Welcome to our first blog post reviewing a new mobile handset out kindly supplied by Telstra.
The decision of purchasing a mobile these days is a total minefield. Not only are you deciding what handset and functionality you need, there’s also what operating system and type of plan you may need, not only now, but into the future. There’s no doubt mobiles available on the market today are mini computers. So we hope in upcoming blog posts we can give you an objective view on how we found giving one of them a test run so you can work out what may suit you rather than relying on the advice of a slick salesman who’s out for a quick sale.
As the youngest and quite possibly geekiest team member of The Creative Collective, I was honored to have the job of reviewing this first mobile – a MotoDefy put out by Motorola.
One of the first things I was surprised to discover was its claim to be ‘life proof’ and specifically detailed on the back of the box ‘dust proof, water-resistant and scratch resistant because accidents happen’. This got my attention immediately as have the TV ads I’ve since seen claiming it’s ‘party proof’. I love my iPhone but I certainly can’t drop it in a glass of water, let alone smash it around (like unfortunately I have) or be loose with it at a party.
The next big feature is the fact it’s an Android device. Android is a platform that burst onto the scene in 2010, sky rocketing past Apple and its flag ship iPhone to take almost 10% more market share. The platform – bought out by search engine juggernaut Google in 2005 – shipped 20 million units within the past 12 months making it the second highest selling smartphone operating system in the world to close out the decade.
For many of you that are reading this, I’m assuming you are shocked that there are alternatives to your iPhone, Blackberry or if you are unfortunate enough to own a Nokia device running Symbian. Let me tell you, there is another option out there.
When it comes to smart phones in 2011, I predict Android will dominate the market. While Apple will release the fifth iteration of its trademark product the iPhone; Blackberry will likely release a handful of outdated business handsets while other companies will try to innovate – such as the newly Palm webOS by HP, the trend started by Android in 2010 is set to continue.
The difference between Android and other operating systems is the flexibility and openness of the software. Hardware makers such as Apple and RIM (Blackberry) have developed their own software for their own hardware, while Android can operate on multiple handsets such as LG, Samsung, Acer, HTC, Lenovo, Sony, Dell, Toshiba and Motorola.
Out of the box
But back to the phone. Fresh on the market here in Australia, the MotoDefy is a rugged and practical phone with more of a potential market here than most places in the world given the active and outdoors Aussie lifestyle, penchant for partying and do we even mention the floods???
The touch screen display, measuring 3.7-inch is high resolution and is, as we mentioned earlier, scratch resistant. This display provides a great view of all of your favorite media, websites and apps from the Android marketplace. For those of you looking for a decent camera built in to the phone, the MotoDefy will match the best camera on the market – the iPhone 4.
The software on the MotoDefy is called Motoblur, a ‘skin’ which runs over the top of the Android allowing the handset providers (Motorola) to brand and sponsor applications. Service providers (i.e. Telstra) have also been known to put specific visual items and dedicated apps capable of such things as Internet TV and News.
In playing with it, I loved the way Motoblur handles notifications. While it’s not perfect it’s definitely better (dare I say it!) than the iPhone. I love the notification LED that flashes when you receive a message, email, etc. or when your battery is running low. This function keeps your screen nice and clear of clutter, while with just a swipe of the top menu bar, an entire list of alerts drops down. Motoblur is relatively unique in the way it displays this information.
It also allows for an extremely social experience by integrating your Facebook, twitter, Last FM, Photobucket, Google and Bigpond accounts, just to name a few, with the operating system and place widgets on your home screen. Linking up with Google services such as Docs, Calendar and of course Gmail is also an extreme advantage of choosing Android, as it’s all under the Google umbrella. Another cool feature comes with contacts: it will literally suck all of your friends out of Facebook and place them in your address book. This includes their phone numbers, emails, the whole deal. No download, import and general stuffing around.
But the real story here is the durability of the device. With the back of the device covered in a soft grip like rubber which has a rubber seal underneath to protect the battery, the Telstra Next G Sim Card, 2GB microSD and other internal components will remain water tight.
On the case of water resistance, the back cover is a little hard to put back on if removed. You really need to make sure that the phone is sealed up tight when the plastic slider is used to lock it down or else you could find yourself in a position bragging to your friends that your phone is water resistant and end up red-faced.
What it looks like
The sides have seven torque screws which wrap the edges; holding the phone together, giving the phone a slightly industrial design look, which we like. The version we reviewed came in jet black.
On the top of the phone is a standard 3.5mm headphone jack and on the left, a mini USB port which doubles as the charging port. To keep water out of these ports, Motorola has added covers, which at times can be a bit annoying; but importantly, they will keep your phone alive. In particular the headphone jack is covered by a rubber plug that pops up. If you’re a music listener this could be a bit annoying as it dangles there when something is inserted.
Other than that, the only physical buttons on the device are a volume rocker and a lock button which are positioned in the logical places. However, when we first got our hands on it, we did have trouble finding the lock button among all the black next to the headphone jack. The MotoDefy also has four standard Android LED touch buttons for options such as home, back and search.
The screen is made out of Gorilla glass, which makes it even more durable; as if water proof and drop resistant wasn’t enough. It’s a fairly crisp screen, although nothing to write home about as I might be spoiled by my iPhone 4’s retina display. It does look better than most other phones I’ve handled and is for the most part, extremely responsive. Although it does lag slightly in certain situations such as scrolling through applications or sending a text; the lag does appear to be quite random. Since I have been a dedicated iPhone user since 2008, I have become accustomed to such things as scrolling with Inertia, meaning if you swipe a list, it should theoretically stop where you think it would stop. Scrolling on the MotoDefy seems to be rather jumpy and unpolished.
Possibly the coolest feature I have seen on any phone in a long time might just be the Moto Phone Portal. This is a feature that allows you to access your entire phone settings, contacts, messages, call records, photos, documents and files on any local computer via web browser. Through this service you can do anything from change your ringtone to send a text message, all through USB or WiFi. This very cool feature also lets you know your signal strength, battery level and available storage. Very handy if you have to send that long text message or want to retrieve photos wireless.
This paired with other stock features such as a built in QR code reader, Quickoffice and a Cardock – the MotoDefy comes jam packed with great hardware and software.
Whilst I may sound harsh in some parts of this review, all in all, this phone does perform really well. It has great software, it looks good, and it’s tougher than Chopper Read.
Unlike other phones made of plastic and rubber, it doesn’t feel cheap. It feels extremely sturdy and the weight feels good in your hand.
So who would it suit? The MotoDefy is without a doubt the best option currently available on the market for a tradie looking to get a smart phone in his tool belt; anyone working in or near water (fisherman, life saver, Mums at home with curious kids) and generally active outdoorsy people. Inevitably it’s going to be dropped, scratched or get wet; but this phone can definitely take a beating. The reception was outstanding, far surpassing my iPhone in bars where ever I went.
All of that is pretty impressive for a relatively cheap smartphone (a mobile which can access the internet and collect emails) which you can pick up for $600 outright or on a Telstra cap plan starting at $49.
To find out more contact:
Telstra Business Centre Sunshine Coast
144 Horton Parade, Maroochydore
Phone: 1300 881 800
• Water and dust resistant
• 3.7” scratch resistant touch screen, with pinch to zoom
• Powered by Android™ 2.1 with MOTOBLUR® and access to the Android Market™
• 5 mega-pixel camera with flash