitive and visual, but sadly the noisy and washed out photos the Defy+ takes are never going to win it any prizes. If you want an effective camera replacement, you’d be best off looking elsewhere.
The Defy+ is IP67 certified - meaning that it's totally dust proof, and can stand being submerged in 1m of water for up to half an hour. That's a claim too good not to test...
Water: The Defy+ encountered no problems under the bathroom tap, ran equally well underwater and was even fine when submerged in this lovely glass of gin & tonic.
In fact, it ran much better than we do after being submerged in gin.
Soil: The Defy+ wiped clean with no ill-effects when we planted (and watered) it with this basil plant. We've had no mini-Motorolas sprouting up so far, though. Maybe there's not enough silicon in the soil.
Pointy things: No amount of scraping, even with gratuitously over-sharpened kitchen knives, could scratch the serene surface of the Defy+. It stayed as smooth as a lounge jazz quintet.
The Defy+ runs Android’s Gingerbread platform with Motorola’s custom MOTOBLUR interface, which looks good and doesn’t interfere with any of Android’s best features: Gmail and calendar integration, for example, have been left well alone. Custom Motorola widgets look stylish, and unlike their stock Android brethren the Moto widgets can be resized in a number of different formats, letting you configure to your heart’s content. One of Motorola’s major additions is the Social Networking app, which aggregates social network updates from Twitter, Facebook, Last.fm and more into a single stream. It’s a great idea that’s let down by poor implementation – creating an app like this that lacks any custom refresh settings is a major no-no.
Longevity isn’t often taken into consideration when looking at a new phone. But given the length of the average phone contract, it’s important to pick a phone that will stick around without disintegrating the second you throw it down a hallway or under a bus. The Motorola Defy+ is a solid performer with equally solid looks, and won’t be fazed by the occasional puddle. If you’ve ruined a phone through too much use (or excitement) in the past , the Defy+ is worth checking out.