Battle of the Rugged Android Smartphones: Motorola DEFY+ VS. Samsung Galaxy Xcover VS. Sony Ericsson Xperia Active

by: LucianAugust 28, 2011

I have a dream, and that dream is that a few years from now, most smartphones will be “rugged”,  which means being water resistant, dust-proof, scratch-proof, and last but not least, shock resistant. If the phone still looks good, it’s not much more expensive than without those features, then who wouldn’t want their phones to be like that?


Smartphones are becoming such important tools in our lives that we can’t live without, even more so than we can live without our PC’s or notebooks. We have them everywhere with us, and they keep us connected wherever we go. But because of that and because we keep these phones on average about 2 years, it also happens that we drop them by mistake, or we spill the cup of coffee all over them, or we drop them in sand at the beach, and so on, our phones can become damaged beyond repair just from one little random accident like that. We might lose our contact data and any other data and media we had in it, too. So in my opinion, it makes perfect sense to have these phones built like tanks to protect them against the environment and small accidents.

Last year, we saw the first Android smartphone that was built like that – the Motorola DEFY, which besides the tough construction, it had a very good price (around $300) for its features, such as: 800 Mhz OMAP 3610 chip (Cortex A8) with PowerVR SGX530 GPU, 2 GB internal storage, 512 MB RAM, and 3.7″ display with a 854×480 resolution.

This year we actually have 3 contenders in the rugged smartphone space: the sequel to DEFY, the Motorola DEFY+, the Samsung Galaxy Xcover, and the Sony Ericsson Xperia Active. Let’s see how these phones stack up against each other.

Motorola DEFY+

Motorola DEFY+ is really not that different from the original DEFY. It has a 25% faster CPU, clocked at 1 Ghz, and it comes with Android 2.3. Also the white version now has a complete white frame on the side and front, where the original one still had the front frame as black. These are pretty much the only differences. But it might not be so bad if it comes at the same price the DEFY is currently selling, and rumors say that it will. It should sell in Germany next month for 269 Euro.

Availability: September 2011

OS: Android 2.3

SoC: 1 Ghz OMAP 3620

Display: 3.7″, 854×480, Gorilla Glass

Internal storage: 2GB

RAM: 512 MB

Camera: 5 MP, [email protected], dual-LED flash

Connectivity: Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, DLNA, Bluetooth 2.1

Battery: 1700 mAh, Li-Po

Dimensions: 107 x 59 x 13.4 mm

Weight: 118 g

Samsung Galaxy Xcover

Samsung, just like Motorola, has been making rugged phones for a while (their Ruby line), but so far they haven’t made a rugged Android smartphone, so this one is their first. From the looks of it, they wanted to keep a pretty slim design as well, and from its specs we can assume that it’s going to be priced at the lower range, so it will be more affordable to a lot more people. I’m guessing it will be priced under 200 euro/dollars (unlocked).

Availability: October 2011

OS: Android 2.3

SoC: 800 MHz Marvell MG2

Display: 3.65″, 480×320, Gorilla Glass

Internal storage: 150 MB

RAM: 512 MB

Camera: 3.2 MP, LED flash, [email protected] (unknown, but very likely)

Connectivity: Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 3.0

Battery: Unknown

Dimensions: 122 x 66 x 12 mm

Weight: 116 g

Sony Ericsson Xperia Active

It seems that Sony Ericsson are seeing the potential of these rugged smarphones, too, and they want to enter this market. The specs look pretty good, but without having the price, too, they don’t mean much. I also don’t think this phone will be positioned at the market at large, but rather at a certain market of workers that would find useful carrying the phone around their neck, rather than in pocket. Everyone else, might not like that design “feature” that allows you to do that.

Availability: September 2011

OS: Android 2.3

SoC: 1 Ghz Qualcomm MSM8255 Snapdragon

Display: 3.0″, 480×320, Scratch-resistant, Bravia engine display

Internal storage: 320 MB

RAM: 512 MB

Camera: 5 MP, LED flash, 720p recording, front-camera available

Connectivity: Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 3.0

Battery: 1200 mAh, Li-Ion

Dimensions: 92 x 55 x 16.5 mm

Weight: 110.8 g


Regardless of pricing, I’d say the Motorola DEFY+ is the best one out of the 3. What I like most about it is that it has a good Cortex A8 CPU, with a large enough resolution (854×480) that allows you to play most 3D games out there, and for its 3.7″, it’s very compact. It’s actually smaller in size than some 3.2″ phones out there. The battery is also pretty huge, at 1700 mAh, and Motorola already has some of the best talk-time in phones, so if you care a lot about battery life in phones, this one is for you.

I also like that it has a 2 GB internal storage. I don’t like how most low-end phones these days only have like 150 MB internal storage. That’s like a crime against the buyer, no matter how techie or non-techie he is. It’s especially bad if he is not a techie, because he won’t even know what to do when he realizes he has no more app space, soon after he bought it. I wish Google would force manufacturers to put at least 500 MB of internal storage in all phones, no matter how low-end.

But if you think you’re ok with that, and you want a less expensive, but even better looking rugged phone, then the Samsung Galaxy Xcover should be a great choice as well. I just hope it will come with a decent battery life as well.

