Good things come in small packages, so we're told. Motorola's Defy Mini takes the core parts of the Defy experience -- most notably its rugged build -- and drops it into a smaller form factor with a much lower asking price. Does that equate to good value?
Why It Matters
While it's easy to get caught up in the hype around the Samsung Galaxy S III, HTC One X/XL , Nokia Lumia 900 or whatever the next iPhone will be, that's not where the vast majority of the phone market lies. The mass market tends towards affordable phones, and that's what the $199 Motorola Defy Mini is. Unlike the original Defy and Defy Plus, the Mini's not a Telstra phone, but an Optus one; your $199 purchase price also includes $30 of call value.
What I Liked
The Mini's a tiny wee thing, which happens pretty naturally when you've got a 3.2 inch display screen. This makes it very easy to slip into a pocket and forget about, so if you're one of the type (or know one) who bemoan phones that "aren't just phones" any more, the Defy Mini could fit the bill quite well.
It's small, but slightly thick at 12.55mm at the sides; this is mostly because it's very solidly constructed, like the rest of the Defy line. It's water and scratch resistant, with a gorilla glass covering, and Motorola hasn't skimped on the battery either, with a 1650mAh battery underneath the screen that keeps the Defy Mini going throughout the day. I didn't hammer it during my testing time quite as hard as other more alluring phones, but I never hit that terrible point at around 2pm on a given day when you realise the phone's not going to make it home to a charger.
There's an obvious point to be made here; plenty of people like larger phones -- models such as the Galaxy Note or HTC One X, for example. That's fine, but the reverse is arguably true, and if you're after a petite phone, the Defy Mini might suit you very well indeed. There are some tradeoffs for that, which I'll get to shortly.
I didn't test the Defy Mini to the point of destruction, but it survived a number of test splashes, a couple of bounces down a set of stairs, a quick test bounce off a brick and being chucked into a bag with a set of keys without fussing. Or in other words, if you're one of the many, many Gizmodo readers who admitted that your phones regularly take suicide dives into the toilet, the Defy Mini might be a suitable choice.
Motorola's also taken the rather harsh lessons it learned through the whole MotoBLUR fiasco to heart; the Defy Mini's software set is relatively light, with included MotoSwitch (to collect your most commonly used apps and links) and integrated GPS as selling points, along with a variety of Optus applications. Again, that's pretty standard fare for the prepaid market, and this is a cheap prepaid phone.
What I didn't like
A phone with a 3.2 inch screen is always going to be a little compromised when it comes to screen real estate, and nobody buying the Mini should be under any illusions when it comes to that level of performance. Where the Mini does struggle is with its rather lacklustre 600Mhz processor and 512MB of RAM; this means that for almost any given task, you're going to have to put up with a fair bit of lag. Out of sheer curiosity, I ran Quadrant past the Defy Mini; its returned score of 912 was far below any of today's high or even middle-end smartphone options. It's also still a Gingerbread phone, and Motorola's been notably tardy in getting updates out to its customer base. I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for an update to this particular model.
The Defy Mini's 3 megapixel camera might have passed for workable a couple of years back, but in 2012, it's a bit of a mess. Low light areas are an invitation to introduce grain, colour balance is highly dodgy, and even reviewing the shots you've taken is an exercise in testing your patience.
Should You Buy One?
It should be pretty clear that I'm not likely to rush out and buy a Defy Mini, but then I'm about as far away from the target market as it's possible to be. At $199 it's quite fairly priced for a very solid smartphone for the average use market -- as long as you know what you're buying and what you won't get.
Motorola Defy Mini
OS: Android 2.3.6 Screen: 3.2-inch 480x320 Processor: 600Mhz Single Core RAM: 512MB Storage: 512MB/MicroSD Dimensions: 109x58.5x12.55mm Camera: 3MP rear Battery: 1650mAh Weight: 107g