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Motorola Defy + Review: In Depth

The Good

  • Durable, hard-wearing design
  • High resolution screen
  • Well-integrated music app

The Bad

  • Camera slow to take pictures
  • Not great for gaming or video
  • Overall performance is slow
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The Motorola Defy+ is the sequel to last year’s successful Motorola Defy, which you may remember from the TV adverts featuring hard partying kids jumping into swimming pools with the Defy, and said phone emerging intact.

Not having a swimming pool to hand and it being the tail end of November (disclaimer: we’re in the UK), we didn’t give the Defy+ the full T.G.I.F. treatment. But we did do drop tests, immerse it in water and dunk it in pints of beer and it emerged unscathed. That’s not all we did; we checked out the Motorola Defy+’s other merits as well.


Motorola Defy+: Design and build

The look and feel of the Motorola Defy+ is more or less a repeat of the old Defy from last year. It’s got the same trapezoid-shape, the same three screws on each side and the battery cover opens with the same sliding catch. The camera unit is in the same place and even the Motorola ‘M’ logo occupies the same spot in the centre of the back cover.

The microUSB and 3.5mm connections are protected against the elements thanks to some detachable rubber bungs. They’re easily removable for when you need to actually use the ports and just as easy to pop back into place. After a while we think that constantly plugging and re-plugging the 3.5mm jack could feel tiresome after a while, but keeping everything protected is the raison d’etre of the Motorola Defy+. A small inconvenience to suffer for keeping everything water and dust-free.

The volume rocker and the power button are made from a shiny reflective plastic that stands out from the matt smoothness of the rest of the body. They’re responsive despite their chunky look and feel. There’s no dedicated shutter key for the camera, but the virtual control is large and optimally positioned so that this doesn’t matter much.

In the hand the Motorola Defy+ feels suitably solid. It’s lighter than you’d imagine – you’d be forgiven for thinking that a phone sold on durability would weigh a bit more than 118 grams.

The 3.7-inch screen and the four soft keys at the base of the Defy+ is protected by a layer of super-tough Gorilla Glass. The screen does get a bit fingerprinty after a while and will require a bit of wiping from time to time. It’s also rather reflective, which could hamper visibility on bright sunny days and there’s quite a noticable air gap here as well.

As you’d expect, viewing angles aren’t brilliant but viewed dead on, the screen boasts excellent contrast, brightness and colour reproduction. The resolution is high – 854 x 480 pixels – meaning that homescreens, app icons, web pages etc look super-sharp on the 3.7-inch screen.


Motorola Defy+: Interface

One of our favourite things about the Motorola Defy+ for our money is the fact that the Motoblur UI here has had some work done.

The ‘shortcut jump to’ bar which used to appear at the bottom of the screen has finally been axed and replaced with something far more useful; slots for three app icons/shortcuts that sit next to the app launcher.

By default, these shortcuts are the phone dialler, camera and text messages. Long-pressing on any other app icon on the homescreen will see three small plus symbols appear; you drag the app icon on to one of these and it’ll nudge the older shortcut out of the way.

The usual Motoblur resizeable widgets return here along with useful toggle controls for things like GPS and Wi-Fi. Of course if you don’t want to use any of this, you can chuck them all in the bin and style your Defy+ how you like it.

We love the ‘in-pocket detection’ option in the display settings. This automatically locks the Defy+’s screen whenever you put it in your pocket. Totally non-essential, but a nice touch.

There’s seven homescreens at your disposal and there’s also a leap mode, activated by tapping on the Home key when you’re sat at the main central homescreen.

When you place apps and widgets on any of the homescreens, a green field will appear underneath the app, showing you where there’s any free page space, a bit like when you’re trying to place a construction facility on an RTS game. If there’s no space, the Defy+ will try to rearrange everything, pushing other apps and widgets into other empty areas, or straight up tell you there’s no room.

Frustratingly, dropping app shortcuts onto the screens is a little more complicated than it has to be. When you open up the launcher and long-press on an app (like normal) a window pops up asking if you’d like to add the shortcut to the home screen or to a ‘group’.

‘Groups’ are subfolders that you create within the launcher section, allowing you to group together, music, or camera apps for example. You can then pin these folders onto the homescreens by long-pressing, heading to Shortcuts > App Groups.

While this is potentially useful, it’s not as easy as simply dragging app icons on top of one another, like you can on Sony Ericsson’s Android phones.

Furthermore, having to go through the process of picking and app and selecting the ‘add to home’ option each time you want to drop an app somewhere on a homescreen could get annoying.

Finally, the Motorola Defy+ comes with a pretty basic virtual Qwerty keyboard installed, alongside Swype. Swype we know and love, so nothing new to add here; a slick, whizzy way of joining up tiles to type instead of hunting and pecking. The generic ‘Multi-Touch Keyboard’ offers word predictions that helps to keep typos down, but is otherwise pretty standard.


Motorola Defy+: Browser

The browser of the Motorola Defy+ is basically the same as the one seen on stock Android phones like the Nexus One and Nexus S. You can have up to eight windows open at once, block pop-ups and set it so that Flash plug-ins are available on an ‘always on’ ‘on demand’ or totally off.

