Review: Motorola Defy Mini

14 Jun 2012

The Defy Mini smartphone

The now Google-owned Motorola Mobility claims its new Defy Mini can take whatever life throws at it – as long as life is throwing water, dust and things that scratch screens, that is.

Well, just like the manufacturers claim, the ‘life-proof’ phone did survive a muddy field, the touchscreen stayed responsive in a downpour, and, despite my best efforts, the Corning Gorilla Glass display remains scratch-free.

Rugged features

I was determined to put the compact 109 x 58.5 x 12.6 mm smartphone through its paces because, as a low-end model, these are the features that really make it stand out. In terms of typical smartphone components, you have a 3MP camera and a front-facing VGA camera with adjustable settings, and pre-loaded social networking apps like Facebook, Twitter and Google Talk, and GPS navigation, all powered by Android Gingerbread and a 600MHz processor.

As you may have guessed, the Defy Mini is not the fastest or most powerful phone you’ll ever use – but it certainly is robust. The impenetrable outer shell really is just that. Even just removing the outer cover to get my Sim card in was a struggle. Everything is sealed up tight, with rubber stoppers protecting the USB connection and headphone jack.

Considering how much we Irish use our phones in the rain, and that we all at least know of someone whose phone has suffered from water damage or a cracked screen, this is certainly a welcome feature on an investment-level phone that you don’t want to break as soon as you’ve bought it.

Small, but powerful

With a screen size of 3.2 inches, typing is relatively difficult. Thankfully, the Swype keypad makes this a little easier, though I did still have issues with the keys closest to the outer frame not being responsive to my touch, such as the space bar and other punctuation marks. This wasn’t my only problem with screen responsiveness, either. Perhaps it’s the tougher screen coating or simply my lightness of touch (I have a similar trouble with the Luas touchscreens), but sometimes it would take a few taps to get a reaction.

Starting up, shutting down and even loading apps was slow enough for me to notice, but what it lacks in high-end specs the Defy Mini makes up for in ruggedness and pure battery performance. The large capacity 1650 mAh battery served me well and I reckon you’d get a whole weekend out of this sturdy device if you were using it for minimal day-to-day tasks.

Handy features for outdoor explorers

There’s also an array of handy features that make this little phone a handy helper. MotoSwitch technology learns what songs you love, who you talk to most, and which apps you use regularly, and keeps these close to hand in widgets on your home screen.

These touches are great with a small phone as the more automated and easy-to-use the functions, the better. One feature I quite liked was that the lock screen displays your next upcoming calendar event, which can be very handy if you’re forgetful.

And, lest we forget this phone was made for the outdoors, there’s also Dashboard, a multi-function app that gives you quick access to everything you’d need when camping, hiking or just exercising. On loading Dashboard you can swipe between an exercise tracker, maps, music player and weather service. There are also four customisable buttons for you to jump to whatever you need most, be it the compass, torch, location tracker, FM radio, camera, or voice record function (though what this last one has to do with outdoor pursuits I’m not certain). There’s also an SOS button for you to make quick emergency calls.


You can drop it, get it wet and use it in all conditions, so, with it’s cheaper price point (from €129.99) the Defy Mini could be a handy spare phone to have for travelling or going to festivals. The compact size makes more extensive use difficult, so I wouldn’t recommended this phone for work, though it will get the job done (as long as you’re patient).

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.