While there are many rugged handsets like the Casio G'zOne Ravine and the Sonim XP3 Quest, not many of them are smartphones. In fact, we can only think of one--the Motorola i1, an Android smartphone available from both Boost Mobile and Sprint Nextel. As if sensing a need for such a category, Motorola went ahead and made another rugged smartphone, called the Motorola Defy, and this one is available from T-Mobile. The Defy is not quite as bulky as the i1, but it's built to be almost as tough. If that's not enough, the Defy also has a 5-megapixel camera, an enhanced Motoblur interface, and Wi-Fi calling, and it ships with Android 2.1. The Motorola Defy is available for $99.99 after a new two-year service agreement.
When compared with the Motorola i1, the Motorola Defy is definitely the sleeker and slimmer model. Measuring 4.2 inches long by 2.3 inches wide by 0.5 inch thick, the Defy has a slim and straightforward touch-screen design, with rounded corners and a rubberized back along with a white hard-plastic border around the battery cover. This black-and-white style makes the Defy look far sportier than the i1's all-black duds.
Yet, the Defy aims to be almost as tough. The display is made out of Corning Gorilla glass, which claims to be resistant to impact and scratches, and the ports are covered in rubberized stoppers to make the phone water-resistant as well. Also all around the phone are screws, presumably to make the phone more secure. It lacks the i1's military certification for salt, fog, humidity, and solar radiation, but the Defy should withstand most everyday bumps and drops just fine, according to Motorola.
On the front is a generous 3.7-inch WVGA display that is spread out from one edge of the phone to the other, leaving little black space around the sides. With its 16 million colors and 480x854-pixel resolution, the screen looks quite stunning. Graphics are saturated with color and crisp with detail. The capacitive display was also very responsive to our taps. There's an internal accelerometer plus a proximity sensor.
The Defy comes with the enhanced version of Motoblur, which lets you move and resize widgets on the home screen. In fact, Motorola requires you to have a Motoblur account in order to use the phone, which we weren't too happy about. The widgets let you keep track of social network updates, incoming messages, and the latest news feeds. You get up to seven different home screens, with shortcuts to the phone dialer, the main menu, and the contacts list on the bottom row. For text input, you can choose from either the standard Android multitouch keyboard or the special Swype keyboard that lets you spell out words by dragging your finger across the keys.
Underneath the display are four touch-sensitive Android hot keys for the pop-up menu, the home screen, Back, and Search. We tend to prefer physical keys here, but we found them to be responsive with a bit of vibration feedback, so it was still easy to navigate.
On the left spine is the Micro-USB charging port, on the top are a 3.5-millimeter headset jack and the screen lock/power key, and on the right is the volume rocker. The camera lens and LED flash are on the back. The battery cover has a lock to protect the phone's internal area from water damage.
Unlike the Motorola i1, the Defy ships with Android 2.1. Though it's not the latest 2.2 update, version 2.1 is still quite good. You get up to seven home screens as we mentioned, live wallpaper, speech-to-text abilities, voice control, the ability to use more than one Gmail account, and more. There's also a universal in-box feature that houses all of your messages and correspondence in a single list. We're also fans of the universal address book, as it syncs with your social network account to bring in your friends' contact information.