Wednesday, 24 November 2010 00:58

Motorola's tough 'DEFY' - a DEFyPhone?

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The first Android phone with Telstra's Blue Tick for better rural and regional coverage, and the first to be water, dust and scratch resistant, Moto's defiant DEFY sports a 3.7-inch multi-touch screen yet is still smaller than an iPhone while blending a more polished version of Android 2.1 enhanced with MotoBlur 1.5 for a more pleasurable Android experience.

If there's one thing that the Android OS has done, it has been to level the playing field for manufacturers, giving those who want it an iPhone-esque experience that can be customised and improved in ways that never worked properly with Windows Mobile 6.5 and would never be allowed by Apple as it doesn't license its Mac OS X or iOS technologies.

It has revitalised Motorola, who after years of smartphone successes including the Star Tac and the Razr, was then lumbered with large-screen stylus based Symbian UIQ phones, endless Razr iterations, and adventures in Windows Mobile 6.x, but was then left without its own finger-friendly touch-screen OS.

Android OS has been Motorola's saviour, something it has improved through its own work and contributions back to the base code. Motorola has also created its own 'Motoblur' UI to enhance the end-user Android experience.

Motoblur integrates your social networking contacts and messaging, helping you to prioritise who you hear from and to help you organise your socially connected life as a user of services such as Facebook, Twitter and others.

Motorola says it 'makes it even easier to manage all of your emails, messages and social updates in one place, with the additions of filtering, resizable widgets, added corporate security and a versatile battery manager.

But one of the standout features of the Defy is its' measure of toughness or ruggedness, far beyond regular smartphones without actually looking like it.

Motorola does warn that the Defy isn't waterproof, so don't go submerging it in water for extended periods or take it diving with you to send tweets or take photos beneath the seas.

However, it IS water, dust and scratch resistant, which we saw demonstrated with the Defy placed in a glass of water and a glass of beer without damage, as well as being splashed with water, and even a video of a Motorola employee answering the phone in the shower.

That's not something you'd do with any other smartphone without it being encased in some bulky, specially designed waterproof enclosure or you'd likely quickly damage it.

Although Defy comes with Android OS 2.1, instead of Android OS 2.2, Motorola has enhanced its Android 2.1 build to deliver some of the 2.2 feature set.

Specs and more on page two, please read on!


Two simple examples of features from 2.2 that Motorola has included are a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot that lets you share your Defy's Internet connection with up to 5 other Wi-Fi capable devices, and the ability for the browser rotated horizontally whether you turn the phone left or right, neither feature of which is in standard Android OS 2.1.

The Defy also has a 3.7-inch touch screen protected by scratch-resistant Corning Gorilla Glass at 854x480 resolution.

It's taller than the iPhone's 3.5-inch screen but narrower, for a screen that is 'bigger' yet on a smartphone that is smaller than an iPhone, which Motorola says 'provides edge-to-edge views of your favourite photos, videos and websites.'

DLNA is included so you can wirelessly send content to DLNA capable TVs (which is the answer to Apple's AirPlay and Apple TV setup), there's lots of other expected features like a 5 megapixel camera with Flash and video recording, and compatibility with Google's newly released and free Google Maps with free GPS Navigation.

The internal processor is a TI OMAP 600MHz model with 512MB RAM, 2GB MicroSD card included (32GB capable), Flash Lite for some Abobe Flash compatibility, 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1, up to 360 mins talk time and all the other expected Google mail, calendar, Android Market and other Google features.

So, what's it like to use? Well, from the relatively brief time I've had thus far (with a review model in my possession for further testing), it's a solid and capable Android phone.

Overall the phone felt fast and smooth, with scrolling through songs or a web page being a smooth action. However, when you bring up the main menu of programs that you vertically scroll through, that scrolling action isn't smooth but a little jerky.

Still, while that's a shame, it's not a deal breaker. The Motoblur enhancements are clearly an enhancement to Android, and for someone new to smartphones and a fan of social networking, the phone will be a very nice experience.

Swype is also built-in as standard, letting you drag your finger over each letter of a word to spell it out, instead of having to type it, proving an interesting alternative to the on-screen keyboard and auto-correct system, and for some, a better one.

Another inclusion is a Connected Music Player that 'displays lyrics for the songs stored on your phone, and enables you to discover, buy and download music', with music purchases from BigPond Music or Motorola's own store.

Whether an enhanced Android OS phone can tempt iPhone users away is something that happens on a user-by-user basis. The iPhone experience, in total, is still superior to Android, and I personally prefer iOS to Android OS (while using them both happily with iOS as my primary device), but Android is definitely more sophisticated today than when it first appeared.

