Motorola Defy Mini review

The Motorola Defy is touted as a full-featured smartphone that, according to Motorola, “is designed to handle everything that life throws your way.” The phone is scratch and water resistant as well as dust proof, and comes in a tough housing.

With the Motorola Defy Mini, Motorola is attempting to take the original Defy and make it as cheap as they possibly can without sacrificing durability.

The questions are: did they achieve that and what did they have to sacrifice to make that happen?

Design and build quality

When we reviewed the original Motorola Defy last year, we didn’t exactly give it points for beauty, and the Defy Mini is no different. Then again, that’s not what either of them are going for.

On top is the power/wake button and 3.5mm jack, the latter being covered by a flap. The bottom is devoid of all ports and buttons.

The left side holds the microUSB port, also covered by a flap, while the right side makes room for the volume buttons and a dedicated camera button.

In the top left corner is the camera with its flash next to it on the right, leaving room in the middle for a Motorola logo.

The back is hard plastic with a rubbery finish that shrugs off fingerprints. It clips in tightly, and a slide at the bottom locks it in place.

On the front, at the top centre is the earpiece with the front-facing camera in the right corner along with a notification LED. Along the bottom are the four capacitive buttons in the same order as the original Defy (Menu, Home, Back, Search).

The Defy Mini measures at 109mm x 58.5mm x 12.6 mm, which is somewhat small when compared to many other smartphones. In practice, it looks and short and stocky, and fits snugly in one’s hand.

Of course, one of the biggest advantages of the Defy Mini’s construction is that it is dust- and water-proof. We submerged it a few times to test its credibility and it came out no worse for wear.

At first glance and touch, this feels like the Motorola Defy in a smaller package, which is exactly what it’s supposed to be. The Defy Mini feels tough as nails and doesn’t end up sacrificing too much in terms of external appearances. It probably won’t be winning any beauty contests, but it’s by no means repulsive.

Motorola Defy Mini submerged in water

Internals and performance

Internally, the Defy Mini doesn’t have a lot to boast about.

There’s a 600MHz CPU backed by 512MB RAM and a very limited amount of internal storage (our unit had around 100MB), though the latter is expandable via microSD by up to another 32GB.

For connectivity, the Defy Mini supports HSPA, WiFi b/g/n, and Bluetooth 2.1

In our benchmarks, the Defy Mini came second to last – just a little over the LG Optimus L3’s score of 2322.6 – with an averaged AnTuTu score of 2395.8.

In real-world use, there was often noticeable lag when swiping between home screens and scrolling in lists. While games like Angry Birds play just fine, Osmos HD was stuttery at best and basically unplayable at worst.

Screen and responsiveness

Riding up front on the Defy Mini is a 3.2-inch, 320×480, capacitive touchscreen. It is small, low resolution, colours appear washed out, and viewing angles aren’t great.

However, thanks to Corning’s Gorilla glass, it is scratch proof. We tested it on a couple of occasions with great satisfaction.

Swipes and taps generally registered fine, but there were cases where you had to repeat something a few times, such as when trying to pull the notification drawer back up.

Sound and call quality

The rear speaker on the Defy Mini wouldn’t know what bass is even if Skrillex dropped some right on top of it. It’s also extremely soft to the point where anything below 50% is essentially silent.

The bundled earphones were decent, but also remarkably soft.

Call quality was fine, with no complaints to be had.

Camera

The 3-megapixel fixed-focus camera on the back is capable of taking 2048×1536 shots.

It’s fairly bad even in well lit situations, losing great chunks of detail – some photos actually looked like they had hipster-filters applied to parts of them.

Take the light away and things just get worse. Piling on to the loss of detail is more noise than the try-outs of the latest “Idols” competition.

Video recording is no better at a maximum resolution of VGA.

The front-facing VGA camera is similarly noisy, but you can at least make out the face in a video call.

Motorola Defy Mini camera photo example

Battery life

The Defy Mini has a surprisingly large battery for such a small device – 1650mAh.

You’d think that this would mean that it has impressive battery life, and you’d be right. Looping video on ~65% brightness with Wi-Fi on gave a result of well over 9 hours.

More normal day-to-day use resulted in us getting 3 days of regular use quite easily. We imagine that it’s not outside the realm of possibility to get a full work week out of the Defy Mini.

Software

The Motorola Defy Mini is running Android 2.3.6 (Gingerbread). Considering its budget internals, Gingerbread is probably the last version of Android the Defy Mini is likely to see, which may be a deal breaker for some, especially with Gingerbread already being a year and a half old.

Of course, there are some added 3rd-party applications, not to mention the addition of Motorola’s own skin on top of Android.

Quickoffice light is provided, allowing you to view Microsoft Office documents on your phone, though not create or edit any.

There’s also an Dashboard application which serves as a hub for outdoor and workout activity.

Motorola’s custom skin has been discussed previously and it remains one of the less appealing in terms of usability and aesthetic.

However, worth noting are the Social- and Activity-graph widgets. These widgets make a collage of your frequent social interactions and frequently used applications. It’s an interesting idea, as it requires no configuration on the user’s part, but rather collects this data as you use the phone over time.

Conclusion

At a recommended retail price of R1,999, the Motorola Defy Mini sets out to be a cheap, rugged, usable smartphone and it tends to succeed at that.

It’s not the phone to get if you’re interested in the latest and greatest in smartphones, but if you want something that can survive rough handling at an affordable price, the Defy Mini is worth looking at.

Pros

●    Durable
●    Excellent battery life
●    Cheap

Cons

●    Budget internals
●    Laggy
●    Android 2.3.6

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Motorola Defy Mini review