Motorola isnt the first company to offer toughened cellphones.

Given the popularity of hulking SUVs, mountain bikes and the outdoor lifestyle I’m surprised makers of cellphones, cameras and other electronic gadgets don’t make more rugged, “life proof” versions of their products.

And as any couch potato who’s dropped their phone in the loo can attest to, you don’t have to be an extreme sports junkie to appreciate the value of a water resistant handset.

The cynic in me says the more gadgets we break by dropping or dunking, the more replacements the manufacturers get to sell us. But, deep down, I’d like to believe there are companies who’ve identified the genuine gap in the market that making theirs of sterner stuff presents.

It was a belief I was pleased to have confirmed the other day when a package arrived from Motorola. Inside was the handset maker’s Defy+, a water, shock and scratch resistant Android phone.

Now Motorola isn’t the first company to offer toughened cellphones. Sonim has been making waterproof, shockproof and dustproof phones for soldiers, oil rig workers, mountaineers and other rugged types for years. But they’re rubbery, bulky things more suited to the battlefield than the office or campus where ordinary people spend the majority of our time between kayaking or bungee jumping.

The Defy+, by contrast, looks like any other medium sized smartphone at first glance. Look a little closer and you’ll notice the exposed screws and latches and the plastic plugs protecting the headphone socket and micro-USB. It gives the phone a subtly industrial feel without adding bulk – it slips easily into the pocket of a pair of jeans.

But just how tough is it? I wasted no time putting Motorola’s claims to the test in a series of challenges designed to simulate real world scenarios.

I started off fairly gingerly, holding it under a running tap just to get a feel for its water-off-a-duck’s-back properties. Then I popped it into a glass half filled with water, simulating I’m not sure what – a drunken dare, perhaps?

Encouraged by the Defy+’s failure to implode, I moved onto some tougher tests.

I dropped it into a sink filled with soapy water and dishes then fumbled around for a few seconds to find it (washday whoops); I dropped it in a full bathtub then fished it out (bathtime blues); jumped into a swimming pool with it in my pocket (pool party plunge); made a call from the shower (monsoon conference call) and, for my piece de resistance, dropped it in the sand on the beach and let the waves wash over it (beachfront butterfingers).

The phone survived all the tests – any one of which would have killed an ordinary phone – with aplomb. I did not leave it underwater for more than 10 seconds at a time, nor did I subject it to severe shock tests like dropping it down a flight of concrete stairs. After all, Motorola made it clear that the phone isn’t shockproof or waterproof, just resistant.

But what my tests did make clear is that the Defy+ is easily up to the challenges most ordinary people will subject their phones to in the course of an active lifestyle.

Of course, there’s more to a phone than its ability to survive life’s knocks and bruises. Unfortunately I wasn’t as impressed by the Defy+’s performance as a smartphone, finding the 3.7 inch touchscreen display a little dull, even at full brightness, and fairly sluggish to respond.

In its defence, I had just come from using a top-end Android smartphone, so my expectations were probably a little high.

And there’s a lot to like about this little Motorola. With Android 2.3 under the hood you have access to literally hundreds of thousands of apps from the Android Market, recently renamed the Play Store.

The 5 megapixel camera takes great snaps in optimal daylight conditions, although its low light and video recording abilities are pretty uninspiring – to be fair, a shortcoming it shares with many other phones.

Battery life is good, thanks to a fairly generous 1700mAh battery. I easily eked out a full day’s use from it, no mean feat as anyone with a smartphone that uses all its features knows. At a recommended selling price of R2 800 it’s also pretty good value. - Sunday Tribune