If you're a complete and utter klutz and are forever dropping your mobile phone into puddles, drinks and other liquid-filled receptacles, then the Motorola Defy Mini could be the perfect foil for your cack-handed clumsiness.
A cheap-and-cheerful companion to the original Defy (and its supercharged successor, the Defy+), this diminutive handset is water and dust-proof, and comes with a shock-absorbent casing as well as a scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass screen. All in all, it's one tough little customer.
However, beyond the hard-as-nails exterior and bargain basement price -- around £150 SIM-free and unlocked -- the Defy Mini is a bundle of compromises. It's packing an anaemic processor, a 3-megapixel camera and a small 3.2-inch touchscreen -- none of which will endear it to those who crave the very latest tech in their trouser pocket. It's also saddled with Android 2.3, which is no longer the most hip and happening iteration of Google's mobile operating system.
Should I buy the Motorola Defy Mini?
Don't go mistaking the Defy Mini for a possible upgrade to your existing -- and most likely battle-damaged -- Defy. This scaled-down device represents a route into smart phone ownership for younger, less experienced types.
Compared to other low-cost Android models, the Defy Mini doesn't offer any tangible technological benefits -- the 600MHz CPU is distinctly last-generation, and although the 3-megapixel camera takes decent shots, it only shoots video in 480x640-pixel resolution. What makes Motorola's pint-sized challenger appealing is its ability to absorb life's knocks without batting an eyelid.
Long-suffering parents who are sick to death of constantly replacing their child's phone because it got dropped/fell in a puddle/was chewed by the dog (delete as appropriate), will be pleased to learn that the Defy Mini is built to take such trials and tribulations. As such, it's the perfect kid-proof smart phone. And the one thing that won't break is the bank.
Design and build
Like its older and larger siblings, the big draw of the Defy Mini is its ability to withstand more punishment than the average smart phone. Blessed with the power to repel dust and water, this low-cost Android device is perfect for clumsy users and will survive a drop onto the floor better than most.
Such robust protection does come with some caveats. Although the Defy Mini is small, it's surprisingly thick at 12.5mm -- thanks to the chunky nature of the protective casing. Another drawback is that getting the back cover off is like cracking a safe -- no doubt a side-effect of the handset's impressive water-resistant capabilities. Don't expect to have any nails left if you plan on opening the phone regularly.
Finally, there's the annoyance of the plastic covers on the micro-USB and 3.5mm headphone ports. These obviously have to create a completely watertight seal when fitted, but their flimsy nature does little to inspire confidence. I dare say that after a few months, both will be loose and ineffectual.
Motorola has got some things right with the design of the Defy Mini though. The inclusion of a dedicated camera button makes me happier than it probably should do, and the LED notification light in the top-right corner of the screen is welcome. With the latter, you can quickly see if you have an unread message without having to actually activate your screen.
Performance and internal storage
With 1GHz processors becoming commonplace on entry-level Android phones, Motorola's decision to shove a pathetically weak 600MHz CPU inside the Defy Mini is incredibly disappointing. Backed by just 512MB of RAM, this minnow of a chip struggles to cope with even the most basic of tasks. Just moving from one home screen to another is a stutter-packed affair, and rarely does the phone's user interface feel slick or responsive.
When you consider that companies like Huawei are putting 1GHz CPUs into handsets that cost less than £100 such as the Ascend G300, the Defy Mini's lack of technological grunt is unforgiveable.
The phone's internal storage capacity is similarly dire, with only 160MB of user space available for applications and games. Android's built-in ability to store some app data on the microSD card helps that meagre amount go a little further, but you'll still find that it fills up quicker than a newly-opened branch of Primark. The 2GB card that is included with the phone will serve for a short while, but you'll want to upgrade pronto if you plan to flood the device with candid snaps and toe-tapping tunes.
Motorola is really lagging behind when it comes to getting its portfolio onto Android 4.0, so it should come as no surprise whatsoever to discover that the Defy Mini is sporting Gingerbread rather than Ice Cream Sandwich. To be brutally honest, I doubt the 600MHz CPU could even handle the demands placed upon it by the latest version of Google's OS, so it's probably for the best.
Naturally, you're looking at a skinned version of Android here. Motorola's MotoSwitch UI is spread liberally across that Gingerbread biscuit, and despite the company's less-than-stellar reputation for proprietary user interfaces, it actually brings some neat ideas to the table.
For starters, I love the fact that you can jump straight to the camera from the lock screen -- something that Android 4.0 does by default. Another bonus is the Activity Graph and Social Graph widgets. Once activated, these show your most popular applications and contacts respectively -- sort of like the 'recent items' list you'd find on your desktop computer. What's more, these icons expand and contract in relation to how often you use an app or call someone.
The gargantuan Galaxy Nexus and HTC One X are pushing the envelope as far as screen size is concerned, and after handling those mobile monsters, the Defy Mini's 3.2-inch display feels like a postage stamp. The good news is that it's bright and generally bold, with reasonable viewing angles. It's also capacitive, which means in theory it should be more responsive than a pressure-based resistive variant.
The bad news is that despite the capacitive tech, the screen isn't all that sensitive to touch. It often takes a second prod to register an input -- a problem that's exacerbated by the small size of the screen. Granted, the Defy Mini is petite enough to be used with just one hand, but making precise touchscreen selections is a nightmare, and typing is hardly a pleasant experience either. Motorola is clearly aware of this and has made the smart move of including Swype as the default keyboard, but even so, the dinky display does its best to cramp your text input style.
Camera and video
The Defy Mini's 3-megapixel camera may not sound like much on paper but the quality of the shots it captures is surprisingly decent.
Colours are strong and image clarity is great. Although the megapixel count is rather low, the Deft Mini's snapper is more than adequate for grabbing pictures to post on Facebook and Twitter.
Video recording is rather less appealing, however. You're limited to 480x640-pixel resolution and the footage is fuzzy and ill-defined. The sole positive is that videos boast quite smooth playback -- something that can't always be said for Android devices with HD recording.
Internet and battery life
Despite the lowly processor, the Defy Mini's browser boasts Adobe Flash support, although it's not installed as standard so you'll need to grab it from the Google Play app market. In practice, it's more of a hindrance than a benefit. Pages that contain Flash content take a while to load and cause the browser to stutter and pause. Besides, Flash on mobiles is dead now -- or haven't you heard?
The phone's 1,650mAh rechargeable battery is rated for around 10 hours of talk time and approximately 20 days on standby. The latter figure is clearly based on the phone just idling and not performing any tasks at all. In reality, heavy users will have the Defy Mini gasping for a top-up within around a day or two. Actual stamina will depend largely on how you use it, but the handset's modest power demands do allow it to last longer than some of its big-money rivals -- such as the juice-guzzling HTC One X.
It's hard to believe that a leading manufacturer like Motorola is releasing an Android phone with a 600MHz processor in 2012. A little extra power under the bonnet would have worked wonders for the Defy Mini. A 1GHz chip is arguably the minimum most buyers would expect these days, and I've already seen budget blowers packing that kind of firepower.
Despite its lack of muscle, the Defy Mini remains a likeable device. Its tiny size allows it to slip into your pocket with relative ease, and the sturdy construction means that it's ideal for butter-fingered individuals. Water and dust protection -- combined with a super-strong screen -- add to the phone's considerable craving for danger, adventure and excitement.
When you take the Defy Mini's low retail price into account, it's a little easier to forgive its lack of brute processor strength. While I can't imagine it will get your pulse racing if you've owned a more powerful Android device, the Defy Mini is perhaps suited to younger users, thanks to that tough exterior and pocket money price tag.