Motorola Defying the pack with its rural/coastal tough/smart phone

By Patrick Avenell

SYDNEY, NSW: Motorola’s brain might be based in Chicago but its heart seems to be in Lithgow, at least when it comes to its new Android device, the Defy. Featuring a Telstra Blue Tick for regional coverage and a swathe of outdoorsy features, this is the closest thing we’ve seen to a ruggedised smartphone.

Sure to be popular with both beach goers and river swimmers, the MotoDefy, released unlocked with three months Telstra exclusivity, is scratch, dust and water resistant. It has a 3.7-inch WVGA capacitive touchscreen with pinch to zoom, a 5-megapixel camera and MPEG4 video. It runs off Android 2.1 (Eclair) and has 2GB of internal memory and includes a 2GB microSD card.

Motorola’s own user interface, MotoBlur, is on board, which is supposed to improve the social networking and application utilisation experience. With memory expandable up to 34GB, it is a viable MP3 player (read: iPod) replacement, and with a 3.5-millimetre headphone jack, there is no need for a proprietary earphone set. There is, however, a rubber casing on the earphone jack (included to enhance the phone’s resistance to the elements), which does look a little ungainly when open.

Charging is via micro USB (hurrah!), and the included charger is actually a USB cable that connects to an AC plug, which is a very lovely development in mobile phone technology. It essentially means that you can use the same USB plug for charging multiple devices (though not at the same time) freeing up powerpoints throughout the home or office.

And now to the product’s biggest USP: its toughness. Previously the realm of the most unfashionable and clunky mobile phones, the tough phone category is currently undersupplied, with no other major manufacturer actively targeting users who need to use their phone in wet, sandy or dirty milieus. The Defy isn’t strictly waterproof (at the launch it was said that we can’t use it as an underwater camera), but it is splash proof, as ably demonstrated by a MotoBot who threw a glass of water over both the phone and my copy of The Fountainhead (the phone certainly fared better than my book).

The rubber casing on the phone protects the key componentry from incursions, whilst the lack of any actual buttons (the menu, home, return and search keys on the front are all touch tabs) means there are no crevices. As reported above, there are rubber plugs for the other orifices.

There’s something very encouraging about this release from Motorola. With all the identical Android iPhone killers now being released, it’s refreshing to see a supplier actually add something new to the mix, rather than just perpetually improving homicidal features. HTC has been winning the Android race all year, but Motorola is now clearly in second place.

The MotoDefy with MotoBlur is exclusive through Telstra for free on the $49 cap over 24 months or outright and unlocked for RRP $600.

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