The Motorola Defy is a very sturdy smartphone that can take a few knocks. But is it also a nice device to use? In this Motorola Defy review we put the rugged phone to the test.
Motorola Defy review: getting started with the rugged phones
Rugged smartphones, or extra sturdy Android devices, only appear a few times a year and that’s why we don’t discuss them often on Android Planet. That will change with the Motorola Defy, which will soon be for sale in the Netherlands and we have tested it extensively. The device was made in collaboration with Bullitt, a company that specializes in rugged phones for construction, for example.
The Motorola Defy is a sturdy phone that can withstand knocks, but also survives heavy falls and a dive into the water. Because it is a different device than normal, we also approach it slightly differently in this review. We first discuss the sturdiness of the Defy and then go into the internal hardware, software and the general user experience. Are you reading along?
That’s how sturdy the Motorola Defy is
When you see and hold the Motorola Defy for the first time, you immediately notice that it is not a ‘normal’ Android smartphone. The device is large, a bit bulky and relatively heavy (232 grams). It is nice that the back and side offer more grip due to the special finish, so that you do not drop the device quickly.
Moreover, we find the phone quite sleek and certainly not ugly. This is different with many rugged smartphones. Due to the thick edges around the screen, the Defy looks a bit old-fashioned and you can attach the supplied wrist strap to the bottom left corner. This further reduces the chance that the Motorola phone will slip out of your hands.
If you do drop the Motorola Defy, then you don’t have to worry so much. The rugged device survives falls up to 1.8 meters and has a layer of Gorilla Glass Victus to protect the display. During our test period, the Defy held up well: despite a number of significant falls, the smartphone still works excellently.
The housing has suffered a few scratches and the screen has two small scratches, but with a ‘normal’ Android smartphone the damage would have been much, much greater. The Motorola Defy is also dust, sand and waterproof thanks to its IP68 certification. The phone will continue to work well as long as you do not leave it submerged at a depth of more than 1.5 meters for more than 35 minutes.
Waterproof, but screen is too dark
During our review period, we used the phone in pouring rain and ‘accidentally’ dropped it in a bowl of water. In both cases, the Defy didn’t make a sound. Also nice: you can clean the Motorola Defy with water and soap and disinfection gel, which is extra handy in corona time. Furthermore, you can still reasonably operate the screen when it is wet.
The screen of the Motorola Defy is 6.5 inches and has an HD resolution of 1600 by 720 pixels. That is not sharp, but it is sufficient. The display looks nice, but strangely enough it can’t be very bright. This makes the phone difficult to read in a lot of sunlight, which is very disappointing – especially with a phone that is intended for active and outdoor use.
There is also a programmable key on the side of the housing. It is there for the so-called Push-to-talk mode, so that you can use the Motorola Defy as a kind of walkie-talkie. It is also possible to link certain functions or apps to the button. For example, you can open Gmail with a double click, or start WhatsApp if you hold down the button for a while.
Specifications are quite disappointing
However, the Motorola Defy is more than just a sturdy and waterproof smartphone, and must of course also be pleasant to use. However, the specs are far from impressive and a bit old-fashioned. Under the hood, the phone is almost a copy of the Moto G9 Play, which was released early last year. That was not the very best budget smartphone then, and the internal hardware is certainly not great in 2021.
The Motorola Defy is powered by a Snapdragon 662 processor. This is a modest chip that can also be found in other Moto devices (such as the Moto G9 Power) and, for example, the Poco M3, a device of about 150 euros. Not so special, and the amount of RAM (4GB) and storage space (64GB) is nothing to write home about. With devices above 300 euros, we actually see 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage as standard.
It is clear that Motorola does not focus on the fastest hardware with the Defy, although we see this more often with rugged Android phones. Manufacturers put in a lot of time and effort to get the housing and sturdiness as good as possible, and the other specifications then lag behind. Manufacturers such as Cat, RugGear and Samsung also opt for this approach. For example, the Galaxy XCover 5 from Samsung, which has been on sale for a few months, also has a simple processor (the Exynos 850) and no striking features.
Although the Motorola Defy is not very fast, we do not find the smartphone slow either. Apps start up fairly smoothly, multitasking is fine and simple games run nicely on the device. If you are a slightly more intensive user, however, you will soon run into limitations and see hitches. We would also have liked to see more storage, because 64GB is just a bit sparse.
Battery life, camera and fingerprint scanner
Fortunately, the fingerprint scanner works fine and the battery life is good. With normal use, the Defy can easily last a full day and most users can use the phone for two days before it needs to be plugged in. The phone supports fast charging with 20 Watts, although it takes a long time to top up the battery. After half an hour, a third of the battery is full, charging from 0 to 100 percent takes more than two hours.
On the back of the Motorola Defy is a triple camera. It is a 48-megapixel main camera, which combines pixels to make more beautiful 12-megapixel pictures. In addition, we see a 2 megapixel macro camera for very close shots and a 2 megapixel depth sensor that helps to take portrait photos.
The Defy takes nice, but not great pictures. In a lot of daylight images still look good, but in the dark the quality deteriorates considerably. The 2 megapixel macro camera has too low a resolution and therefore photos up close are never really sharp. This also applies to the 8 megapixel selfie camera, which struggles to capture enough detail.
Android 10 is really no longer possible
The Motorola Defy also does not have to rely on the software. The smartphone still runs on Android 10, an Android version that is almost two years old. So no Android 11, while this version has also been available for some time and does run on other recent Moto devices, such as the Moto G30 and Moto G100.
Motorola promises that the Defy will receive an Android 11 update, but only in the fall. In addition, this is probably the only Android upgrade the phone will get; a version that should have already been on the phone and is still a long wait. Whether Android 12 will come to the Motorola Defy is unclear, but this does not seem plausible.
So the Motorola Defy’s software and updates are quite disappointing. Security patches also appear infrequently (once a quarter) and for a long time (two years). In comparison: the Galaxy Xcover 5 and Xcover Pro do run on Android 11 and get four to five years of software support. In this area, the Defy is quite behind and we think that is a big downside.
Conclusion Motorola Defy review
It goes without saying that the Motorola Defy is not for everyone. The smartphone is aimed at active users who really need a sturdy phone, or people with a heavy profession. Still, we cannot wholeheartedly recommend the Defy, although it is certainly not a bad rugged smartphone.
For example, the Motorola Defy’s screen isn’t bright enough and the software (plus the update policy) is downright mediocre. Devices such as the Samsung Galaxy Xcover 5 and Xcover Pro do not necessarily have better hardware than the Defy, but are better supported. The devices already run on Android 11 and receive updates much longer. That is so nice with a sturdy device that should last a long time.
That does not alter the fact that the Motorola Defy is otherwise well put together. The internal hardware is not great, but we always see that with sturdy Android phones. The Defy is nice to use thanks to the almost bare Android version and fairly smooth. In addition, the battery lasts a long time and you can take a nice picture with the camera. However, the old-fashioned software leaves us with mixed feelings.
Buy Motorola Defy
Are you looking for a sturdy Android device and do you want to buy the Motorola Defy? The smartphone will soon be available in the Netherlands for 329 euros. The best deals can be found in the Motorola Defy price comparison below.
Source: Android Planet by www.androidplanet.nl.
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