Motorola Defy Mini review

We reviewed the Motorola Defy+ some time ago, and we didn't care for it. Not at all. So when the Defy Mini arrived, we couldn't see our hearts splitting in half with the love. And we aren't sure why it's called the Defy Mini either, because it's not much smaller than the original one.

Design

In terms of styling, little has changed with the Mini over the Defy+. In fact, placed together, the two phones look very similar. If you like the look of the Defy+, that's probably a good thing. We think it's a dark and slightly depressing design.

The screen is noticeably smaller on the Mini, and there's a grille at the bottom that's not present on the Defy+. There are the standard four buttons for Android navigation, on a phone that runs Gingerbread. It won't get an upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich, we promise you that.

As with all the Defy handsets, there's protection from water. So ports and sockets are all covered with little plastic plugs. These are held to the cover, so you won't lose them, and they are reasonably easy to pop out when needed. They don't, however, give you any protection if left out - which means if you drop this phone down the toilet while the headphone cap is out, it may well die like any other phone.

The power button is located on the top, next to the headphone jack. On the right-hand side, there are volume controls and a dedicated camera button. Meanwhile, the left side houses the USB socket, for charging and copying music to the phone.

The screen

Visually, the screen is quite good. It's bright outdoors, and although it's small, the resolution is reasonable. We often find, on these budget phones, that the PPI is too low, and too many compromises have been made with the screen technology. Here, the PPI is average, but there's no blur when you scroll through menus, and that's good.

We did find it too small though. Perhaps we are equipped with a set of sausage fingers, but typing on the Motorola keyboard was a struggle, and we constantly had to let the spell-checker make up for our mistakes. The more dainty fingered might not struggle, but we think most people will have similar issues.

A minor niggle is the depth of the LCD screen from the outer glass. It's quite a large space, and it gives the phone a cheap look. Indeed, we'd say this is one of the things that marks budget phones from premium models. It's the least of our worries here though, and it doesn't cause any problems.

Audio and video quality

Happily, all is well with the quality of audio on the Defy Mini. We streamed some music over our home network, via Plex, and it actually sounded very good on our reference headphones. This is great, because our reference headphones can make low-quality devices sound utterly rubbish. So here, at least, Motorola gets some credit for its audio processing.

Video is more difficult. We weren't able to get the video streaming to work, no matter what we tried - the Motorola DLNA client, Skifta, Plex - we were never able to get a picture on the screen, regardless of the codec used. This is a shame, because that screen is actually quite reasonable and would make for quite good video viewing.

Power and customisation

Motorola has stayed away from heavy tweaks to the OS. The lock screen is genuinely useful. You can see upcoming calendar events, or switch the phone in to, or out of silent mode too. You can also directly access the camera, by flicking the unlock symbol to the left of the screen.

Motorola also provides its connected music player, and this is a nice little app that has more features than the stock Android player. You can find song lyrics and identify music through it - it's a SoundHound system, but totally free. You can also search YouTube for music videos, and connect to Shoutcast internet radio stations. All-in-all, it's a nice piece of software, and another reason that the Motorola will appeal to music fans.

The reason for light customisation is very possibly the low-spec hardware. The Defy Mini is running on a 600MHz CPU and has just 500MB of RAM, with a further 500MB of app storage space. This would have been a great spec for a phone in the 12th century, but now it's a bit cack and not up to the job of running a modern smartphone.

On the plus side, it has a 1750mAh battery, which is pretty epic for a small, low-powered phone. So you should see good battery life. We used ours for 10 hours, and knocked only 25 per cent of the charge, so it's capable enough.

Call quality

Another thing we liked was the call quality. Voice calls are clear and crisp, and there's plenty of volume from the earpiece. Indeed, this phone is easier to make calls with - from an audio perspective - than Motorola's brilliant Razr. So, if you're someone who makes a lot of phone calls, this could be a plus point.

Camera

The camera too, isn't great. Images seem to lack detail, and while I'm sure you could coax a decent image out of it in broad daylight, indoors in normal conditions, it's not brilliant.

The interface is fine though, and using the dedicated camera button to take a photo is handy - not enough phones have proper camera buttons. There's a flash too, but like all LED devices, it's far from perfect and usually produces too much light close up, and nowhere near enough at greater distances.

The biggest problem is the price

Well, actually, the biggest problem is everything. The phone isn't that good. It's not fast, it's not pretty and it's not cheap. But the price is what makes us choke. Sure, if you really need a tough, rugged phone, then you could argue that the Defy Mini makes some sense. But at this price - it's about £160 SIM free - we just wouldn't be happy spending our own money on one. And we're not in the business of telling you to do things we would not.

The issue here, is that the budget phones from ZTE and Huawei are all much better. The T-Mobile Vivacity, Orange San Francisco II and the Huawei G300 are all much nicer, much slicker, and most importantly, more than 50 quid cheaper. Sure, none of those phones is rugged, but are you really so careless with your phone that you need it to survive an apocalypse?

Verdict

There is no reason at all to buy the Defy Mini. Its spec is so underwhelming, that it just can't help but disappoint you. Considering the Defy+ is only another £30, if you really must ignore our advice and get one, you should get the one that is much less rubbish.

Motorola has under-specified this phone in the worst way. Even scrolling around the home screens is a laboured, arduous and annoying process. The screen is too small really, although it's not dreadful quality, and that means those with larger fingers won't have an enjoyable time with it.

It's also worth mentioning that with nano coatings becoming popular, and practical, it won't be long before every new phone in the world is waterproof. And Gorilla Glass makes them all pretty tough too. So really, the Defy goes from being a one-trick pony, to being a pony that's had all of its legs sawn off and whose days of trickery are, sadly, over.