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Review of Motorola Defy MB525 GSM/UMTS Smartphone
Live photos of Motorola Defy
The segment of protected phones is relatively limited, which is currently occupied either by niche manufacturers (for example, Sonim) or inexpensive models from Samsung. The development of the segment has stalled many years ago as the demand for such devices didn't grow and the manufacturers were reluctant to invest into it. First handsets from Samsung turned out to be so successful that others got interested and started offering their own solutions. It seems that the rationale of Motorola, which led to the creation of DEFY, was the same. It is not really so. Remember, that in the US Motorola produces portable transmitters for army and police. The company has enough of expertise in the area, but it hasn't been used in commercial models yet. Protected models from Motorola were hardly known in Europe prior to DEFY announcement and the company was not associated with similar devices. Ask any friend if Motorola sells protected phones? The answer is likely to be negative.
This opinion is far from being true. Motorola owns the highest number of patents on protected handsets. For example, in January of 2009 Motorola unveiled in the US its model Tundra VA76r, which is the first protected clamshell model in the world. Think again! The majority of companies try to minimize the number of movable components and favors candybars. Motorola defies this notion and comes up with a clamshell to meet US military standard MIL-STD 810F. It is interesting to know about the requirements of this standard mandatory for all radio devices in the US army. Operating temperatures vary between -20C and +60C. The model can be stored in temperatures between -40C and +75C. Similar gadgets are tested in conditions of heavy fog, influence of salt, sand and vibrations (to imitate an all terrain vehicle, shooting from a machine gun, etc.). After all these tribulations the color and texture of the body must remain unchanged. Unlike other endurance tests military tests include heat shock impact among other things. In a special camera the temperature is briskly increased by 5 degrees and the phone should keep on working. There are some other parameters involved, but the main point is that the demands are the strictest and Tundra easily meets them all. My US colleagues explained how aggressively they tried to destroy Tundra samples to prove it can be damaged. They failed even after 20 minutes of playing soccer with Tundra instead of the ball. I tell you this story to show that Motorola is a unique company with rich experience in this area, which was used in Motorola DEFY.
To be fair I have to admit that Motorola DEFY is not the first protected Android smartphone on the market. Cannot remember? It was Motorola i1 launched in March of 2010. This prototype of DEFY was available only in the USA (iDen). So, it doesn't count. DEFY is the first international attempt of Motorola to present a protected model.
What is protection for a mass market of mobile phones? It is always a compromise. If a soldier has no choice and uses what he or she is told rank and file customers are free to choose from hundreds of models. It is extremely difficult to create a protected, but at the same time, a traditionally looking phone. Samsung deliberately emphasized protection in design. Other companies did the same. Remember a legendary Siemens ME45.
Motorola aspired to offer a model inconspicuous by its protection qualities. It had to be a model for everyday use, but with high level of protection. Owners of the model were supposed to use it in normal circumstances and not only in extreme conditions. The same approach was utilized by Siemens Mobile and it was quite successful. First look at DEFY will not tell you that the model is protected. Its size is compact, so you see just a typical touch screen handset. This is the first idea to cross you mind and it is quite an achievement.
The unique feature of DEFY is that touch screen phones are not offered in their protected versions. DEFY is the first in its group. It has IP67 protection class similar to Samsung B2710 Xcover and both models can spend up to 30 minutes in water (1 meter in depth). Higher protection class will be excessive for such models. This level of protection ensures that the phone will survive its owner if the latter gets burnt, drowned, or impacted in a car crash. It is virtually impossible to break the phone while skiing in the mountains or riding a bicycle. The chance is always there, but it is highly improbable.
Motorola DEFY is usually purchased by young people. It is definitely preferred by men. Apart from protection it gives you decent features for its price segment. You don't pay any premium for the level of protection, so it is an excellent value for money. It follows the ideas implemented in Siemens ME45. It will not gain a similarly iconic status, but it is clearly one of the best phones in 2010.
The phone comes in two colors – all black or a body with a white element on the side (we tested precisely this variant). One of our readers aptly compared its looks with the colors of TIE fighters from Star Wars. There is no smoke without fire.
Phone dimensions are 107х59х13.4 mm with the weight of 118 g. Compare with HTC Desire -119x60x11.9 mm, weight 135 g. It looks like a standard touch screen model. Even the thickness is standard. It is protected nonetheless. The plastic has a velvet feel and the model will not slide down if you put it on a car's dash board. Minor scratches are invisible.
The screen is protected with Gorilla Glass. Scratch with a knife or piece of metal as much as you wish. Nothing will happen. It is also resistant to falling down. It can be broken, but you will have to try hard. It is clear why hardware buttons were replaced by sensor ones. Under the screen we see light and proximity sensors.
On sides we see screws, which connect the body. Whether it is a decorative element or it has some function, but they fit the overall style well. The left side hosts a microUSB slot covered by a rubber cap fastened to the body. A similar cap covers a 3.5 mm jack at the top. It is also accompanied with the on/off button. The right side is dedicated to a paired volume control button.