Text on news articles doesn’t automatically reflow to fit as you zoom, but a quick double-tap on a screen when you’ve reached your optimal level of zoomage will reformat paragraphs to suit the new dimensions. Pinching to zoom is slick and feels fluid.

A tap of the menu key (the left-most one on the Motorola Defy+) brings up a six panel menu with options to add new windows (and jump to and from existing ones), add and manage bookmarks, refresh, forward/back and a ‘more’ sub menu that pulls up extra settings such as Find On Page (Android’s equivalent of Ctrl+F) the option to add RSS feeds (where possible) and the ability to save pages to the SD card. The overall browsing experience is a good one.


Motorola Defy+: Multimedia and camera

2GB is the listed amount of internal storage, which is closer to 1.09GB in real life. This can be bulked out by an extra 32GB through the old microSD slot, so there giving you the option of some much needed extra room for music pictures and app data.

The music player of the Motorola Defy+ is a straightforward Android MP3 player that’s filled out with extra services provided by third parties. This gives you track identification (powered by SoundHound) that’s built in as well and, once it successfully identifies a tune, sends you to the Amazon MP3 store.

TuneWiki support gives you lyrics for most of the songs in your MP3 collection. Although owing to the crowd-sourced nature of TuneWiki, it’s not always totally spot on, but its a nice addition. Finally, SHOUTcast (internet radio search) comes built in alongside the FM radio, which is also included. We like that practically all of your audio enjoyment is catered for under one app.

The most commonly-used music files (MP3, AAC and WMA) are all catered for here although it’s a shame that M4A’s aren’t.

Playback through the supplied headphones is pretty unimpressive and leaky. But then again most headphones that come with mobiles aren’t amazing – through our preferred headphones the sound quality improves considerably.

Sure, the Defy+’s audio outpit doesn’t reach the skull-shaking heights of HTC’s Beats Audio phones, but it’ll be enough for most listeners. Just remember that you’ll have to take that plug out of the 3.5mm jack each time… The external speaker, again, while not the clearest and most powerful we’ve heard on a phone, ought to be loud enough for most situations where you’d want to play audio through a phone – funny YouTube clips at the pub or the odd track at home or in the office.

Speaking of which, video content on the Defy+ is a mixed bag; the higher-res YouTube uploads (official HD trailers and the like) despite looking nicely detailed, sometimes appear squashed, with letterboxing either side. Regular videos look as good as you’d expect them to on a 3.7-inch screen.

Videos are recorded at a maximum resolution of VGA (640 x 480) which don’t look or sound half bad on the Motorola Defy+. Uploading them to a bigger screen reveals that the video quality isn’t the best out there.

 


Stills taken on the Defy+ are of a decent quality and there’s a range of lighting and fun effects that can be applied. The camera is pretty slow to take pictures and the focus isn’t always totally responsive; we found it best to hold our finger on the virtual shutter key, wait for the focus to do its thing and release. While this is fine for situations where you’ve got time to stand still for a composed shot, it’s perhaps not that great for spur of the moment, action shots.

Motorola Defy+: Performance

The first thing we ought to mention is that the Defy+ really is a tough little thing. We knocked it off desks, dropped it down the stairs, held it under a running tap and immersed it in a pint glass of water for ten seconds; it suffered all these punishments and emerged unscathed.

The screen doesn’t really respond that well when wet, unlike Sony Ericsson’s similar Xperia Active. So if you drop your Defy+ in the sink, it’ll will need a bit of a wipe off before you start to use it again.

Resilience aside, overall performance of the Motorola Defy+ is pretty patchy. For the most part, things are fine with only the web browser offering a performance that you could truly describe as smooth. Most of the time, we would describe performance being on par with Android phones of the same calibre (i.e HTC Wildfire S, Samsung Galaxy Ace).

However we frequently experienced lock ups and instances of the Defy+ stalling for several seconds after we’d finished a call, wanted to load up the camera app, or open the gallery. Sometimes turning the screen off momentarily helped things return to normal but this didn’t always work.

Bearing in mind that it’s not a cutting edge dual-core phone like the Motorola Razr, we can forgive some of the shakiness. That doesn’t make it any less frustrating when you’re trying to get to B, C and D on the Defy+ and you’re still waiting for it to finish doing A.

Casual games like Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja and Cut the Rope all look and play fantastically well on the Defy+, with the highly detailed display coming into its own here. More graphically advanced titles like Cordy, Iron Wars and Apparatus weren’t quite as smooth-going.

Voice call quality, clarity and volume is decent on calls to landlines and mobiles and the stated battery life (7 hours talk time and 16 days standby time) is about right – this equates to a good day’s worth of usage with music, games, Gmail syncing, GPS and Google Maps running through the battery.

Verdict

Like the Motorola Defy before it, the Motorola Defy+ is a resilient, tough touchscreen phone that does the basics. However it’s by no means the quickest not the most stable of phones out there. It won’t appease the tech-heads who want raw power, high end video and gaming credentials, but we imagine that casual gamers will be happy with what the Defy+ can download from the Android Market.

If you’re the type of person forever dropping your phone on the floor, in the sink or spilling drinks over it, then the Defy+ is a nice sell from this angle. We gave it a pretty rough going over and it shrugged off everything we threw at it. So this is perhaps the perfect phone for the perennially clumsy.

Specification

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