The Defy from Motorola, a mid-range Android-based smartphone, is as a good a representative for its category as you’ll find. While it’s not an iPhone or an HTC Evo, it offers a durable, yet refined, smartphone experience for the user who may not need everything that a higher-end, more expensive model might include.
The Defy is part of a growing subset of aggressively priced user-friendly smartphones that operators are hoping will account for more than a small share of the projected 60 percent to 70 percent smartphone adoption they’re predicting over the next few years.
Those not in the market for the best of the best could do worse than the rugged, pocket-able and friendly Defy ($99 with a two-year at T-Mobile). This little guy has it all in a neat package that couldn’t be more user-friendly (kudos to Motorola’s Motoblur UI on that score).
Weather Resistant Design
The overall design of the Defy is compact, with rubberized sides and plugs that fill all the open ports (USB, 3.5mm headphone jack) to protect from dust and water. Motorola claims the device is “water resistant,” which means something if you know anything about the nasty relationship between cell phones and H20. The phone is also supposedly “dust-proof,” but I think this just means we’re giving you a screen that while beautiful, is also a magnet for fingerprints.
The touchscreen on the Defy is an average although spacious 3.7-inch FWVGA. It’s bright and incredibly responsive, but as I said above, the fingerprint thing is more than distracting. It’s also not smooth (I think this has to do with the dust proofing), which makes sliding your finger across the surface a less than pleasant experience.
The Defy’s specs are a good representation of where the mid-range or entry-level smartphone stands today: Android 2.1, 800 MHz processor, 5-megapixel camera, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and expandable memory up to 32GB.
The processor manages to get along at a good clip. Web pages rendered quickly with the factory browser, video looked good and startup time was reasonable. Battery life gets a boost from the smaller processor (just under seven hours of usage on a CDMA or GSM network), which is perfect for the kinds of users for whom this device is aimed, namely those coming off a feature phone where they’re accustomed to longer battery life.
The camera took nice pictures in low light, outside and with a flash. The icon for the camera, which can be moved, was hidden away on the second page after startup. Not a big deal but worth noting. The only thing I don’t like about taking pictures on smartphones, and this goes for more than just the Defy (hello Apple), is the lack of a physical shutter button. It can’t be that hard, can it?
I really can’t say enough about Motoblur and the way Motorola uses it to not only differentiate a device like the Defy but also to make the whole smartphone experience just a little bit more user-friendly for the uninitiated.
There’s something iPhone-like about that way Motoblur works. It begs to be touched, manipulated and generally fiddled with. On the Defy there are a total of seven customizable screens, including the home screen, with no end to the number of different widgets a user can ad to the display. Tutorials galore if you get lost at any point.
Setting up social networks for real-time display on these screens is prompted upon setup of the device. Users can be checking their Facebook feed or email at a glance within minutes of taking the device out of the box. Users can also create widgets specifically for contacts, which is a nice feature if there’s someone you talk to or correspond with on a daily basis. There’s also the “Family Room,” which allows a user to configure a widget to track correspondences between family members.
What Motoblur does best is get everything that’s important up front. Navigation of the phone is intuitive and the environment in which you hold your mobile life is also attractive and colorful. The pre-installed widgets that make up the Motoblur experience make you want to touch them, which is why the UI itself is so intriguing.
While the Defy’s specs really do represent a certain category of mid-range smartphones, the experience is top shelf for said category. Motorola’s attention to detail and build quality allow the Defy to blur the line between a high-end and mid-range smartphone.
The Defy represents an interesting point in the evolution of the cell phone. At least some sort of data service is becoming a given on any wireless device these days. It’s no fluke that few cell phone reviews anymore actually mention the phone-call-making portion of the device (by the way, the Defy makes a perfectly fine voice call). Just as yesterday’s feature phones are morphing into devices that look like the Defy, tomorrow’s mid-rangers will be full-scale behemoths.
So how will OEMs create differentiation as processor and camera size hit a point of diminishing returns? Things like hot spot functionality, screen size and pre-installed services come to mind, but the sky’s the limit going forward. (Is that a Sony PSP phone I hear in the distance)?