Waterproof design; Affordable unlimited plan; Eco Mode app helps conserve power; Loud speaker
Below-average battery life; Underwhelming performance; Low-res display; No 4G data
Kyocera's Hydro by Boost Mobile offers a waterproof design and affordable monthly plans, but you don't get 4G.
Sudden downpours, puddles and the occasional toilet have all claimed their fair share of smartphones over the years. To help combat this liquid scourge, Kyocera has introduced the Hydro for Boost Mobile. Available for $129, this 3.5-inch Android phone packs enough rubber gaskets and seals to keep it running for up to 30 minutes in 1 meter of water. Even better than the price of the phone is Boost's $55 monthly plan that includes unlimited talk, text and Web. But does this handset really offer much more than the ability to hang out in the shallow end?
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DesignPhoton Q, where the Android buttons take up part of the screen itself.
Just below the soft-touch buttons, the Hydro drops its glossy coating and takes on a ribbed black plastic covering that continues around to the back of the device. Despite the texture, we found the plastic coating to be a bit slippery. The back of the Hydro is also where you'll find its 3.2-megapixel camera and speaker. Like Samsung's Rugby Smart, the Kyocera Hydro's battery cover features a twist lock to help ensure that water can't reach the battery.
On the phone's right side is its power button, while its left side features a volume rocker. Up top are the Hydro's microUSB port (with port cover) and 3.5mm headphone jack.
At 4.5 x 2.4 x 0.5 inches and weighing 4.2 ounces, the Kyocera Hydro is heavier but slightly smaller than the 3.7-inch Rugby Smart (4.8 x 2.6 x 0.5 inches and 3.3 ounces). Of course, the Hydro's size advantage comes at the cost of 0.2 inches of screen real estate.
We tested the Hydro's capabilities by dunking it in a vase filled with water for 15 minutes while still turned on. Sure enough, as soon as we wiped off the display, we were using the phone again without an issue. The phone cannot, however, be used underwater.
Also note that while the Hydro can withstand fresh water, Kyocera warns against taking it into a chlorinated pool or salt water. So if you're heading to the beach or the pool, we'd advise against jumping into the water with the Hydro in your pocket.
Display and Audio
Despite its 394 lux brightness rating, which beat out the category average by nearly 100 lux, the Hydro's display was hard to read in direct sunlight.
The Hydro's external speaker was loud enough to fill a small conference room. While listening to Florence and the Machine, we noted that the speaker was able to produce clear high notes, but more bass heavy or complicated sections created a significant amount of audible distortion.
Software and Interface
The icons along the bottom of the home screen are slightly different than the standard ICS icons: From
If you ever tire of the Hydro's basic interface, you can switch it up by using the device's Mobile ID app. Similar to Sprint ID, Mobile ID allows users to download different themes, or ID packs, that offer new home screen wallpapers and apps. The Boost Mobile ID pack, for example, provides users with a Boost Mobile-specific wallpaper, as well as several apps and website shortcuts.
Our favorite bundled app is Eco Mode, which allows you to change your device's power profile from a single interface to improve battery life. The app also allows you to set when Eco Mode activates, such as when the battery reaches 50 percent capacity.
On the CPU Benchmark, the Hydro scored a woefully low 1,950. That's far worse than the smartphone category average of 2,732, and nearly 1,000 points less than the 1.4-Ghz Qualcomm Snapdragon S2-powered Samsung Rugby Smart's score of 2,919.
The Hydro redeemed itself on the An3DBench graphics test, scoring an impressive 7,380. That's better than the category average of 7,070 and just shy of the 7,392 scored by the Rugby Smart.
Web Browsing and 3G
If you're looking for a durable smartphone that offers 4G data speeds, you're barking up the wrong tree. That's because the Hydro can only connect to Sprint's 3G data network. As a result, we measured an average download speed of 436 kbps and an average upload speed of 729 kbps when we tested the Hydro using the Speedtest.net app.
Loading Web pages also took quite a bit of time, even with full signal strength. Loading The New York Times' mobile site took an average of 10 seconds, while Laptopmag.com took an average 34 seconds.
Camera and Camcorder
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The Hydro's call quality vacillated between clear and crackly depending on whom we called. One cellphone caller said our voice sounded crystal clear, while another person we called on a landline said our voice sounded choppy. The speaker phone, while loud, was no better.
The Kyocera Hydro's 1500 mAh lithium-ion battery lasted just 5 hours and 9 minutes on our LAPTOP Battery Test (Web surfing over 3G with the display's brightness set to 40 percent). By comparison, the average smartphone lasts 5:59, and the Samsung Rugby Smart turned in an impressive 6:29.
Aside from its durability, the allure of Boost Mobile is the carrier's flexible coverage plans. You can, for instance, buy the Hydro for $129 and sign up for an Android Unlimited Monthly plan, which includes unlimited voice, text and data for $55 per month.
Don't want to pay by the month? Boost Mobile also offers a Daily Unlimited plan that allows you to pay $2 a day for unlimited talk, text and data. Boost also offers a pay-as-you-go plan that costs 20 cents per minute for voice, 20 cents per text and 50 cents per day for Web access.
So how does signing up with Boost Mobile compare to the big carriers? Well, for a $55 per month plan, you would pay $1,449, including the $129 for the Hydro itself, over the course of two years. If you pick up the Samsung Rugby Smart on AT&T with a two-year contract with unlimited voice and 300MB of data, you'll spend $1,969, which includes the $49.99 you'd pay for the phone.
|Form Factor||Candybar Touchscreen|
|Operating System||Android 4.0|
|Data||EV-DO Rev. A|
|CPU||1-GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8655 processor|
|Memory Expansion Type||microSD Card|
|Display (main)||3.5-inch touchscreen|
|Bluetooth Type||Bluetooth 2.1 EDR with A2DP|
|Front Camera Resolution|
|Camera Resolution||3.2 MP|
|Talk / Standby Time|
|Size||4.53 x 2.44 x 0.50 inches|
|SAR Rating (Head)|
|SAR Rating (Body)|