Motorola DEFY Review

Introduction and Design

Motorola's Android beginning on T-Mobile goes way back to the CLIQ which was launched well over a year ago and was consequently followed with the CLIQ XT last spring – with the CHARM being the most recent addition. In all honesty, those devices lacked the charisma and appeal characteristic to Verizon's line of DROID models. Now that we're heading into the busy fall season, Motorola is looking to grace T-Mobile's lineup with a handset that will encompass a special niche market to strikingly separate it from anything else previously seen. Even though it might pack some features that might appear as novel to some people, the Motorola DEFY MB525 has some interesting items hidden in tow that just might enable it to defy the odds.

The package contains:

  • Motorola DEFY
  • microUSB cable
  • Wall Charger
  • 3.5mm Stereo Headset
  • Start Guide
  • Terms & Conditions
  • 2GB microSD card


Positioned to be a rugged type of handset, it's actually the second Android to follow after the Motorola i1 for Sprint and Boost Mobile. However, it decides to follow a completely alternate path for its construction, as its exterior is mostly defined to resist water as opposed to drops. The two-tone hard plastic shell feels durable enough, but we'd suspect that it would still blemish under the most extreme conditions if it were dropped onto the hard pavement. Instead, it seems more capable of tackling water head on since the soft touch feel gives way to the illusion of it donning some kind of neoprene suit. In fact, it aids it in repelling dirt and smudges which ultimately keeps it looking clean all the time. The minimalistic design might make it seem quaint at first, but the screws outlining the sides of the handset will make you think otherwise. Additionally, it feels rather normal sized (0.53” thick) and in weight (4.16 oz) to make it feel well constructed all around. It sure ain't all that pretty, but when you're trying to beat the elements, it's more than justifiable.

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

Easily one of the most surprising things to find on this rugged device is an equipped and detailed 3.7” TFT display which packs a resolution of 480 x 854 pixels – just like what we see on the DROID and DROID 2. It has a high enough pixel density to enable even the smallest of text to look sharp while also producing some lush and deep looking colors to make your eyes melt. Furthermore, it offers some great viewing angles to make it even radiate so magnificently even under the direct line of the sun. As for responsiveness, it manages to register all of our presses and swipes to the teeth without much fault. In keeping it safe from the external forces, it employs a gorilla glass display to combat against any baddies that might want to taint its luster.

Fittingly, we find the usual set of capacitive buttons directly below the display – these include the menu, home, back, and search keys. Although they're responsive to the touch, we still had a habit of accidentally pressing them since they're placed very close to the edge of the phone.

Since it's so careful about keeping water from entering its innards, the microUSB port is safely hidden away under a flap that makes sure there is an air tight feel. The same can be said about the 3.5mm headset jack on the top side which is plugged by a plastic cover. As for the volume rocker and dedicated power button, they're slightly raised to allow our fingers to distinctly feel them out while offering some solid feedback when pressed.

In the rear, we find a 5-megapixel auto-focus camera with LED flash positioned in their usual spot as it also appears to be well protected. Towards the bottom edge of the rear panel, there is a small opening to reveal the area for the speakerphone. Finally, there is a latch which keeps the rear cover placed tightly onto the handset to keep out any debris or water from getting to the inside. Once it's removed, you'll have access to the SIM card slot, battery, and microSD card slot – the latter of which is hidden beneath the battery.

Anticipation began to cloud our minds as we thought about the affects of the handset coming into contact with water – even more if it were completely submerged. Surprisingly, water seemingly bounces off the handset and didn't necessarily stick as we poured some on it. While playing a song, we did notice that the audio is reduced in volume as soon as water came into contact with the earpiece. However, we were thoroughly impressed at how it handles in being completely submerged. Continuing to play a song, we dunked the handset completely under 2 inches of water. To our amazement, you can still faintly hear it dishing out tunes as it laid flat at the bottom – and we left it there for a good minute. Impressively, water dripped away so quickly that it made the handset look as if it were never dipped at all.

Motorola DEFY 360-degree View:


Under its tough exterior is an 800MHz TI OMAP 3610 processor with 512MB of RAM which manages to provide an appropriate level of performance – even though it might not look as fast or responsive as the processors powering the DROID X. Regardless of that, moving about the 7 homescreen panels is pretty good without much pause. However, we're a bit saddened to find it running Android 2.1 when so many devices are coming to market with Android 2.2 Froyo. Honestly, it's seriously the only tainted thing to its otherwise resilient persona. But once you manage to look past that, you'll find it to be running Motorola's customized experience in what's commonly being referred to as advanced MOTOBLUR.

