Cheapest wireless service available; Unlimited data, calling and texting; Long battery life over Wi-Fi
Weak performance; No MMS messaging; Old version of Android; Inconsistent Wi-Fi calling; Short 3G battery life
With the Motorola Defy XT, Republic Wireless offers unlimited data, voice and texts for just $20 per month, but there's a fair number of kinks in the service.
Signing up for a wireless data contract with one of the big four carriers is an expensive proposition, costing anywhere from $70 to more than $100 per month for voice and data. Republic Wireless hopes to change that paradigm by offering the cheapest plan in America: $19 per month with unlimited data, voice and texts. To get this bargain, though, you must live with 3G speeds and purchase the $259 Motorola Defy XT, which isn't exactly the most cutting-edge Android device. Find out if the trade-offs are worth the rock-bottom monthly price.
Republic Wireless Service
When Republic Wireless first announced its service back in fall 2011, the company said that it would cancel the accounts of any user who consistently used too many cellular minutes and too much 3G bandwidth, but after some public pressure, it reversed its position and said that the plan would provide truly unlimited calling and data. However, it's clear that the company would still prefer that you use Wi-Fi most of the time, even if it can't force you to do so.
If you're on a cellular call and enter a Wi-Fi zone, the phone does not switch the call over to Wi-Fi. However, if you are on a Wi-Fi call and walk out of range, the phone hangs up and automatically redials the number. In our testing, this handoff felt rather abrupt and inconvenient. When talking to a co-worker over Wi-Fi, the voice quality got worse as we walked farther away from the router. When we were down to one bar of signal strength, the phone went quiet but it remained unclear whether our connection had just gotten worse or dropped. Several moments later we looked down and saw that the Defy was redialing the number. We would have preferred some notification that our call had dropped and was being redialed.
In our tests, we found the sound quality and reliability far superior on cellular calls. The first several times we tried to make Wi-Fi calls (using two different networks in different locations), audio either cut in and out or disappeared entirely within a minute of connecting. However, when we tried again the next day, we were able to hold a connection and our call partners reported that our voice sounded clear. Nevertheless, voices were not as clear as on cellular, and there was a noticeable delay between when either caller talked and when the other person heard their words.
Cellular calls sounded excellent -- as good as any we've made on Sprint's network. Audio was crystal clear and there was no significant lag between when a user spoke and the sound was broadcast to the other person. Unless and until the Wi-Fi calling improves, we would recommend that users make their calls over cellular via Republic Wireless, even when they're at home.
The Motorola Defy XT can send and receive SMS messages over Wi-Fi or cellular, but Republic Wireless does not include a dedicated text messaging app. In our testing, SMS messages arrived quickly, but the only way we could initiate a new conversation was to go into the phone dialer and long press on a caller's phone number, then select text messaging.
Republic Wireless does not support MMS messaging, which means that you cannot send or receive photos or videos with your texts. When we sent a photo from another phone to the Defy XT, the message never arrived and did not give either the sender or receiver an error message. Republic Wireless says that MMS is on the company's roadmap.
The bland-looking Defy XT shares the same aesthetic as its ancient ancestor, the 2010 Motorola Defy, with subtly rounded corners, a dark-gray bezel and a black rubbery back. If you pry the back off, you can upgrade the included 2GB microSD card and replace the 1,650 mAH battery. Unfortunately, the phone has port covers obstructing its headphone and microUSB connectors.
Display and AudioSamsung Galaxy S III or 1080p HTC Droid DNA.
Whether we were looking at the home screen or watching a video, colors appeared muted and dull. When we streamed a YouTube trailer for "The Avengers," colors such as the red in Iron Man's armor or the blue in Captain America's shield looked flat. When we played a 720p MP4 trailer for "SkyFall," tones that had popped on other devices (example: the red and blue in a British flag) were lifeless.
OS and Interface
Navigating through the desktop and menus on the Defy XT is like taking a trip back in time to 2011. While most new Android phones come with at least Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich if not Android 4.1 / 4.2 Jelly Bean, the Defy is saddled with the ancient Android 2.3 Gingerbread OS.
In an improvement on stock Android, the notification drawer at the top of the screen shows a horizontally scrollable list of recent apps when you pull it down. The apps menu scrolls vertically and allows you to filter the list by recently used or downloaded apps. Other than that, the Defy XT's implementation of Android 2.3 offers nothing different from Google's stock version.
Tracing words in Swype provided highly accurate results; the keyboard correctly recognized by the name "Avram" rather than autocompleting it as "scream" or "Abram" like other trace keyboards have. Best of all, the Droid XT supports haptic feedback, which gives the keys a nice tactile feel as you hit them.
Visually impaired users can take advantage of Eyes Free keyboard, which provides an on-screen D-pad for moving between fields and reads letters as you type them. With Android's built-in accessibility features enabled, Defy XT not only read our input but also read the names of all icons on screen or every word in a text box.
Flashlight uses the LED flash to light your way. FM radio allows you to tune into stations. MediaSee lets you browse other media files on your network while MediaSer connects you to other DLNA capable devices for media sharing. Compass shows you a graphical compass that rotates as you turn the phone.
While a high-quality YouTube video of "The Avengers" played smoothly, both a 1080p offline trailer for "The Hobbit" and a 720p MP4 trailer for "Skyfall" were as jerky as silent movies. However, we were able to play the Jetskiing game ‘Riptide GP' fairly smoothly.
On Quadrant, a synthetic benchmark that measures overall system performance, the Defy XT scored a mediocre 1,235, well below the 3,478 average, the HTC Evo V 4G's 2,129 mark and the LG Connect 4G's score of 2,307.
The Defy XT provided a similarly weak score on the AN3DBench graphics test, returning a mark of just 6,096. This showing compares unfavorably to the 7,054 category average, the LG Connect 4G's score of 7,404, the HTC Evo V 4G's score of 7,158 and the Kyocera Hydro's mark of 7,380.
In Manhattan, we were able to load Web pages at a reasonable clip over 3G, with Laptopmag.com appearing in 12.3 seconds, the mobile NYTimes.com site in 2.7 seconds and mobile ESPN.com in a modest 8.3 seconds.
We wouldn't recommend taking any important videos with the Defy XT, because its rear-facing camera can only capture at 640 x 480 resolution, a far cry from HD. When we shot a video of cars rolling down a city street, colors were true. But just as with the still shots, the edges of objects were blurry and we could see some visual noise.
[sc:video id="g3cXA1cTo3ijW6dhWowBojvzVad-X6C_" width="575" height="398"]
Pricing and Value
Virgin Mobile, another low-cost contract-free carrier, charges $35 per month for 2.5GB of 3G/4G WiMax data and messaging but only 300 minutes of talk. Android smartphones cost anywhere from $39.99 for a cheap 3G handset to $329.99 for the popular Samsung Galaxy S II with 4G. If you buy the HTC Evo V 4G for $149, Virgin Mobile will cost you $990 over two years, assuming you opt for its least expensive plan.
|Form Factor||Candybar Touchscreen|
|Operating System||Android 2.3.7|
|CPU||1-GHz Qualcomm 7227 (single core)|
|Memory Expansion Type||microSDHC|
|Front Camera Resolution||0.3MP|
|Camera Resolution||5 MP|
|Talk / Standby Time|
|Size||4.5 x 2.3 x .47 inches|
|SAR Rating (Head)|
|SAR Rating (Body)|