The Motorola Defy Mini is positioned as a rugged, entry-level phone, but it is one of the more expensive. It is also one of the slowest, writes SEAN BACHER.
Motorola’s late entry into the smartphone market meant that it had to come up with some very innovative products in order to gain some market share in the Android space.
It did just this with the launch of the Atrix, a high-end smartphone sporting a biometric reader that allowed only your finger to unlock it. Later, it announced an Android version of the iconic Razr that was originally launched in 2004. Following in the footsteps of the original Razr, the new one became a fashion statement and was the slimmest phone in the world.
Motorola has since then been building up its smartphone arsenal, with smartphones like the Razr Maxx and Defy Plus. Although these phones work well and feature something unique, they all have one thing in common a high price.
But, last month Motorola announced the Defy Mini a cheaper version of the Defy Plus aimed at the lower end of the smartphone market, and at those who need to use a phone in rough conditions.
We put the Motorola Defy Mini through the Gadget Ten Question Task Test to see how well the it copes as an entry-level phone.
1. General look and feel (aesthetic judgement, differentiation in look and feel)
Even though the Motorola Defy Mini is a cheaper version of the Defy Plus, it looks much the same. The only really noticeable difference between the two is a little grill just below the Defy Mini’s screen. As with the Defy Plus, the Mini is also designed to be rugged although this is only evident by the rubber flaps that cover the headphone and mini USB port. According to Motorola, these flaps are designed to keep and dust water out of the phone, Although they will protect it from the odd splash, I am sure they won’t stop water from seeping into the phone should it be submerged. The phone’s screen is also protected from Corning Gorilla Glass to protect it from minor scrapes.
A dedicated lock fixes the phone’s plastic back into position, but when trying to remove the cover to insert a SIM or miniSD card, I couldn’t see the point of the lock. The back clips so tightly to the phone’s body that it is nearly impossible to remove it. I resorted to using a flat screwdriver to pry the phone apart. My Gadget colleagues said they were convinced they’d broken the phone when they removed the cover.
The Defy Mini isn’t exactly striking in the looks department and its horrid back cover adds up the negatives against it.
2. Slippability (Weight and size, ability to slip into a pocket unnoticed)
The Motorola Defy Mini is aptly named, as it is small measuring 109x56x12.6mm. It fits snugly into a hand and allows for easy one-hand tapping. Its rubber covers did become a problem when trying to get it out of my pocket. The USB cover juts out a few millimetres from the phone’s body, so when you pull it out of your pocket you often end up hooking out your keys and other random items too. Potential for embarrassment: high.
But, at 12.6mm, it’s still thin enough to fit comfortably into most pockets. The physical buttons on the top and the side need a decent amount of pressure to engage, so there is no need to worry about accidentally activating the phone.
3. General performance (speed, responsiveness, multi-tasking)
The Motorola Defy Mini uses a 600MHz Cortex processor and 512MB of RAM, which immediately raised a flag. Even though the Defy Mini is positioned as an entry-level phone, the LG Optimus L3 also an entry-level unit – used an 800MHz CPU and still disappointed, despite being faster.
My concerns were confirmed when I switched the phone on. Start-up time is on a par with most other Android phones, but the slow processor shows the second you swipe to unlock the screen. The phone runs Android 2.3.6 or Gingerbread, and the slow processor means there won’t be an option to upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich. Swiping from one home-screen to the next was slow and stilted before any other application was open. Scrolling through menus was as bad.
Installing Angry Birds Space was easy, but playing it caused a lot of frustration. It looked like the birds were walking to their target instead of flying there. Moving to the next level took longer than expected and, overall, the slow processor ruined the entire game experience.
Reading tweets and e-mails was as bad. Scrolling was once again a pain and, when I clicked to open a tweet or e-mail, I was often ready to remove the battery because I thought the phone had frozen. (Maybe that is why they made the back cover so difficult to remove!)
Overall the Motorola Defy really disappoints here. I have not come across a slower phone to date.
