Motorola DEFY Review by Taylor

Taylor Martin
 from Concord, NC
Published: November 30, 2010


What's Good: Good build quality; water resistant; decent price tag for a mid-range device; small and easily pocketed, but a decent sized display; very snappy; impressive battery life; bright and crisp display; ships with Swype.

What's Bad: MOTOBLUR; ships with Android 2.1; the size of the device and position of the display make it feel awkward in the hand; the display does not feel as large as it actually is.

The Verdict: For $99.99 with a two-year agreement, the Motorola DEFY is definitely a good choice for a new smartphone user. The Gorilla Glass and water resistance of the DEFY will attract those that are always active or tend to be a little rough on their phones.


The DEFY is another Android addition to the Motorola family, and is aimed at a wide demographic. From kids who might be prone to dropping their device to construction workers who tend to beat and bang their devices frequently, the DEFY's extra-tough build and water resistance should be able to handle more than the average phone.  Ruggedness does not stand in the way of design though, as the device looks and feels great as well.

Design & Features

The first time you hold the DEFY, you will notice that it's a small device (about the size of the Aria), but crammed in the small package is a 3.7-inch display. The display looks smaller than it really is, though. When I was using it I kept wanting to think it was 3.5-inches (the iPhone display size), but it is a little larger.

On the face of the device, underneath the famed Gorilla Glass, is a 480 by 854 pixel WVGA display and the four main capacitive buttons; menu, home, back, and search. At the very bottom-right of the face, hidden by the rubberized-plastic bezel is the microphone. The left, right, and bottom edges of the device are ridden with screws that hold the casing of the device together, giving it a very industrial or commercial grade feel. By itself on the left edge is the microUSB port covered with a plastic, water-resistant plug. On the right, you will find the standard volume rocker, and on the top there is the power button and 3.5mm headphone jack with another plastic plug. The camera and LED flash are on the upper left section of the back, covered by the black rubberized battery door. The door is held on by a sliding latch at the bottom. If you remove the battery door, you will find that all of the components (battery, camera, flash, etc.) are surrounded by rubber seals to help keep the water out.

Though the design of the DEFY is very industrial and “tough” looking, it may not appeal to everyone, especially those looking for a business-esque device. The quality of the build is great, though. There is no squeaking or any part that really feels cheap, despite the all-plastic design. I will note that there is some light leakage on three edges (top, left, and bottom) of the display, but it's only noticeable at an angle.

Usability & Performance

Like I said before, the device doesn't feel large enough to enclose a 3.7-inch display, and the screen size doesn't even feel like it's 3.7-inches. Even after using a device with the same size display, it just feels smaller, and I think MOTOBLUR has something to do with that. I hate to blame everything on MOTOBLUR every time I review a Motorola device, but it just isn't an optimal UI for smaller-screen devices. The widgets are too large for what they display. They use up a lot of unnecessary space and cover the wallpaper, which is what the user wants to see anyway, right? Nobody wants wasted space on an already small display.

With that being said, if you cradle the device in your hand, the position of the display just seems weird. Most displays are aligned more toward the top of the device, but the DEFY's display is evenly spaced between the top and bottom of the device. This constantly aggravated me because I would have to reposition the device in my hand to reach the bottom of the display or the capacitive buttons.  If you have smaller hands, this probably will not be an issue.

The display on the DEFY was surprisingly crisp, very bright, and the colors showed great contrast. One thing I noticed is the auto-brightness setting seemed a little bit off. It would dim at times when it shouldn't and surge to very bright when in a dark room. It still performed satisfactorily (as well as any other) in bright sunlight.

The highlight of this device, without doubt, is its proclaimed durability and protection against spills and drops. The DEFY should be able to resist water penetration for up to three feet of water. Dunking this phone in a cup of water doesn't even begin to phase it. Since it is water-resistant, it also resists dust. With water and dust resistance and the Gorilla Glass screen, the DEFY should be able to stand the roughest of the rough when it comes to users and their devices.