Much like what we've already seen with the Motorola CHARM and FLIPOUT, this newer version of MOTOBLUR takes some elements that we first saw running with the DROID X. There are a total of 7 homesceeens for you to personalize with various folders, shortcuts, wallpapers, and widgets – the latter of which offer specific ones from Motorola on top of the usual Android ones. Now what makes the Motorola widgets different from others is the fact that they adapt when you modify their size. So if you happen to make it look more rectangular as opposed to square, it'll quickly rearrange itself to provide the most optimal look – in fact, it works pretty well with things like the Happenings widget. Depending on your taste, it can be seen as a convenient solution seeing that it's able to display some relevant content directly on the homescreen rather than running dedicated apps.

One of the newer things we find with the Motorola DEFY is the Family Room Panel which is pre-configured out of the box. As it's name implies, it allows you to setup the phone to specify the relatives in your address book. Once you've taken care of that, it'll display the appropriate information, such as Facebook status updates and contacts shortcuts, directly into their respective areas in the specific homescreen panel. There are also the “Blast” and “eBlast” shortcuts in the panel to enable you to send a text message or email directly to family members – all without having to experience the monotonous process of listing them all down one by one. Some will find it useful, but we would've rather have it focus more on your favorite contacts as opposed to family members.

Organizer and Messaging:

Following in tradition, the address book with the Motorola DEFY heavily integrates social networking into the mix which will enable you to view some quick tidbits on certain contacts. When you launch the Contacts app, it's broken down to three panels which you can swipe through – History, Contacts and Status. When you look at the Status panel, it'll display all of their status messages on their respective social networking accounts. Aside from that, it's your basic tried and true organization which allows you to add a multitude of information for each person in your address book.

Naturally, you'll be able to set an alarm or timer via the Alarm & Timer app, but unfortunately it doesn't come with the Clock app we see on other phones that essentially converts it to a bedside alarm clock. However, the calendar is no different from previous Android smartphones seeing you have the option of seeing it in a month, week, day, or agenda view. When you create a new event, it'll automatically sync with your Google calendar so you can even check it out online. Not only that, but you'll even have various details you can set for the specific event – like reminders, exact times, location, and descriptions.

Having a healthy sized display makes typing away messages relatively easy, but if you happen to master the art of the Swype keyboard, it'll make it feel more effortlessly. When using it, the portrait options basically enables for a one handed operation – which surprisingly can rival those who prefer the traditional method. Of course, you'll also have the option of using the Multi-touch keyboard for those who prefer the usual process of inputting text. Although it's pretty responsive and can keep up with the most rigorous of movements, the landscape option is by far the most optimal setting since it's roomy and spacious enough for fingers.

If Gmail is your kind of thing, then you've come to the right place as the dedicated Gmail app plays to the strength of what you experience on the desktop. Keeping track of back and forth emails is a thing of the past seeing that it compiles all of your emails in threaded view – meaning that you'll always be organized. Aside from that, the experience is fairly solid as you won't find the experience any better on other platforms. Moreover, the email app will allow you to set up other accounts by simply providing your email address and password. In the event that it's not one of the generic clients out there, you'll need to provide additional piece of information, like server addresses, in order for it to complete.

Google Talk might be the preferred method of instant messaging, especially when it tightly integrates with some other native apps, but the handset includes an IM app that has connections for AIM, MySpaceIM, Windows Live Messenger, and Yahoo Messenger.

Aside from the usual medley of core Android apps on the DEFY, you'll also find some preloaded third party ones like Amazon MP3, Blockbuster, Kindle, Quickoffice, and Telenav GPS Navigation.


Employing the same exact camera interface seen on other recent devices like the CHARM and FLIPOUT, we're happy to say that the DEFY far exceeds those other devices in terms of performance. However, there is one noticeable aspect that somewhat hinders taking a shot instantly – and that's the approximate 3 seconds it needs to take the shot completely after pressing the on-screen shutter key. Obviously, it requires the time to focus correctly and take the shot, but it would've been nice to see it auto-focus beforehand.

Nevertheless, we're happy with the sharp looking images it's able to take as they are filled with plenty of fine detail and rich looking colors. Outdoor shots in sunny conditions provide for the best looking images, but the quality in low lit indoor environments diminishes a little with softer visuals and colors. However, the LED flash does a good job in illuminating things in close proximity, but quickly loses its power with objects that are further than 5 feet away. In the end, photo lovers will enjoy the quality shots it's able to muster with its camera.

As much as we would've liked to see Android 2.2 grace the handset, we equally have the same feeling of finding a maximum video capture resolution of 640 x 480. Without question, it would've been extremely wonderful to see a handset like this to sport 720p video recording, but you'll have to settle with what's on board. Even though videos manage to chug along at a fluid motion, it's partly due to its fast capture rate of 29 frames per second. Though, it doesn't have the ability to auto-focus during a recording – which can some times make it look out of focus when objects get closer to the camera. Granted it might not have exquisite details, it'll suffice the expectations of most people – but it still would've been nice to see 720p video recording on board; especially nowadays.