4. Life as we know it (How’s the battery life?)
The Lithium Polymer 1 650mAh battery will offer up to 500 hours in standby mode and 10 hours of talk time. Although I was unable to test these numbers accurately, I was happy with the two-day’s use I got out of a fully charged battery. Usage included Internet browsing, checking Twitter and making phone calls.
The pre-installed battery manager app shows basic battery information, like how many hours of talk time is left on the current charge, but there is no way to tweak the phone or running apps to get the most out of the battery.
Overall the battery didn’t disappoint and, unlike many other smartphones, you won’t need to worry about buying additional chargers to keep the battery topped up.
5. Vision of the future (picture, video and browsing quality)
The Motorola Defy Mini uses a 3.2‚” screen the same as the LG Optimus L3. But the Defy Mini’s 320×480 pixel 256 thousand colour capacitive touch screen is much clearer than the LG’s, which offers a resolution of 240 x 320 pixels. Although the screen doesn’t handle high-definition videos and photos that well, the pictures snapped with the rear 3.2MP camera display well.
For an entry-level smartphone, the screen and camera are adequate. They get the job done without too much compromise on quality.
6. Talk to me (quality of audio)
The single speaker located below the screen offers a good sound when listening to MP3s or YouTube. The internal radio tuner, which only works when the headphones are connected, can also be clearly heard.
Wireless headsets and car audio systems can be paired with the phone via Bluetooth, but all these features are standard on most smartphones.
Overall, the audio options are well rounded, but there is nothing out of the ordinary.
7. Message in a bottle (range, speed and efficiency of messaging solutions)
Twitter for Android, e-mail and a Facebook app are pre-installed on the phone, allowing you to connect to the outside world. They are the standard apps but, if you need something a little more sophisticated, dozens of paid and free apps are available from Google Play.
The browser loads web pages quickly, but panning, zooming and general navigation of the pages is slow and tedious due to the slow processor. This also becomes evident when opening Word, Excel and PDFs via the included Quickoffice Lite app. This is a useful app to have, but it just doesn’t work well on the Defy Mini.
The Mini has a good selection of messaging and office productivity apps: just don’t expect to get anything done in a rush.
8. Keep control (How effective are hardware and software controls?)
A Power button on the top left, a Volume rocker on the right and a dedicated Camera button just below that are all within easy reach with one hand. They stick out slightly, making the phone great to operate in the dark.
The Menu, Home, Back and Search virtual buttons are the standard ones found on any other Android phone and they perform the exact same tasks.
Because of the small screen, the virtual QWERTY keyboard was nearly impossible to use. The Defy Mini uses haptic feedback (the feeling of the phone vibrating every time a key is pushed), which is a great feature, as my thumb often covered more than one key and I was able to feel instead of see if I had pushed two keys instead of one.
I liked having to apply a good amount of pressure to the physical controls around the edges of the phone. Far too many times have I ended up accidentally unlocking a phone and letting it make phone calls or send messages on my behalf when in my pocket. For the user in rough conditions, this aspect will be a boon.
9. The new new (innovations, unique features)
The Motorola Defy Mini offers no unique or innovative features. That said, very little has been left out, and it does feel more durable than most smartphones at the cost of aesthetic design. Is ugliness a feature?
10. The wallet test (Is it competitively priced?)
Even though the Motorola Defy Mini is positioned as a budget phone, at R2 000 it is still a little expensive. The LG Optimus L3, for example, is R500 cheaper and uses a faster CPU. It may hit the spot for someone needing ruggedness in a phone.
Total score: 56%
When making an entry-level phone, it is understandable that certain options and specifications need to be cut back. But one of the most crucial elements of any smartphone is its processor. If a slower processor is chosen, the manufacturer still needs to make sure that it can cope with the demands of the operating system and various apps. The 600MHz CPU used in the Motorola Defy Mini may look okay on paper, but in real life it doesn’t work.
* Follow Sean on Twitter on @seanbacher
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