One thing I don't quite understand is why Motorola would ship out this device with Android version 2.1. Most devices are finally getting their updates to 2.2, but Motorola and some other manufacturers keep rolling out devices with Android 2.1. Even something as little as this could kill the sales of a device. There's nothing wrong with Android 2.1, and it has about the same functionality as 2.2, but customers want their Froyo, and they don't want to walk into a product knowing they will have to wait for an update.

The processor, while not 1 GHz, powers the device without an issue. With the higher resolution display and a 800 MHz Texas Instruments OMAP processor, you would expect a little lag, but I haven't experienced any myself, besides in the browser. Everything seemed to be snappy. If ever you were to run into some lag, Motorola has started equipping their devices with a pre-installed task manager. Beware though, it list some background processes in the task list, and if you auto-kill those, you will undoubtedly get undesired results.

Call quality on the DEFY is on par with most other devices. The headset speaker is loud; the people I called had no trouble hearing me, and I had no trouble hearing them. That said, the speaker seems to have a treble issue, and everything sounds like its in a barrel. It's loud enough, but it either sounds muffled or has a spacey sound to it. With that being said, I had no problems with signal. With the myTouch 4G, I had issues with signal in my apartment, and even out in public. With the DEFY, I have had great signal everywhere I have been. Seeing that they're both using the same network, I would be inclined to say that it's the quality of the internal antenna. 

The camera on the DEFY is a little disappointing. Even in a well-lit room, I had issues with the brightness level of the pictures. Also, on most devices you can auto-focus before you snap the picture. With the software on the DEFY, you are forced to tap the “capture” button and let the device auto-focus and snap the picture on its own. It does this very quickly and makes it a little difficult to judge whether you're going to get a good picture out of it or not. Even at 5 megapixels, the pictures appeared grainy. This is due to the rushed, automatic focusing and the brightness issues.

The battery life has been great so far. Rated at 1540 mAh, the DEFY is said to last up to 8 hours of talk time and nearly 10 days of standby time. I let it sit for two days without touching it and it was still at 100% (Motorola devices' battery levels only read in 10% increments) when I came back.  I've also been carrying a Nexus One and Droid Pro lately, and both of these devices drain rather quickly, whether in use or not. The DEFY's battery drains a lot slower than both of these, but it isn't the best I've seen to date in an Android device.

Web browsing on the DEFY was decent. It was nothing spectacular, and lagged some (this is the only place I saw 800 MHz processor being an issue). Pages would load rather quickly, but when it comes to zooming in and out, or panning quickly, the processor struggled to keep up. There was only a second or two of delay, but it was pretty obvious.

Since I'm the leader of the Fat Finger Club, I usually have problems typing on smaller devices. While the DEFY's display isn't tiny, still worried me when it came to typing. That is, until I saw it came equipped with Swype. The multi-touch keyboard provided by Motorola wasn't terrible, but my thumbs definitely bumped together quite a bit when trying to type with it. On a device with a display smaller than 4-inches, Swype is almost a necessity; luckily the DEFY comes with it. If you have smaller hands or skinny fingers, you should be okay with either keyboard.

If you're a family person, the DEFY comes with T-Mobile's Family Room software. This allows you to keep in close contact with your family members (anyone you designate on the phone as family). You can send Blasts and eBlasts, which are mass text messages or mass emails to those designated, and you have a family calendar, to help you keep up with your kids' crazy schedules. There are also a few more applications and services that come one the DEFY, like SHOUTcast Radio, SoundHound, and many others.


The DEFY isn't the most spectacular device to come to T-Mobile, but it certainly has its benefits. It can withstand more than your average phone can whether it's being dropped, thrown into water, or covered with dust. It's small but still packs a decent sized display, has great battery life, and has a rather fresh design. For only $99.99 with a two-year contract with T-Mobile, the DEFY is a great choice for someone looking for a cost-efficient smartphone that is built to last.

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