In the majority of protected models we can see a screw to fasten the cover to the battery section to avoid the penetration of water. In this model we have an ordinary latch, which is surprising as the back cover is of thin plastic and doesn't have a rubber protection frame. Motorola decided to be innovative and this rubber element became an integral part of the body. Engineers believed that this rubber element can be more vulnerable during opening or closing, so they hid it inside. Technologically this solution is more difficult to implement.
Other protection elements are traditional – the battery fits the slot tightly to secure the board. The number of slots inside is limited. To avoid the loss of a memory card it is fastened with a special clip. Protection features of the phone are up to the mark.
I wanted to show the video how the phone treats downfalls, but I didn't make the recording. The handset was dropped no less than 10 times to the pavement from a height of several meters. The scratches did not appear, but the glass protecting the camera got cracked. This crack does not influence the quality of pictures. I left it in a glass of water for 30 minutes without any consequences. It operated under water. In other words all declared parameters happened to be true to life.
Another technology handy in this model is CrystalTalk Plus. There are two microphones and each of them assesses ambient noise and highlights only your voice. It is not a breakthrough as other companies offer similar solutions, for example, Nokia. In DEFY it works well. I haven't called from a construction site with the jackhammer on, but the speech reproduction from night clubs is excellent (without ignoring the noise around).
Motorola decided not to save pennies on the screen and borrowed it from a Milestone. Such screen unification is a good move for customers as we get an accessible model with a high quality screen.
The model sports a 3.7″ capacitive touchscreen with the resolution of 480х854. The screen is covered with a glass plate and can be operated with fingers only. You cannot use a stylus here. The screen offers true quality – brightness, contrast, good reproduction of images and texts impress a lot. It loses out to SuperAMOLED, which is not surprising in a mid market screen. It boasts multitouch support and the screen rotates automatically without any hitches.
The screen fits up to 18 text lines and several service lines. These figures can move either way depending on an application.
In the sun the picture stays readable.
The model has a 1540 mAh Li-Ion battery, which according to the manufacturer can provide up to 6.8 hours of talktime and 238 hours on standby. In a standard mode it was enough for one day or a bit more. This parameter is affected by a large screen and the fact that users are likely to download much data from network accounts and other apps. I expected shorter operation time and was pleasantly surprised. Full charging takes 3 hours.
If you disable data transfer and limit yourself to voice calls then operation time will go up to 2-2.5 days.
USB. Data transfer speed reaches 5 Mbps. When you connect a USB cable it starts charging. You can select different operation modes (memory card, modem, synchronization in a browser window, etc). It is convenient that you can run a wizard to show all options when you connect to a PC.
Bluetooth. Bluetooth 2.1 supports EDR.
WiFi. The handset offers WiFi (IEEE 802.11 b/g/n) with all safety standards (WEP, WPA, WPA2). The settings are maximum.
The model has 512 MB of RAM and 2 GB of inbuilt memory. microSD cards of up to 32 GB are under the battery.
The phone uses TI OMAP 3630 chipset and ARM Cortex A8 processor of 800 MHz. It offers impressive speed (2.1 version is planned to be upgraded to 2.3).
Here we have a standard 5 MP camera with autofocus and flash. The quality of photos is OK. On the downside we have to mention it takes several seconds to focus and after you push the shutter or click the screen it needs one more second to complete a shot. The camera is not well equipped to capture moving objects. In other circumstances it works fine. Video recording has a maximum resolution of 720х480. The camera interface was thoroughly changed. I may tell you a secret that Motorola is planning a photo solution and a similar interface will be used elsewhere.
Samples of photos:
Motorola abandoned the idea to use a separate software suite for PC synchronization. Android has well developed capabilities of network services synchronization, so in future additional batches will not be required or they will copy the features of inbuilt applications. Subsequently, Motorola moved all apps to the web, which is nontraditional.
The phone has a special icon, which once clicked tells you the address to follow in your PC browser. In terms of safety there are no compromises here and if another person doesn't have your phone or computer he or she will not get to this page.
You can work with messages and contacts (the latter can be stored on a PC as an archive or imported from MS Outlook 2003). The work with photos is quite easy and you can understand everything from the first attempt. You don't need any installation and the phone handles these operations everywhere.
Many companies offer their own shells for a standard Android, so Motorola develops MOTOBLUR, which was initially oriented at social networks. In version 1.5 many changes affected the interface as well and it is an advantage as we have small apps and utilities to differentiate these models from the rest of the pack and make their use more convenient. I will not describe standard features of Android 2.1, which you can learn about from an appropriate article. My task is to highlight the difference present in MOTOBLUR and typical of Motorola alone.
You can access 7 desktops for widgets or icons. They can be browsed traditionally and I liked the indication of every desktop in a status bar. Icons show the desktop number and the direction you have to follow. It is logical and understandable.
Widgets from Motorola are not numerous. Around ten of them can be customized in terms of size, which is nice. Choose a widget and then drag its corner until you get the right size. As always widgets can be moved around the screen.
In the US firmware DEFY has a Family Room widget. Watch a video to see how it works. It is not available in Europe though.
On standby you can assign any app to a double click on Home. By default it starts a browser.
Text input via the inbuilt keypad is easy. Т9 and words prompts are supported. The keypad is quite pleasant to deal with.
