Motorola DEFY MINI Review

Introduction and Design
UPDATE: The rating of the Motorola DEFY MINI has been updated on May 21, 2012.


So, let's say that you want to get an Android smartphone, but $250 is all you have to spend. One of the options that fit into this category is the rugged Motorola DEFY MINI, which is resistant to dust and water damage. Additionally, its display is protected by the pretty tough Gorilla Glass, so it should be able to withstand every day wear and tear. But other than that, there isn't much that the smartphone can brag with. There is a humble 600MHz processor ticking inside, its screen measures the rather average 3.2 inches in diagonal, and the camera on its back is pretty basic. Nevertheless, we will give the DEFY MINI a chance to make a name for itself by putting it through its paces.
UPDATE: The rating of the Motorola DEFY MINI has been updated.
Package contents:

Wall charger
microUSB cable
User guide
2GB microSD card


Think of the Motorola DEFY MINI as an ugly duckling. Yeah, its looks are pretty uninspiring and the abundance of plasticky elements does not make matters any better. However, don't forget that this device is primarily meant to resist the elements, not to win any beauty contests. That said, we gladly accept it for the slab of plastic that it is.

We are happy to say that the smartphone feels well built. Taking its back cover requires a tremendous amount of effort as it is attached quite tightly, but that is actually a good thing given that such a tight fit will provide better protection against water and dust damage. 

The Motorola DEFY MINI weighs 107 grams, which is nothing out of the ordinary for its size. With a waistline of 12.5 millimeters, the smartphone is a bit on the thick side, so don't think that you won't be feeling it inside your pocket. Nevertheless, we are pretty content with the way the device fits in the hand, and its petite dimensions allow for it to be used with a single hand without any difficulties whatsoever. Bonus points are awarded for the discrete notification light, located at the upper right-hand side of the handset.

You can compare the Motorola DEFY MINI with many other phones using our Size Visualization Tool.

There are several things about the smartphone's design that we are not too happy with, however. First of all, the microUSB port is protected by a cover that is really tricky to take off, and then putting it back on tightly is much more difficult than it should be. Also, the cover protecting the 3.5-millimeter jack feels quite flimsy. Last but not least, the lock key, camera shutter, and volume rocker provide far less tactile feedback than a physical button on a smartphone should.


One thing that we have to admit about the 3.2-inch display on the Motorola DEFY MINI is that it has pretty good color reproduction and viewing angles. Pretty good for an ordinary TFT LCD panel, that is. Other than that, the screen is nothing special, but it gets the job done so we cannot complain. Its resolution is 320 by 480 pixels (180 ppi), which is acceptable for such an affordable device. Keep in mind, however, that small text is pretty much impossible to read, so you will be doing quite a lot of zooming while surfing the web. Also, using it outdoors is extremely difficult due to all the light that gets reflected off its surface.

Interface and functionality:

What we have running on the Motorola DEFY MINI is Android 2.3.6 Gingerbread with the MotoSwitch UI installed on top. There is nothing fancy about interface itself and eye-candy has been reduced to a minimum, but we are happy to see that a few handy features have been thrown in. For example, you can launch the smartphone's camera or toggle its vibration on or off straight from the lock screen. Also, a couple of very useful widgets have been included: one of them automatically aggregates shortcuts to your most frequently used applications, while the other does the exact same thing with your contacts.

The on-screen keyboard is frustratingly difficult to use in portrait mode, so you better get used to tilting the device sideways when typing those text messages. Swype comes pre-installed, which helps to some extent, but still, typing requires more patience that we are used to putting in simple things like texting.

There is an application called Dashboard that comes pre-loaded on the Motorola DEFY MINI. Think of it as a tool for the sporty smartphone user: it features a chronometer, pedometer, and a counter that tells you how many calories you have burned during your exercise. Also, with a little help from the handset's GPS radio, the app tells you how many kilometers you have traveled while hiking or jogging. Sadly, the pedometer was pretty inaccurate during our testing, so we don't advise you to trust it.

