Motorola Defy Mini Outdoors Phone Review

Motorola recently released the Motorola Defy Mini, which is essentially a budget version of the Defy outdoors phone. The Defy range are mobiles that are sold as ‘life proof’, that is they offer some resistance to water, dust and general rough and tumble. The original Defy served me well, but I replaced the battery with an extended one and the replacement battery cover wasn’t waterproof. I seriously doubt that even with the waterproof cover it would have survived an hour’s swimming anyway.

So to replace that phone, I needed something cheap and unlocked whilst ideally being suitable for taking on the mountains and for the occasional run. For a shade under £85 at Amazon a month ago, it’s over £125 now, this seemed the ideal choice. It also ran a more recent version of Android (2.3) than my recently trashed phone, so this was somewhat of an upgrade, although with the most recent version being 4.1 this really is an outdated version and should have been supplied with Ice Cream Sandwich.

For your money, you get a capable Android smartphone, that’s light, compact and ideally suited to take on outdoor trips. There’s a camera, but one that’s only 3 Megapixels and produces video that’s hardly groundbreaking. That can be an issue if you like to share the occasional image over Twitter and the like. The screen is bright, but the resolution is rather poor if you’re used to larger smartphones. While I could browse most sites comfortably on the Defy, the Mini lacks the screen resolution at 480×320 to do so effectively and you need to pan about most sites. The video below gives you an indication of what we’re working with here, I heard 2004 rang and want their camera back.


One of the key features for me was the Mobile Hotspot feature, that allows me to set up the Defy Mini as a wi-fi hotspot. That means that I can connect to the internet with my non-3G tablets so long as I’ve got a mobile phone signal. I’ve used this setup camping and travelling, and it was one I couldn’t really do without. We also love the Activity and Social Graph widgets that automatically display your most popular contacts and apps in one easy to find widget.

I shan’t go into the ins and outs of the operating system here, but with use the phone has only shown a couple of drawbacks. Unfortunately, they have the potential to make this phone a bad buy. I find the phone is slightly on the slow side, and the response time isn’t great. However, the main gripe I have is that within a week the phone was complaining that the memory was almost full. Considering that I have a 16GB card installed, that should never be a problem. The issue is that it defaults to storing apps on the internal memory, which is woefully inadequate.

While you can opt to move the apps onto the SD Card, this isn’t always an option for some of the pre-installed bloatware that I’ll never use (I don’t need Facebook on my phone thank you) and surprisingly for some apps installed from Google Play, including some Adobe apps and Spotify which only install on the paltry internal memory. I’m sure the more techy users can clear these out if needed, but anyone who’s that enthusiastic about their phones probably wouldn’t buy this in the first place. So the slightly technophobic first time user that’s likely to buy the phone (unlike the cheapskate technophile I am) who decide to install a few apps might find their adventure suddenly halted by a lack of memory.

Beyond that, it’s a perfectly capable outdoors phone that has a respectable battery life of a couple of days’ reasonable usage (browsing, phone calls and so on, but your mileage might vary). It’s rugged and water-resistant, though the open grille design near the mouthpiece and the base of the battery cover make it look rather leaky. However, we tested it fully immersed and it was fine, just ensure that all the port covers are tightly in place before trying this at home!

If you’re looking for a basic smartphone for outdoor use, and you don’t need all the latest bells or whistles then the Defy Mini is one of your few options. However, the internal memory is inadequate if you like your apps, and the phone was replaced the minute I had to uninstall system essentials (e.g. Flash) in order to update the system. Only buy this if you don’t intend on adding many (or any?!) apps – which is a shame as it’s a decent phone otherwise.

If you want more info on the ins and outs of the mobile then here are a few more reviews:

Tech Radar

C/Net

Expert Reviews

Dave Roberts

Dave Roberts founded Walk Eryri in 2004, with the aim of providing routes that are off the beaten track. Walk Eryri is now part of Mud and Routes which continues to provide more off beat routes and walks in Snowdonia and beyond. Dave has been exploring the hills of Eryri for over thirty years, and is a qualified Mountain Leader.
Dave also established Walk up Snowdon, Walk up Scafell Pike and Walk up Ben Nevis just to mention a few.

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