Voice control and text input are offered by Nuance Communication. I am not sure if it is superior to an original Android solution, but as it is an additional feature I may only welcome it.
In Contacts everything seems to be pretty standard. Remember that an icon on the left shows that you can browse the list leftwards. You immediately get to calls and messages history. By navigating the overall list you see general history. Select a contact to see an individual list. Looks convenient.
In Alarms you see a clock wallpaper from MOTOAURA, but it was redesigned for this model.
In Accounts you can create your accounts for e-mail and social networks (a separate section in MOTOBLUR).
Calculator supports trigonometry. This additional panel is a bit inconvenient.
DLNA is uPNP and through WiFi you can transfer files to and from PC. A computer must have appropriate software preinstalled. I have no complaints here.
A standard mail client works well. QuickOffice functions both as a file manager and MS Office files reader.
Media Share is a wizard to transfer media files to other devices. It offers step by step directions, which are easy to follow.
In Messages you see icons for all services and mail accounts. Interestingly we have a unified mailbox for all possible messages.
Phone Portal is responsible for PC connection and file transfer.
In Settings one can find Data Manager. This application tracks the amount of traffic (EDGE/3G) and allows the use of WiFi only for apps updates when this type of connection is available.
Battery Manager is another proprietary utility from Motorola. It displays not only the use of power by various processes and applications (a fairly standard Android application), but helps to manage profiles of power consumption, which can be automatically activated, for example, in the evening. It is worth trying this utility.
During the call tap twice on the screen to interrupt it. If you turn around the phone during the call it will move into a vibro mode.
Gallery with photos was completely redesigned. We have tags and data filtering. Place the handset horizontally to view pictures in one row with nice animation. The slide show is also impressive.
When you select a picture it can be edited. Moreover you can use Kodak Perfect Touch, which was earlier available only in MOTOZINE ZN5 (a photo solution). This feature automatically recognizes picture parameters and makes it more appealing to the eye. Works fine. If you want to change the settings you can access different effects (seen straightaway on the screen), add text and images together with several other options. This editor is quite impressive.
Connected Music Player. It is one of the most prominent differences of DEFY from other Android models. I like this application immensely. I will enumerate its capabilities from the end. For example, SoundHound recognizes currently played tunes (radio or microphone). It is similar to Shazam for all Android phones.
Music library uses the following filters: performers, albums and tracks, together with playlists (automatic ones – frequently played, recently added). During the playback you can see an album's cover together with the lyrics, if this information is available.
Rewinding inside tracks is pretty straightforward – drag a slider and you are done. During the playback you can share tracks you like. Activate Send Blip in settings and the phone will send the song title with your comments (Twitter, SMS or e-mail). It is quite pleasant and works well. You can indicate both your preferences and dislikes.
I also liked the map of the world where you can see what others listen to. It is interesting to see which tracks are popular in this or that country. The number of users displayed on the map is not huge, so you can ask this question without the risks of being attacked by too much information.
FM allows selecting your region (frequency band). There is no playback in the hands free mode, but RDS is supported and you can save up to 10 radio stations. Radio works in a very simple, but effective way.
SHOUTcast Radio displays the list of online stations. You can listen to them via WiFi.
The last, but not the least feature is Community. You can find here tracks and charts for music videos or audio tracks. These are hit lists.
Ringtones are loud and the vibro is equally hard to miss. As to the communication quality the model is rather interesting. Overall I don't have any complaints here. Everything is excellent.
In European samples of DEFY we have defects in the speaker. It is a manufacturing defect, which probably affects almost all handsets. Under warranty you can replace the speaker, which has to be done independently if you live in countries without authorized Motorola service centers. I will not dwell for too long on this issue as it has been covered well in Spillikins, so feel free to read it again.
It is unpleasant to buy DEFY with defects, but it is the only disadvantage of the phone, which is attractive in all other respects. It will surely affect the sales, but the model offers unrivalled value for money anyway. It is the first Android smartphone with IP67 protection. Secondly, you get a MOTOBLUR shell to complement a standard Android interface with success (gallery, music player, widgets with customizable size, etc). Music fans should remember the absence of equalizers is a definite minus. The sound quality is decent nonetheless.
The phone has its character and is pleasant to use. We get enough differences in comparison with traditional Android to enjoy the handset. As a user of HTC Desire I can confirm that DEFY was quite convenient in work with.
I clearly like the phone. It is compact and relatively inexpensive. You can buy it officially only in the USA, UK and Germany. It costs around £235 in London, while in Germany it is a bit cheaper.
In its price segment the smartphone definitely impresses. This good Android solution has many strong points. Add protection and we have a phone without competitors. I wouldn't recommend ordering any other model from abroad, but in this case the risk is justifiable as Motorola DEFY is too good to miss. There will be no official sales in Russia, because Motorola has left this market.
As a bonus for those who impatiently waited for this review I can say that Motorola is planning to launch two similar models in the summer of 2011, but they will be almost twice cheaper and will not work in water (IP54 standard will be used instead of IP67 there). These touch screen candybars will look attractive on the outside too.
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Published 19 December 2010
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