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Motorola Defy (T-Mobile) review: Motorola Defy (T-Mobile)

Motorola Defy (T-Mobile)

Nicole Lee Former Editor
Nicole Lee is a senior associate editor for CNET, covering cell phones, Bluetooth headsets, and all things mobile. She's also a fan of comic books, video games, and of course, shiny gadgets.
Nicole Lee
5 min read


Motorola Defy (T-Mobile)

The Good

The Motorola Defy is tough enough to withstand everyday hazards with its tough Gorilla glass and rugged exterior. Features include a 5-megapixel camera, a music player, Wi-Fi calling, and GPS, and it ships with Android 2.1. Call quality is excellent.

The Bad

The Motorola Defy doesn't take very good pictures and its rough-and-tumble aesthetic isn't for everyone. We also wished we didn't have to activate the Motoblur account to use the phone.

The Bottom Line

The Motorola Defy is a great midtier Android smartphone, especially for those who need a phone to be a little more protected against life's everyday mishaps.

While there are many rugged handsets like the Casio G'zOne Ravine and the Sonim XP3 Quest, not many of them are smartphones. In fact, we can only think of one--the Motorola i1, an Android smartphone available from both Boost Mobile and Sprint Nextel. As if sensing a need for such a category, Motorola went ahead and made another rugged smartphone, called the Motorola Defy, and this one is available from T-Mobile. The Defy is not quite as bulky as the i1, but it's built to be almost as tough. If that's not enough, the Defy also has a 5-megapixel camera, an enhanced Motoblur interface, and Wi-Fi calling, and it ships with Android 2.1. The Motorola Defy is available for $99.99 after a new two-year service agreement.

When compared with the Motorola i1, the Motorola Defy is definitely the sleeker and slimmer model. Measuring 4.2 inches long by 2.3 inches wide by 0.5 inch thick, the Defy has a slim and straightforward touch-screen design, with rounded corners and a rubberized back along with a white hard-plastic border around the battery cover. This black-and-white style makes the Defy look far sportier than the i1's all-black duds.

The Motorola Defy has a nice 3.7-inch display.

Yet, the Defy aims to be almost as tough. The display is made out of Corning Gorilla glass, which claims to be resistant to impact and scratches, and the ports are covered in rubberized stoppers to make the phone water-resistant as well. Also all around the phone are screws, presumably to make the phone more secure. It lacks the i1's military certification for salt, fog, humidity, and solar radiation, but the Defy should withstand most everyday bumps and drops just fine, according to Motorola.

On the front is a generous 3.7-inch WVGA display that is spread out from one edge of the phone to the other, leaving little black space around the sides. With its 16 million colors and 480x854-pixel resolution, the screen looks quite stunning. Graphics are saturated with color and crisp with detail. The capacitive display was also very responsive to our taps. There's an internal accelerometer plus a proximity sensor.

The Defy comes with the enhanced version of Motoblur, which lets you move and resize widgets on the home screen. In fact, Motorola requires you to have a Motoblur account in order to use the phone, which we weren't too happy about. The widgets let you keep track of social network updates, incoming messages, and the latest news feeds. You get up to seven different home screens, with shortcuts to the phone dialer, the main menu, and the contacts list on the bottom row. For text input, you can choose from either the standard Android multitouch keyboard or the special Swype keyboard that lets you spell out words by dragging your finger across the keys.

Underneath the display are four touch-sensitive Android hot keys for the pop-up menu, the home screen, Back, and Search. We tend to prefer physical keys here, but we found them to be responsive with a bit of vibration feedback, so it was still easy to navigate.

On the left spine is the Micro-USB charging port, on the top are a 3.5-millimeter headset jack and the screen lock/power key, and on the right is the volume rocker. The camera lens and LED flash are on the back. The battery cover has a lock to protect the phone's internal area from water damage.

Unlike the Motorola i1, the Defy ships with Android 2.1. Though it's not the latest 2.2 update, version 2.1 is still quite good. You get up to seven home screens as we mentioned, live wallpaper, speech-to-text abilities, voice control, the ability to use more than one Gmail account, and more. There's also a universal in-box feature that houses all of your messages and correspondence in a single list. We're also fans of the universal address book, as it syncs with your social network account to bring in your friends' contact information.

You get the usual phone features on here as well. They include voice dialing, a speakerphone, text and multimedia messaging, conference calling, visual voice mail, and a vibrate mode. The phone book is limited only by the available memory, and each entry has room for multiple numbers, e-mail addresses, and so forth. For connectivity, you have Bluetooth with A2DP support, Wi-Fi, 3G, and GPS with TeleNav support. The Motorola Defy is also only one of a few Android smartphones to have Wi-Fi calling. Just as it sounds, this feature lets you make calls over Wi-Fi, thus bypassing cellular airwaves so calls won't eat up your minutes.

Google users will be happy with the Defy, as it offers compatibility with every Google app imaginable. They include Gmail, Google Maps, Navigation, Places, YouTube, Latitude, and Google Talk. But if you're not happy with Gmail, you can easily add your own POP3/IMAP server, and the Defy is compatible with Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync as well.

Other apps that come with the phone are Quickoffice, Social Networking, YouTube, a Motorola Phone Portal, Media Share, Family Room, Blockbuster, Audio Postcard, and DLNA. That last app lets you share media files with any other DLNA-compatible device in the house, which includes many television sets. Of course, you also get the usual apps for instant messaging and news feeds. In addition to getting apps from the Android Market, you can also download them from a T-Mobile AppPack store.

The Motorola Defy produces sharp images, but dim colors.

The Motorola Defy has a decent 5-megapixel camera, but we wished the photo quality were a little better. Images were sharp enough, but we would've liked the colors to be brighter. Indoor shots looked rather muted, though the LED flash improved them a little. There's also a video recorder and a music player.

We tested the Motorola Defy in San Francisco using T-Mobile. Call quality was excellent. We were impressed by how clear our callers sounded. There was little background noise, and voice quality was good.

On their end, callers said we sounded very good as well. There was a slight echo effect in speakerphone mode, but it wasn't distracting. They also reported very little static and good natural voice quality.

We experienced good 3G speeds in San Francisco. We loaded the CNET mobile page in just 9 seconds, and YouTube videos didn't take long to load. The Defy's 800MHz processor served us well for the most part--launching apps felt quick, and we didn't suffer much lag in between app switches.

The Motorola Defy has a 1,540 mAh lithium ion battery and has a rated battery life of 8 hours of talk time and 18 days' standby time. Our tests reveal a talk time of 8 hours and 18 minutes.


Motorola Defy (T-Mobile)

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 8