If your phone has ever taken an unplanned dip in a nearby body of water, you're probably familiar with the bag of dry rice and the nervous prayers to the phone gods that typically ensue. Waterproofing may not be the first thing people look for in a smartphone, if you're especially accident-prone or work around water, a ruggedized phone might be worth a look. The $130 (as of August 22, 2012) Kyocera Hydro on Boost Mobile won't turn any heads with its performance or its display, but its waterproofing is impressive, and the fact that it runs Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich is a nice bonus.
The Hydro weighs 4.16 ounces, and feels noticeably lighter than many rival smartphones thanks to its mostly plastic body. Still, the phone is a bit bulky, and the design is by no means sleek.
You'll need a coin to unlock the back cover and gain access to the battery, which you have to remove to get to the MicroSD card slot. Aside from the MicroSD card slot, the only ports you'll find on the Hydro are a MicroUSB and a 3.5mm headphone jack, located on the top right and top left of the phone, respectively. The volume rocker sits on the Hydro's left spine, and a power button is on the right spine. The face of the phone features a 3.5-inch display that is adequate at best. Text looked crisp for the most part, but images and videos were unimpressive on the low resolution 320-by-480-pixel display. Compared to most other smartphone screens, the Hydro's is unattractive.
Kyocera claims that the Hydro is waterproof in up to 1 meter of water for 30 minutes, and it passed my water-exposure tests with flying colors. The phone features a water-tight cap for its MicroUSB port (just make sure it's closed tight), and the 3.5mm headphone jack is waterproof.
If you've ever felt the urge to use your phone while you shower, the Hydro is a good match: I checked my email and browsed the Web, all while enjoying a nice soak. The phone's touchscreen can become unresponsive if it has a lot of water on it, but a quick wipe down should get things working smoothly once more. Water naturally beads off the water-resistant screen so this is rarely an issue, unless the phone is situated directly under a stream of water or you've taken it with you underwater.
The Hydro also easily handled a "tumble" into my sink (with the faucet running), and a prolonged dip in a glass of water. It's pretty clear that this smartphone can withstand more than just a few droplets of water.
The 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S2 MSM8655 single-core processor in the Hydro worked well-enough for navigating around the phone's menus and home screen, but it lagged a bit when exiting the camera app and while browsing the Web. I had to force-quit out of the browser multiple times while trying to stream videos from YouTube. Other sites didn't cause the browser to freeze, but most lagged more than usual on my 3G data connection. Using the FCC-approved Ookla Speed Test app, I recorded an average download speed of 894 kilobits per second, and an average upload speed of 816 kbps.
Call quality over Boost Mobile's network was good, even when the Hydro was immersed in water. The screen seemed to be overly sensitive to movement during calls, however, and was constantly turning on and off as I talked. I inadvertently pressed the mute button multiple times with my face, which didn't make for smooth conversations.
The Hydro has a 1500mAh battery that promises up to 8.4 hours of battery life, and Eco Mode software included with the phone permits easy access to energy settings for customization. With display brightness set to auto, the battery performed as advertised for me, showing 65 percent battery life remaining after about 4 hours of testing.
The Hydro ships with Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich), a nice performance bonus. The OS ran smoothly, and scrolling and swiping was generally very responsive. The phone comes with Google's suite of apps (Gmail, Google+, Play Music, and so on), plus a handful of applications from Boost Mobile such as BoostZone (for managing your Boost Mobile account) and TeleNav GPS Navigation.
Music sounded good on the Hydro with headphones, but I found the Play Music app to be extremely laggy when starting up and selecting songs. The songs themselves sounded muffled on the phone's speaker, and music was too quiet to be enjoyed in any sort of environment with external noise. You'll get 2GB of internal storage to go along with an included 2GB MicroSD card, so if you're hoping to keep your music library with you, plan on investing in a larger card.
Videos streamed from the Internet looked dull and pixelated on the Hydro's low-resolution screen, even in HD. Coupled with the device's lackluster streaming speeds, this made for a less-than-enjoyable video viewing experience.
You can quickly access the Hydro's 3.2-megapixel camera with a swipe from the lock screen. The camera app gives you basic control over your photos, letting you adjust the type of scene you're shooting and the white balance. Photos I took using the Hydro tended to be fuzzy, and ones I took in low light looked grainy.
Videos I took with the phone weren't much better, with dark and pixelated footage. The phone does have the potential to take unique underwater pictures and videos, however, as the camera is fully functional underwater.
The Kyocera Hydro's waterproofing exceeded my expectations, and I enjoyed the novelty of using a smartphone in circumstances that would normally spell certain death for an electronic device. Though the phone's specs and design are unimpressive overall, Android Ice Cream Sandwich and a $130 price tag are big pluses in the phone's favor. If you're not looking for a media phone, and the sometimes laggy performance doesn't bother you, the Hydro makes a strong case for itself a spill-proof phone.
This story, "Kyocera Hydro review: decent specs with impressive waterproofing" was originally published by PCWorld.