Hopefully, starting next year, we’ll see Motorola and Samsung try to make most of their new devices water resistant, dust-proof, scratch and shock resistant, which basically means they need the IP67 certification, which all of these phones have. This is a real opportunity for them here, and if people keep seeing the phones they bought from them survive many small accidents, they’ll become very loyal customers of those companies, because they’ll think they make very durable and reliable phones. From my point of view, it’s a no-brainer that they should keep making phones like these.

[poll id=”37″]

  • AshleyTurner453

    ..ì just got an iPad 2-32GB for $ 22.54 and my girlfriend loves her Panasonìc Lumìx GF 1 Camera that we got for $ 38.76 there arriving tomorrow by UPS. I will never pay such expensive retail prices in stores again. Especially when I also sold a 40 inch LED TV to my boss for $ 657 which only cost me $ 62.81 tobuy.
    Here is the website we use to get it all from,

  • Of course DEFY+ wins by a mile!

  • gazonga13

    xperia active wins by having ant+ technology onboard

  • crombacher

    I agree, that more manufacturers should start making rugged phones for outdoor use. However, I’d like to have a bit more in-depth views in an article like this. SE’s ANT+ connectivity and it’s advantages as a replacer of a hrm was not concidered at all. And how about the screens? Any idea how is their viewability in sunlight? I thing the Xcover’s worse screen resolution might cause some issues. Are there any other sensors in the phones that might prove useful in sports? How were their GPS technics compared? Any navigation software provided? How about the manufacturer’s own software, any goodies in there? Sorry mate, but I had hoped for a bit less obvious comparison. And I don’t think gaming capabilities are what counts in these phones.

    • Pom

      if you have suggestions on where to go for better comparisons i would like to know, beggniner here!!

  • Pullsar

    You forgot to mention the Casio GZone Commando/ KDDI au IS11CA phones. They are clearly if not the same, then better than the defy+.

    I hate that motorola has a locked bootloader, and im quite skeptical bout the Defy+, since in a newsletter they mentioned that their 2011 devices will have an unlocked bootloader.

    • Ciastkoo

      Casio GZone its only for verizon network, and other country ??
      Defy + win for my

  • JCPR

    My vote to Xperia Active, ant +, and 720p recording better than the others.

  • Wiswas

    Fuck off ashley turner

    • Guest

      Well said!!!

  • Rainmanm

    Yes I also think that ANT + will make the decision, well if I ask myself :)
    but here is another comparison of the specifications

  • XDA

    Defy+ rocks! I took it to the extreme & still perfectly works & kicks ass

  • What happen to the Casio Commando? This phone is out and should be tested with these units.

  • hogi

    in Indonesia Xperia Active is only Rp 3.100.000,- (about USD 344). its about same price with Motorola Defy+ but more service centre. Luv Sonec cause usually have great audio and video, want to buy one. so i think xperia active win

  • Adrain Gf

    pakyu ashley ulol

    • Choi

      tama ka dyan!! adrain hehe.. i wish they will release a new defy with Ant and a front camera

  • Chitralistan

    I am Defy User,It is not only Rugged but Stylished too.

  • Ab123

    You didn’t get in to the specifics of how rugged they actually are. Lucian Armasu You completely missed your own point.

  • Steve Burwinkel

    I love android phones, and these phones are nice, but they don’t look or seem rugged at all. I can’t imagine any of these three phones surviving a fishing or camping trip.

  • Nokia3210

    active wins!! can shoot videos underwater !!

    • Mb525

      Defy+ can do the same with Defyphoto(in Play-Store)

  • ambergreen

    huh? so what? you just post your comment here to boast and it is not relevant at all! do you realize how retarded you are? I bet you don’t even earn the money you spent on buying your gadgets because idiots like you don’t land on bad ass high paying jobs! go eat your own booger on some other planet and do not make any comments on any thread ever.

  • G1tje

    I’ve been looking and for rugges smartphones there are only 2 real options atm. xperia active and moto defy+

    the thing is i would go for the defy+ if it would feel more rugged.

    with the xperia active who is smaller, less battery life and such i thought the defy+ was the better phone untill i looked on the web for alternative batteries. the batteries that would boost your defy+ where with a extended casing so it would make the phone bigger (and more ugly) but i found that there was a 1500mAh accu for the xperia witch would boost the life of the small phone to beyond the life of the defy+

    defy+ has the superior gps. really thats a fact. but xperia has the better screen.. really! (especially in sunlight) the bravia software increases a great deal look at reviews on the web.

    then again the casing of the xperia is ugly. and the internal memory is defo a con

    really i still have to sort this all out. but the odds start to turn in the xperia’s way. the screen being small doesnt bother me and the revieuws on the web actually say the screen of the xperia is better even with its lower PPI

  • Emanuel_3000

    motorola doesn’t give waranty. just says it can resist

  • RyanC

    Xperia’s ANT+ support makes this a one horse race.

  • Deepak

    I have used mototorola Defy + ……And result is awesome
    “Fallen more than 50 times from a distance of 1 m above” ….
    “used more than 10 times in water”
    “not yet upgraded to new version – ICS ”

    still performance is nice ….
    glass has got some scratches now …..”i stopped using screen guard from 6 months”

  • Simon

    another rugged smartphone by RugGear