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Processor and memory:

It is really underwhelming to see that the smartphone has been equipped with a miserable 600MHz single-core processor, but at least the 512 megabytes of RAM should prove sufficient. Thankfully, that hardware combination is just good enough to get the job done, so basic applications work well and navigating through the interface is responsive enough, as long as you don't use a live wallpaper and keep the amount of on-screen widgets to a minimum. However, the lack of processing power becomes evident when using heavier applications. For example, browsing through the Google Play store is sometimes laggy while games such as Angry Birds Space and Temple Run get choppy at times. More sophisticated titles refuse to be installed.

There are 512 megabytes of on-board storage, but only 165 of them are user available. Before you know it, the smartphone's storage capacity depletes so transferring apps to the microSD card becomes mandatory. Included in the set is a 2GB microSD card, which will get full pretty quickly. That said, buying a microSD card with more capacity is strongly recommended.

Internet browser and connectivity:

The stock internet browser on the Motorola DEFY MINI is pretty usable considering the phone's low-end hardware. Pages load fast enough and scrolling is sufficiently smooth, as long as you let heavier web pages to load completely. It even supports Adobe Flash, which you can download manually from the Google Play store, but we don't recommend getting it as it significantly degrades the browser's performance. Embedded videos automatically go fullscreen once you tap them, which is a nice feature to have as it puts a lighter load on the handset's processor. As we mentioned before, you will be zooming quite a lot in order to view pages in detail, but thankfully, pinch to zoom works just fine. The on-screen zoom buttons are quite annoying, however, and we really wish they had skipped them.

Any connectivity feature that should be on a smartphone is present on the Motorola DEFY MINI. You get a 3G radio, Wi-Fi b/g/n with support for DLNA, Bluetooth 2.1, FM radio with RDS, and USB mass storage for quick and easy file transfers between the handset and a computer. The GPS radio was kind of slow at locating us from a cold start – a process that took it over 2 minutes, but after that, it could determine our location within a couple of seconds.


We were expecting for photos taken with the smartphone's 3.2-megapixel fixed-focus camera to be horrifying, but it turns out that they are worthy of being called mediocre. Our outdoor shots look properly exposed and the color balance is quite accurate. Still, fine details are practically nonexistent, and the shutter lag of about a second is a bit annoying. Indoor photos, however, look terrible. The smartphone can shoot VGA video as well, but its quality is way below average. 


We were very content with the Music+ audio player that comes pre-installed on the Motorola DEFY MINI. It has a whole bunch of neat features such as SoundHound integration and pre-loaded ShoutCast on-line radios. Also, it automatically downloads the album art and lyrics of the song that is currently playing, which we think is pretty neat.

With the exception of DivX video files, the default video player could run any video format that we threw at it, such as MPEG4, Quicktime, and XviD, and that is pretty good for out-of-the-box software. The maximum resolution, at which videos would run, is 640 by 480, but with a display of such small size and resolution, 720p video playback is unnecessary.


We are genuinely pleased with the nice-sounding earpiece on Motorola DEFY MINI. The voice tones that it reproduces are loud and clear, without any hints of digitizing, so we can easily hear what the other party is saying. On the other side of the line, however, we noticed a weird volume fluctuation on several occasions, which, needless to say, is something unacceptable to have on a phone. 

The smartphone's 1,650mAh battery is rated for 10 hours of talk time, which is a really good figure by today's standards. The 3 weeks of stand-by time that can be expected are also commendable.


Even though it is an okay entry-level Android smartphone, we think you should stay away from the Motorola DEFY MINI, at least for now. It is currently priced at about $250 off contract, which we find totally unjustified considering what you get in exchange. For that amount of cash it would be wiser to pick up the Sony Ericsson Xperia Active or Samsung Galaxy Xcover since both of them are resistant to water and dust, but come with better hardware specs.

Alternatively, if you don't necessarily need a water resistant smartphone, the Sony Ericsson Xperia mini is also worth checking out as it costs about the same as the DEFY MINI while still packing better hardware.

Software version of the reviewed unit:

Kernel version:
Build number: 0A.21.0C
Baseband version: 76XXU-USMEKOLYM-109806-6604
Software version: TNBST_4_0A.21.0CRPS

Motorola DEFY MINI Video Review:


  • Resistant to dust and water damage
  • Solid build quality
  • Small and compact


  • Too little storage space
  • Slow processor
  • Too expensive
  • Flimsy plastic covers

PhoneArena Rating:


User Rating:

4 Reviews

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