There's also the issue of cost, with the Defy and most Android phones cheaper than Apple's iPhone, thus making them more accessible to more people, with a cheaper end-cost to consumers part of Android's allure.

The Defy is a great Android handset and competitive alternative, and comes with some pretty special features of its own, while letting anyone actually use a smartphone to surf the web, check email, organise your calendar, stay connected through social networking, take photos and videos, and use all kinds of apps. 

Android really has been a great equaliser for phone manufacturers needing a way to compete with Apple but who don't have their own OS or one modern enough to quickly compete with the game changer that the iPhone has been. 

Is it the DEFyPhone? Well, that's something you'll have to answer for yourself, but as a brand new model, with multi-touch, apps and Google's free GPS navigation, it's a compelling package that should prove quite popular, especially for those who want their phones to be more rugged than the norm, while looking normal, instead of like a pocket tank.

Continued on page three, please read on!


Exclusive for three months to Telstra, which naturally ties in nicely with Telstra's 'Summer Proof Smartphone' campaign, Defy goes on sale from November 30, which not co-incidentally brings us to the hottest part of the end-of-year sales season: December.

Naturally, the MD of Motorola Mobility in Australia, NZ and the South Pacific, Timo Brouwer, is proud of his latest handset saying: 'DEFY has been designed to handle everything the upcoming summer season can throw your way. With all the features consumers expect in a smartphone, DEFY packs advanced web browsing, entertainment and messaging capabilities as well as a design that withstands the challenges of everyday life.'

Motorola's CrystalTalk PLUS technology is in action, with Motorola saying that it 'vanquishes noisy environments with two microphones which intelligently filter out background noise and amplify your voice, so you don't have to shout over your favourite band.'

Richard Fink, director of Telstra's Mobility Products said: 'Many of our customers tell us they're looking for a smartphone that's rugged enough to support their active lifestyles.

'The DEFY is perfect for people who want to take the latest smartphone features with them to outdoor festivals or when hanging out at the beach or when mountain bike riding.

'We also think it's going to be a hit with outdoor workers and tradies who want advanced features in a mobile that can take a few knocks. And for those who like adventure beyond the city fringe, DEFY comes with Telstra's Blue Tick - which means it provides superior handheld coverage in regional and rural coverage areas.

We've made sure it's great-value too with customers able to purchase the DEFY on a range of plans including for $0 upfront on a $49 Next G Cap Plan for 24 months (min cost $1176).'

The Defy is also available to purchase outright for AUD $600.

Motorola is also promoting music festivals, saying there's a key element of Australian summers. Thus, Motorola has taken this moment for some marketing, whereby as Defy is 'the summer survival essential', this summer will see 'Motorola announcing an exclusive partnership with the annual Big Day Out festival tour in Australia. The festival, which entertains close to 300,000 music lovers each year will see Motorola as the sole phone partner for the 2011 line-up.'

Motorola is also bringing in Oprah Winfrey with the suggestion to 'Tune in to 'The Oprah Winfrey Show' in January to see Motorola featured on the Ultimate Australian Adventure shows! The ultimate summer-proof phone, the Motorola Defy is the handset to be used by all 300 Oprah Show audience members travelling to Australia for their Ultimate Australian adventure.'

 

Here's the list of DEFY features:

Bands/Modes
UMTS: 850/2100, GSM: 850/900/1800/1900, HSDPA 7.2 MbpsHSUPA 2.0 Mbps

Colour
Liquorice

Mobile Dimensions
59mm x 107mm x 13.2mm, 118grams

Main Screen
3.7'' WVGA TFT 16 million colour full touch display, 854 x 480 pixels

Operating System
Android 2.1 + MOTOBLURâ„¢ 1.5

Battery Life
UMTS TT/SB Time (up to): 360 mins / 219 hrs* 1540mAh battery

Camera
5 MP camera with Digital Zoom, Auto Focus and LED

Video:
Capture/Playback/Streaming, H.264, MPEG4

Messaging/web/apps:
MMS, SMS, Email (Corporate Sync, POP3/IMAP embedded, Push Email) IM (Embedded Gtalkâ„¢), Full HTML browser w/ Adobe Flash Lite

Memory:
2GB microSD card pre-inserted into phone, 512MB RAM x 2GB ROM. Expandable up to 32GB

Other
Bluetooth Version 2.1 + EDI, WiFi 802.11b/g/n,
GPS/aGPS
Media player support MP3, MPEG4, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, AMR NB, WMA v9,
H.264, 3.5mm Audio Jack


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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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