Motorola Defy review
We love
Seriously rugged, almost all screen, great hardware
We hate
Android 2.1, Motoflippingblur
A rugged phone that even the non-clumsy will appreciate. That’s quite an achievement.

The Motorola Defy is, against all odds, a rugged phone that’s both a) not chunky and b) not rubbish. No, really. We think this might just be a first – read on for our full Motorola Defy review to find out why we’re so smitten.

Rugged phones, ones that you can drop and stab and dip in oil, have typically been basic affairs, like Sonim‘s tough candybar phones. But if you’re butter fingered, why can’t you have your cake and eat it (Or drop it)? Why can’t you have a tough phone that’s also pleasant to use – one that runs a recent version of Android, say.

Enter the Motorola Defy. This is an Android smartphone that will survive trials and tribulations that’ll leave a HTC Desire HD or iPhone 4 shattered (you can see us drop it on a hard wooden floor in our unboxing here). It’s water resistant (so long as you shut the port flaps, obviously), scratch resistant and dust proof, and we can confirm these findings, because we threw it all around the house, raked it repeatedly with a kitchen knife and ran it under a tap. Then made a phone call. It worked fine, although we ended up with a damp ear.

The really exciting thing about the Motorola Defy however is that despite all this armour, it boasts respectable specs. A 3.7-inch WVGA screen (Gorilla Glass, hence Kevlar-esque survival skills), five megapixel camera (Admittedly mediocre, with no HD video), 1540mAh battery (good for two or even three days) and 2GB of internal storage (plus microSD slot) make it sound like a HTC Desire Z or HTC Desire rival.

And you know what? The Motorola Defy almost is. While the screen doesn’t match the Desire’s AMOLED panel for vibrancy, it’s very visible outdoors, and comparable to the S-LCD screen on the HTC Desire Z. And more to the point, the whole handset looks as good.

motorola defy review 7

Yes, honestly. The Motorola Defy isn’t hugely thin at 13.2mm, but because almost the entire front face its screen, it’s incredibly small. In fact, it’s almost a centimetre shorter than an iPhone or iPod touch, despite the bigger screen. It’s got that same lush screen-and-nothing-but feel to it as the HTC Desire HD or HD7. The only difference is you can drop it on concrete and it’ll still work like nothing happened. This is a rugged phone you can be proud to own.

Android 2.1 at its core is nippy enough on the Motorola Defy, and 512MB of RAM means slowdown in apps is a rare occurrence. Tragically though, Motorola has yet again blighted a phone with its own software “improvements”.

Motorola’s pointless, laggy Motoblur social networking skin slows down homescreen navigation no end, and wastes data, battery and your time pulling down hundreds of tweets at a time instead of just @replies and messages, and takes ages to load. Install LauncherPro on it however and the Motorola Defy becomes a whole new, usable phone, with homescreens that don’t lag, but still retaining Motorola’s fantastic on screen QWERTY keyboard. Unfortunately though, it won’t give you the extra account syncing you can enjoy on sensible Android phones from HTC and Samsung.

Check out the best Motorola Defy deals now

It’s worth stressing though that though the Motorola Defy has many of the same software features as the Motorola Milestone 2 (Mobile hotspot, DLNA media streaming), Android 2.1 lacks some useful bits and bobs, like Flash video support, and some great new apps like Chrome To Phone only work on Android 2.2.

This problem is only going to get worse as we move to Android 2.3, and it’s really quite puzzling why Motorola couldn’t get Froyo on here. The company says a 2.2 update is coming, but it’s also been promising that for the Motorola Milestone for months and that’s not happened, so buy this phone with no expectations, or don’t buy it at all.

But even if you’re not after a rugged phone because you don’t work on an oil rig, do consider the Motorola Defy. It’s a cheap, beautifully constructed Android phone which needs a bit of app love to remove the nasty bits of Motoblur. It just happens to also be nigh on indestructible. If like us, you’ve dropped your phone now and again over the course of a contract, that’s reason enough.

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