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Motorola Defy (2021) review: no case required
Motorola released the second edition of their Defy mobile phone this year — the Motorola Defy (2021). Just as its ten-year old predecessor, the new Defy is constructed with a rugged design and aimed at a specific type of user— one who’s regularly in hazardous environments that require carrying a mobile device.

The Defy’s strong suits are the durability qualities of the hardware and its amazing battery life. Software-wise it’s a pleasant experience thanks to the uncluttered Motorola skin on top of Android. It’s hard to give similar praise to the camera system though since the delivery there can be best summarised as sub-par to somewhat satisfactory.

One of the more obvious competitors would be products from the construction company Cat. The closest comparison in terms of price would be the Cat S42 which goes for $228. At $320, the Motorola Defy is quite a bit more expensive, but then again, it offers much more.

The Defy is somewhat in its own category. It combines a good user experience with the durability of rugged phones for a price that might sound too much at first glance but is a bang for your buck if you’re on the lookout for such a device.

Motorola Defy (2021)
7.5

Motorola Defy (2021)


The Good

  • Grade A battery life
  • Durability and build quality
  • Mostly smooth software experience
  • Sufficiently powerful chipset

The Bad

  • Unsatisfactory screen: poor color accuracy and maximum brightness
  • Video and sound recording quality are very poor
  • Bad haptics and sluggish typing experience
  • Photos do the job, but are still below average

Motorola Defy design and display


Just like its 2010 predecessor, rugged is the name of the game with the Motorola Defy 2021 edition. It’s almost fully wrapped up in a durable package of plastic that has a rubbery feel to it and is covered with a 3D texture. That texture provides a better grip to prevent it from slipping away from your hands or any other surface for that matter.

Together, the back and frame of the phone feel like a whole case has been integrated. Besides its durable structure, the casing also protrudes a bit around the camera module as well as the screen. This brings even more peace of mind in case of any drop scenarios.

Adding further to the durability resume of the Defy is an IP68 water and dust resistance rating. Supposedly, the device is also MIL-SPEC 810H compliant (which is a military-grade standard) and can withstand a drop to concrete from up to 1.8 m. There’s also another safety measure in the form of a special lanyard hole on the bottom right corner of the phone’s frame.

When it comes to looks, the Motorola Defy is not the prettiest mobile device out there. The screen is surrounded by bezels for days, especially that Thanos-size chin at the bottom. Thankfully, the notch has a teardrop design which is one of the more elegant solutions out there. Despite its somewhat rough appearance, however, my humble opinion is that the new Defy is one of the better-looking rugged phones out there.


All of the buttons are positioned on the right side. There are three of them - power, volume, and a programmable one. The power button is covered in the same grip texture as the rest of the phone, while the other two are painted in silver. All three have a satisfying click and are easily distinguishable from each other just by touch, which could help if you wear work gloves.

Port-wise, there is a 3.5mm audio jack at the top and a USB-C port at the bottom.

Screen


Well, here we go… This is probably one of the weakest aspects of the Motorola Defy but let me start with the pros. There is a decently sized 6.5-inch display made with Corning Gorilla Glass Victus — one of the most durable glass displays on the market.

The panel is a 720p LCD which unsurprisingly has quite bad viewing angles and dims when looked at from a side. The Defy’s peak brightness does nothing to help with that issue either — we managed to get a maximum of 354 nits. Keep that in mind if you are planning on using the phone a lot in harsh sunlight.

Color accuracy is as mediocre as it can get with an average delta E of 4.1.

Motorola Defy camera


The camera setup here seems like it could be the same as on the Moto G50 with a 48MP main, a macro, and a depth sensor, while the selfie snapper on the front has 8MP.


The main camera takes decent-looking shots with a good amount of sharpness, provided that there’s enough light. HDR also seems to be doing an okay job at balancing shadows and highlights even in some more challenging situations.


There is a portrait mode available, but I wouldn’t really touch it. The results are rather bad with an incorrectly outlined subject and a very fake-looking blur in the background. Things get even worse if you try using the mode with the front-facing camera, where it seems HDR doesn’t work well or at all. Otherwise, the front snapper takes nice selfies with surprisingly good skin tones.


There’s also a macro mode that delivers some good results if you have a ton of light and a steady hand. When it comes to macro video, however, that’s not the case. The focus continuously shifts and the resolution is disappointing, to say the least.


Speaking of video, both the rear main camera and the selfie one can shoot in 1080p 30fps. The quality as a whole is sub-par — the image has washed-out colors, and distant objects are barely distinguishable. Stabilization, for that matter, is acceptable minus the good ol' jaggy corrections every now and then.


There is also a slow-motion mode, but you might as well forget about it. Even with an abundance of light, the quality is an eyesore to look at.


All in all, the camera system is a fitting one for this type of device. It’s good enough for some quick practical snapshots and will seldom leave you disappointed if you give it enough light to work with. Video is not the strong suit here, but it could serve some basic purposes as well.

Motorola Defy specs, software, and performance


The Motorola Defy is equipped with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 662 — the same octa-core, 2 GHz processor in the Moto G30. In terms of memory, the device has 4GB of RAM with 64GB of storage and the option for expansion through a microSD shared SIM slot.

The chipset delivers enough power for the small 720p 60Hz display to handle light to medium gaming. Daily tasks are no problem for the Defy either, with little to no stutters in everyday use.

The near vanilla skin of Android 10 that Motorola has used is probably one of the main reasons for a smooth OS experience. There are just some small quality of life features like Peek Display, Moto gestures, and Attentive display, all of which are welcome additions that give the Motorola phones a bit of personality.

It’s worth mentioning ,though, that just like with the Moto G30, some lag is present when typing. To add to this issue, the haptic motor feels cheap, and vibrations are sluggish.

Motorola Defy battery life


Apart from its ruggedness, the Motorola Defy 2021 has another powerful aspect — its battery performance. Yes, it is undoubtedly slow to charge up to 100%, as you would expect with just a 20W fast charging and a chonky 5000mAh to fill up.

Nevertheless, as slow as it is to juice up, the battery is exponentially slower to kill. The 720p display resolution and the power-efficient chipset, coupled with the massive amount of stored charge, deliver from two to three days of power depending on the usage.

The device is clearly not intended for power users though, so most buyers will probably have one heavyweight of a champion when it comes to battery life.

Pros

  • Grade A battery life
  • Durability and build quality
  • Mostly smooth software experience
  • Sufficiently powerful chipset

Cons

  • Unsatisfactory screen: poor color accuracy and maximum brightness
  • Video and sound recording quality are very poor
  • Bad haptics and sluggish typing experience
  • Photos do the job, but are still below average

PhoneArena Rating:

7.5

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