Disclosure: I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting (#MC) for Sprint. I received a product sample to facilitate my review and to thank me for participating.
It seems that everyone has a smartphone today and the age in which kids get their first phone continues to edge lower. I will leave it up to readers to debate the appropriate age for smartphone use yet there is one thing most would agree on. These things are expensive and even with a case not always up to the rigors of everyday use by kids and teens.
And this is where the Kyocera Hydro Vibe Hydro waterproof 4G LTE smartphone shines. Powered by the Sprint LTE 4G network, this phone at first glance is a typical looking handset. That is until you drop it in the pool and it comes out working like a champ. That’s right this phone is water-resistant and nearly weatherproof. And by water-resistant Kyocera means 3 feet of water for half an hour. This phone can take a dunking and not miss a beat. It is important to note that the phone is not marketed to be used underwater, rather it is designed to save you the cost of a new phone should summertime shenanigans find you in the pool with your phone in your pocket. Leave your phone on your patio overnight and neither rain nor dew will create an expensive paperweight. The key to all this is the back cover with a visible seal when you remove it to access the removable battery and SIM card slot. After repeated dunks in water and a quick wipe dry, the phone worked well-taking calls and using the camera.
The phone has another neat feature Kyocera calls Smart Sonic Receiver. The handset vibrates its glass screen to transmit speaker audio to your eardrum, enhancing clarity while using in loud environments. We did our best to test this feature in loud restaurants and by the crowded pool. Calls were clear and the folks we were speaking to told us we sounded fine even with all the background noise.
The phone is what most would call a mid-range model. It has a 4.5” screen which puts it right in the middle between an iPhone and the largest models that Samsung and HTC offer. It’s just a tick under five ounces and feels well built and solid in the hand. It comes with all the bells and whistles we have come to expect in a smartphone. WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, NFC for mobile wallet and mobile hot spot round out the unit. It runs on Sprints LTE 4G high-speed network when WiFi is not around. The camera is OK and provides quick shots, just not the brightest or most crisp that I have seen. It does record HD 720P video that looks great when viewed on the big screen. It runs on Android and provides full access to Google services when you sign in with your account details. It runs all apps seamlessly and nearly all games operate without a hiccup. One glaring flaw is the low included memory. Only 8GB of which only 1.5GB is available for media and downloads. Thankfully a micro SD slot is available to add extra storage. External audio for speakerphone calls and media was fine, just not the loudest.
Finally, two software option called easy mode and eco mode helps makes the experience for first-time smartphone users a little easier to navigate and last just a little while longer. Easy seems like overkill for tech-savvy kids but for a grandparent or just your everyday technophobe, it does eliminate some clutter. Eco mode helps stretch the battery by reducing data usage and sending the phone into a deep sleep during periods of no activity.
This phone runs about $150 through Sprint and for all the included features makes it more than an option for just kids and first-time users. We tested it as our everyday phone for email, calls, texting apps and navigating. Easy to use and peace of mind should we get a little too close to the pool.