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My time with a Motorola Defy Android smartphone

I have wanted an Android phone ever since I saw the Nexus One. Being an IT guy, I rely heavily on my mobile phone. It needs to be both a phone and a computer with email and internet support being critical. When I ditched my old telco, I also upgraded to a new phone, in my case, after a lot of research, I settled on a Motorola Defy running Google Android 2.1. Some of my experiences relate to Android, some to the phone hardware, some to the Motorola software, some to the telco modifications. I have also applied the upgrade to Android 2.2 (Froyo).

Motorola DefyI decided on the Motorola Defy for a couple of reasons but mainly because it had been specifically built to be a bit more physically robust than a lot of Android smartphones. If I was going to sign up for a two year plan, I wanted a phone that at least stood a chance of making it. To protect it a bit more, I added a hard case and screen protector. Unfortunately Invisible Shield don’t have a Defy option yet but I will get one as soon as they do.

First annoyances included the need to sign up for a MotoBlur ID. I dont need yet another “ID” but you dont have an option if you want to use the phone. When you start it up, it also asks for your Google account details and then promptly syncs with your Google accounts which I didnt want as I dont use my google account for work. If you are quick, you can disable Google sync for contacts, email and Calendar. Once set up, I sync’ed it with my MS Exchange account (my work one) and that seemed to go well until I realised that the Motoblur system mixes up all your email accounts into a single “mailbox” widget for “convenience”. Second time around I made sure I only had my Exchange sync in place as it made it difficult to switch between accounts. Finally, battery life was miserable. I was not expecting great things considering that it is a mobile computer but less than a day with email and Bluetooth was a bit poor. I had to buy an in car charger.

The Android Marketplace is great, easy to use with heaps of apps both free and commercial. I installed a few utilities and have been happy with the speed and performance of them. The Advanced Task Killer is very useful if the phone starts to slow down to quickly free up memory. I do this manually, it is not recommended to use automated task killers. I use Juice Defender as well to greatly improve battery life (it doubles it) to about a day and a half with email and BT running.

Upgrading to Froyo required a factory reset to become stable, until then, things were quite flakey. After the upgrade my email sync seems to pause for periods of time for no reason but the phone is more stable and smooth than Android 2.1.

Bluetooth performance is great, it has far better range and stability with my BlueAnt BT headset than my old Nokia, call quality is also excellent. The built in camera is pretty good and takes good photos when the light is OK but struggles a bit in low light. There is no front camera for video calls which is a bit of an oversight. Call volume and ringer volume are good and while there have been reports of some Defy’s having main speaker issues (connection to the motherboard problem), I have not had this issue.

The Wifi Hotspot option works well when I need wireless internet on my laptop and the internal SIM card (different carrier) is not up to the task. However it does seem to turn off after a very short period of no use, even though I have told it not to.

Finally, I wish I could jailbreak the phone and have a generic OS on it, it made a huge difference to my old Nokia. Unfortunately as a Telstra customer, the phone has specific firmware to utilise the 850mHz Next-G network and so far (as far as I know), this has not been replicated in any generic firmware. Hopefully Telstra don’t wait as long to release Android 2.3 for the Defy as they did 2.2 but there is a good chance they wont even bother.

Posted in: Communications