Motorola impressed us a year or so ago when it introduced the Defy. It was a rugged, waterproof smartphone that actually looked quite sleek and had all the smartphone essentials. It then followed this up with the slightly faster Defy+ at the tale end of 2011, and we liked that model too. Now it's expanded the line further with the Defy Mini, which is a smaller even cheaper version available for around £150. But while Motorola has got some things right, this handset is also deeply flawed.
Waterproofing and Toughness
Perhaps the biggest failing of the Defy Mini is that it isn't all that tough, or more specifically waterproof. Where the original Defy could survive a dunking, it would appear from our testing that the Defy Mini cannot. The key here is that the Defy was rated to IP67, which means it is completely sealed against dust and can survive in up to metre of water. On the Defy Mini, however, this official stamp of approval has disappeared.
Not at first realising this we put the phone to the same mild dunking test as we did with both the Defy and Defy+, and the result was a rather soggy phone – inside and out. After drying the phone out all seemed well until we tried to interact with the touchscreen, whereupon it simply failed to respond.
Clearly this is a little embarrassing for us, as we didn't read the small print, but it's a worse situation for Motorola. The distinction on Motorola's website between the toughness of the Defy Mini and its larger siblings is absolutely minimal and the page title of the official site proudly proclaims the phone water-resistant, so the likelihood many punters will mistakenly buy this phone thinking it offers the same protection as the Defy and Defy+ seems high. The result? Potentially many unhappy customers.
So perhaps the key question is just what can the Defy Mini survive? Well, it doesn't have an official IP rating that we know of so it's hard to nail down but we would hazard that this device actually conforms to the IP65 standard. This infers the device is resistant to jets of water hitting the phone from any angle, but not complete submersion. Essentially, it's rain and shallow puddle proof – not a device for taking kayaking.
As for its actual toughness, the body is finished in rugged plastic that certainly seems capable of surviving a few bounces on concrete. The battery cover also has a latch, which should prevent it flying off and exposing the innards when dropped. The final piece of the puzzle is that the screen uses scratch and crack resistant Gorilla Glass.
Design and Features
So the Motorola Defy Mini isn't the toughest phone in the world but otherwise it just about fits the camping-phone bill. It is indeed smaller and lighter than your average handset, making it perfect for keeping your camping clobber as small and lightweight as possible. It's also potentially easier for children to handle, so if you're looking for a cheap, tough phone that'll survive play time in the sand pit, it's a possible option. That said, it is actually 2mm taller than the Defy and Defy+, so presumably its mini claims come from the fact it's 0.8mm thinner.
Style wise, it's not ugly but hardly inspiring either. It's a device of function, not form.
Round the sides, completing the rugged credentials are rubber flaps covering the headphone and microUSB ports. It's a bit of a pain having to flip these out the way all the time to plug in your headphones or put your phone on charge but needs must. Elsewhere you've got a 3megapixel camera on the back with an LED flash, and there's even a hardware button on the side for taking snaps. You also get volume buttons on the left and screen lock/power on the top edge. As the phone's small it's nice and easy to reach all these controls and the full expanse of the screen, which is more than can be said for most phones these days.
One let down here, though, is the use of touch buttons underneath the screen. These work well in normal conditions but can become a bit sporadic in the wet, as indeed can the touchscreen (even when still working). The larger Defys also suffered with this but the Sony Ericsson Xperia Active gets round this, so that may be your best choice if this is a major concern.