Construction workers and klutzes have reason to celebrate. After demolishing numerous smartphones due to improper handling, there is finally a touchscreen handset that is not only dust and shock-proof, but water-resistant as well.
If you've researched rugged phones before, you'll know they are universally ugly devices. Theseries of "indestructible" phones may be able to withstand a bullet, but its Transformers-like chassis is bulky and far from the best fashion accessory for a night out in a fancy restaurant. The Moto Defy bucks this trend, and though its matte plastic body falls short of being absolutely drool-worthy, it is a cool-looking handset nonetheless.
Around the edges of the Defy you'll find six screws, and the battery cover is locked down with a sliding latch. This, apparently, provides enough protection to withstand being submerged in up to one-metre of water, and though you'll probably still want to keep it away from water where possible, it is sufficient to survive rain and, god forbid, being dropped in the dunny. We completely submerged the phone in a glass of water for several minutes while shooting the video review (above) and found the phone to be completely functional afterwards. Interestingly, you can't use the touchscreen underwater. We found that the touchscreen actually responds to water, so there's no chance of taking this phone scuba-diving for some impromptu underwater photography.
Protecting it from the keys in your pocket, the 3.7-inch capacitive touchscreen features Gorilla Glass. The touchscreen is reasonably responsive, though like the Milestone 2, we have noticed that interacting with the Defy can seem a bit sticky at times. The phone will respond to gestures promptly, but animations, like scrolling through the list of installed apps, can appear a bit jerky. Motorola has included a Swype keyboard in the Defy, and while we love this addition, it is yet another example of where the response time of the phone can drop to an irritating level.
Beneath the rugged good looks of the Defy beats the heart of a fairly average Android smartphone— in terms of software. The Defy runs on Android 2.1 with Motorola's MotoBlur version 1.5. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, we don't like MotoBlur very much. It takes the enormity of the social network experience and distills it down into a handful of widgets and an app that pools all of this information into one not-particularly streamlined location. We spent about a day with MotoBlur before we removed the widgets from the homescreen and installed TweetDeck instead.
But there are other parts of the standard smartphone experience that Motorola does very well. The music player in the Defy is probably the best music application we've used all year. It does the basics well; it plays music loudly, displays album art, has multiple search filters for organising music; but it also adds a couple of really excellent web services. There's TuneWiki, an app that streams album art and the lyrics of the song you are listening to so that you can sing along. It can also show other TuneWiki users on a Google Map so you can discover new music through what they are listening to. Shoutcast is also installed and lets you tap into the vast, seemingly endless world of internet radio. But our favourite part of the player is the YouTube integration. If you feel your music needs a visual component you can launch a YouTube video search of the song and artist you are listening to from the menu and play the clip without leaving the music player.
Cinema lovers will also make good use of the baked-in DLNA media sharing software, identical to the Media Share tools we found on the higher-priced. With Media Share you can stream videos, photos and music in both directions, plus you can transfer files to and from your phone. This is very handy when you are visiting that friend who happens to have an amazing library of media.