When I first saw the Motorola Defy+, it was sitting in a glass of water. The poor phone hadn’t even been in the office for five minutes and it was already being tested to see if all of this “water tight” PR propaganda was true. It wasn’t immersed a meter deep for half an hour — its advertised tolerance threshold — but it survived nonetheless. Considering the fact that I’m still a bit upset that my last laptop was fatally wounded by a pathetically light shower of Kenyan blend coffee, the phone earned immediate brownie points. But, as it turned out, it didn’t need them.
The Defy+ is hardly the skinniest wisp of a phone — it’s a pretty solid 118 gram construction that measures 107 x 59 mm and is quite chunky at 13.4mm thick. It looks like it was built for a month-long trek up some lesser-navigated mountain or to fit in the pocket of someone working on an oil rig in the middle of the ocean. It has seven tiny silver screws drilled into the case at regular intervals around its frame, water-tight rubberised covers over the micro USB port on its left hand side and top-mounted headphone jack, and a utilitarian metal clip on the back that releases the battery cover.
It’s dust-proof and scratch resistant and the touchscreen is constructed from Corning’s tough gorilla glass — built to survive distracted users who tend to smash into things that aren’t even moving and drop their phones on a regular basis (like me). At the bottom of the screen sit four capacitive buttons — the only physical buttons on the device are the volume controls on the right side and the un/lock button on the top.
With a single 1GHz processor and 512 MB of RAM, the Defy+ is fast, but not amazingly so. The phone runs Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) and multitasks without any problems, but loading apps and menus can take a few seconds. Even trying to open something as simple as the settings menu was a problem — the Defy+ took its time and gave me a delightful blank white screen to stare at while it struggled to load. Opening apps like Facebook and Twitter required a wait of 5 and 7 seconds respectively (yes, I counted), but I could pinch and zoom around as much as I liked without any delay.
The phone comes with MotoBlur, Motorola’s take on the Android UI that allows you to customise your device with widgets displaying everything from your Twitter timeline to the weather. It also arrives preinstalled with an odd assortment of apps – all the Google products you’ll ever need (Google maps, Google talk, Google search, Gmail, YouTube) and some odd things like Cardio Train (a fitness app) and Soundhound (which identifies any song you’re listening to or even humming).
The display is 480 x 854 pixels and has a pixel density of 265 ppi. It is beautiful. The 3.7 inch screen could be brighter, and it doesn’t always cope that well in direct sunlight, but the LCD can display 16-million colours and does a pretty decent job of it too.
Well, the last phone review I wrote was titled ‘death by touch screen’, so you can see why I was mentally preparing myself for weeks of frustration when I picked up the Defy+. Fortunately, Motorola seem to know what its doing. The TFT capacitive touchscreen is ridiculously responsive and intuitive — it always understands the difference between a swish to scroll and a tap to select, and typing isn’t a problem when it unobtrusively suggests what you might be trying to say two letters into the word. I don’t know what it put in that keyboard, but BlackBerry needs to get hold of some of it.
The Defy+ has 1GB internal memory and comes standard with a 2GB micro SD card (tucked away behind that waterproof battery cover) which is expandable to 32GB.
The 5MP camera captures images at 2592 х 1944 pixels, has auto focus and an LED flash, and includes different scene modes (landscape, macro, sunset, sport, etc) and effects like sepia, negative and solarise filters. You can also change the area of focus by dragging the focus box around the screen — which works fantastically if you’re trying to take artistic shots with a low depth of field as you have much more control over the camera. There isn’t a front facing camera on the device though, and you’ll have to use the flash even in partially lit rooms if you’re snapping photos indoors at night — and it is so bright it tends to overexpose objects closest to the lens and wash the colours out. The phone records video at 30 frames per second in VGA (640 x 480 pixels) — sorry, no HD video recording here.
The Defy+ seems to have a little bit of a problem with wireless connectivity. I literally held the phone two centimetres away from my wireless router and the little icon could only fill two of its four bars. I think all of that rugged, life-proof casing may have affected the reception. It also had this weird habit of disconnecting from the Wi-Fi when I locked the phone, and reconnecting when I unlocked the screen. Because of the low signal strength, browsing the web was generally quite slow — but browsing using a 3G connection was so beautifully fast that it was worth the data costs. The phone is capable of theoretical speeds of HSDPA 7.2 Mbps and HSUPA 2 Mbps and has Bluetooth, NFC and wireless hotspot capabilities.
As for the actual phone (who uses their smartphone to call people? Really?), the Defy+’s call quality was great, and switching over to speaker was just as clear. The speakers on that phone mean serious business — I could hear a call clearly from across the room.
Are you one of those unfortunate souls who suffers though the daily irritation of a pinging smartphone, crying out for a plug point to feed its depleted battery? My friend, the Defy+ won’t do that to you. It can happily stay on standby for 10 days on its 1700 mAh Lithium-ion polymer battery. But it also understands that you don’t want it to just sit around looking rugged. I synched three email accounts with the thing, downloaded and ran everything from Whatsapp to Twitter and Instagram and even played through a few levels in Angry Birds, all while constantly connected to Wi-Fi. It coped admirably, lasting 1 day, 16 hours and 47 minutes before it began to warn me that the battery was only 15% away from death.
Considering that my main issue with this phone (the Wi-Fi problems) is actually just a slight irritation born out of a desire to use free Wi-Fi whenever possible, of course I have to gear it. It’s the perfect phone for hikers, game rangers, canoeists, construction workers and mountain bikers…. Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit (but they’d probably really like it). It’s great for clumsy people who need their phone to survive the occasional forage into the dirt but still be packed full of Android awesomess. Did I mention it can survive extended periods of time in a glass of water?