Motorola DEFY Sample Video:


The Gallery app displays content in a grid-like view in portrait mode, but switching to landscape will present you a 3D like interface as you're scrolling. And if you happen to look at a photo, you'll have the option of sharing and editing them.

Despite having a traditional presentation approach to its music player, it's nice to see it offer the novel feature of displaying lyrics as a song is being played – which is powered by tunewiki. Turning our attention to its speaker, we're fairly satisfied with its performance as it exhibits some strong and deep tones that doesn't strain. Additionally, you can get a sense of how strong it is as you can literally feel the vibrations coming off from the back of the phone.

Playing videos proved to be no problem for the Motorola DEFY as it manages to play a high definition movie trailer with no apparent hiccups in its entirety. Encoded in MPEG-4 1280 x 720 resolution, the video moves along at a steady pace with no evidence of any pause or slowdown. Combine its fluid looks, high-res display, and stunning looking color reproduction, watching videos on the handset is needless to say such a pleasure.

In addition to the 2GB of internal storage it already packs, the handsets also comes preloaded with a 2GB microSD card which should be more than ample for most people. But if that still doesn't appease you, it can accept cards up to 32GB in magnitude.

Connectivity and Internet:

The Motorola DEFY is a quad-band GSM (850/900/1800/1900 MHz) and tri-band UMTS (900/1700/2100 MHz) handset which makes it an ideal solution for the global trotter. Although it'd be very difficult to find locations around the world where you can't make phone calls, it even comes with an app for Wi-Fi calling. Once you connect to a hot-spot you can place and receive calls normally, but unfortunately, it doesn't regulate any hand-off connections – meaning, it'll disconnect your call if you move out of Wi-Fi and into cellular. Finally, it packs Bluetooth 2.1 to pair up with various devices for wireless transfers, and aGPS for all your location needs.

Seeing that it missed hitting the Android 2.2 mark, the web browser manages to hit all the marks except for support for Flash 10.1. However, it is worth noting that it does have support for Flash Lite to enable some elements to load up within the browser. Besides that, everything is pretty much what you'd expect as it offers quick load times, multi-touch gestures, and an optimized view for reading text. Meanwhile, scrolling isn't as responsive as we'd like, but it isn't to the point downright unusable. All in all, the Motorola DEFY is able to provide a satisfactory web browsing experience.


Producing some extremely weak tones through its earpiece, it makes hearing voices very difficult to do without squishing it close to your ear and covering the other. And to make matters worse, voices on our end did sound distorted and crackly, which doesn't make it any better to comprehend words. As for the person on the other end of the line, they said that our voices did sound clear and natural – so making things out wasn't a problem. Luckily, the speakerphone manages to produce some deep and audible voices which makes it especially easy for us to make out words.

Signal strength remained consistent in the same place as we recorded an average of -73 dBm on the DEFY. For the real world performance, we didn't experience any dropped calls or rapid changes in bars during our testing in the greater Philadelphia area.

There's nothing much to say with battery life of the handset seeing that it's average in performance. Specifically, we managed to get through a solid 8 hour work shift with no problems on normal usage, but it easily requires a recharge by the end of the night. Heavy users will definitely want to keep a charger on hand while light users can probably get a solid a day's usage out of it. The manufacturer has it rated for 6.67 hours of talk and 400 hours of standby time.


After having a decent amount of time with the Motorola DEFY, it's quite apparent that it almost afflicted with some kind of personality disorder. On one hand it seems to want to be regarded as a high-end model with its detailed display, but then at another, it wants to be known more for its ruggedness. It just doesn't quite find itself in one specific category as it attempts to encompass all of them – while not fully focusing on one aspect. Granted, it might be nice to see it still withstanding under 3 feet (1 meter) of water, but it lacks push-to-talk to make it a striking option for those looking for a rugged phone. However, when you combine its $100 on-contract price and the above average performance it's able to obtain, you can't go wrong with the Motorola DEFY. And when you look at the competition, there really isn't any other Android phone out there than can live to tell the tale after being exposed and drenched in water. Indeed, it's able to defy the odds!

Software version of the reviewed unit: Android 2.1; Build JORDN_U3_6.19.0; System version: Blur_Version.3.6.190.MB525.T-Mobile.en.US

Motorola DEFY Video Review:


  • Water resistant
  • High-resolution display
  • Good looking photos
  • Well rounded features


  • Android 2.1 as opposed to Android 2.2
  • Weak earpiece

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