Kyocera Hydro Vibe

Sprint and Kyocera team up yet again to make that mid-range phone that does just enough to make you consider it if you're in the right price bracket

Sprint and Kyocera are a bit of a dynamic duo in the U.S. wireless market, releasing new devices together every time you turn around. Between Sprint itself and its prepaid carriers Boost and Virgin Mobile, Kyocera pretty heftily blankets the low- to mid-range market with solid, waterproof and often rugged devices. The Kyocera Hydro Vibe on Sprint is another entrant squarely in that mid-range group, offering a few neat features, respectable hardware and access to Sprint's Spark LTE network for just $29 on-contract or $229 without any agreement.

That's not a whole lot to ask for a phone with some pretty competent specs, including a quad-core processor, 4.5-inch display, complete waterproofing and a neat bone-conducting speaker. But in many ways it's just what everyone expected — the Hydro Vibe was never going to be a device with barn-burning performance or crazy features, it's meant to fill a very specific niche on Sprint's network that Kyocera has been filling for years. And they keep making these devices because people keep buying them — read along and see if you should consider being one of those customers with our full review of the Kyocera Hydro Vibe.

Hardware

Kyocera Hydro Vibe

It's pretty easy to pick out a Kyocera phone from a crowd, as its devices follow a distinct design language. They're not the most striking or svelte phones out there, and are often a tad on the thick side with many rugged design features. The Hydro Vibe is much the same, though it doesn't quite yell "construction site gear" like some of the more purpose-built rugged phones from the manufacturer.

The Kyocera Hydro Vibe is a small and thick, by today's standards, with gratuitous use of hard plastic and a few different textures and finishes that try to make it look fancy but generally make it seem cheap. You've got a shiny chrome plastic rim that encircles the screen and down the edges, which then meets up with a shiny black plastic rim and continues to a textured removable back plate. There's a shiny chrome (but different shade from the other chrome) power button on top, volume keys on the left side and camera button on the bottom right. Kyocera painted its logo above the screen on a bezel that doesn't have a speaker grille due to its use of a bone-conducting speaker, and three capacitive keys are found opposite it on the bottom bezel.

Even without any overtly-rugged design elements, the Hydro Vibe is IP 57 water and dust resistant, meaning it can survive a dunk in water up to three and a half feet for 30 minutes — far more than you'll need in any usual situation with a phone. An added bonus is that Kyocera doesn't cover up any of the ports or buttons with little flaps (see, it is possible, Samsung) that will eventually break off anyway. It protects the removable battery, SIM and SDcard with a rubber gasket-sealed back panel.

This is a solidly-made device, and while I would be even happier with the design if Kyocera had cut back on the layers of shiny plastic, it isn't going to stand out as much as some of its previous devices. This is more of a "normal" phone done up in the Kyocera style, and that's not all bad.

Display quality

Kyocera Hydro Vibe

One of the first things to go when cutting costs on a device is the display, and that's exactly what has happened here. The Hydro Vibe shows off a 4.5-inch IPS display at 960 x 540 resolution, coming out to just 244 ppi. The fact that it's an IPS LCD helps with viewing angles, color reproduction and overall quality, but this isn't an industry-leading panel by any means. The low resolution is noticeable on icons, fonts and images, particularly because this is a smaller device that you hold a bit closer to your eyes in regular use. It isn't quite as bright as higher-end phones, and there's some noticeable light leakage at the bottom of the display, but those things are hard to complain about when you consider the price.

This is a far step above previous low-end Kyocera phones, thankfully, which had displays that were downright painful on the eyes. The odd color banding, noticeable display gap and odd grain are drastically diminished here, and we hope Kyocera continues on this path with future device displays.

Internals

Kyocera Hydro Vibe

For a mere $229 without an agreement or $29 on-contract, you can't really expect much in terms of internals. That being said, the Hydro Vibe has some pretty solid specs for the price, matching what you'd get for about $200 from any other manufacturer. You're getting a Snapdragon 400 processor, 1.5GB of RAM, 8GB of (expandable) storage, a 4.5-inch qHD display and an 8MP camera. Sounds about right for the price point.

Category Features
OS Android 4.3 Jelly Bean
Chipset Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8926 1.2GHz quad-core
RAM 1.5GB
Display Size 4.5-inches
Display Resolution 960 x 540, 244 ppi
Cameras 8MP rear
2MP front
Internal Storage 8GB
External Storage SDcard up to 32GB
Radios CDMA / LTE
Sprint Spark
Connectivity Wifi, GPS, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC
Dimensions 5.01 x 2.5 x 0.43-inches
Weight 5.9 oz
Battery 2000mAh removable
Water resistance IP 57 water and dust resistant

Sprint network

Kyocera Hydro Vibe Network Settings

Talking about network performance is always a point of contention in any review, but even more so when we're talking about Sprint. While there are many places across the country that Sprint has deployed LTE, and even upgraded it with higher-speed Sprint Spark, my home market of Seattle is not one of those locations for some reason. Originally one of the launch areas for Sprint's first foray into 4G technologies, WiMax, Seattle is still sitting woefully in the age of 3G on the Sprint network.

Aside from the occasional blip onto LTE — which I've been seeing for several months off-and-on as it's built out — the entirety of Seattle is experiencing network speeds from Sprint that are the worst out of any major carrier. Sprint's 3G network struggles to provide over 1mbps download speeds (on a good day), and nothing over 500kbps on the upload, in the city. To be fair you can get those speeds practically anywhere I have traveled, including out of state, which provides some nice consistency but at some point you'd be happy to take slightly less coverage for actually usable speeds.

When I did happen to find some Sprint LTE, primarily around the SeaTac airport and in downtown Tacoma (if you're familiar with the area), I was pleased by the speeds available. The Hydro Vibe had no problem pulling upwards of 30mbps on the download and 5mbps on the upload, which is right in the range that we've come to expect from AT&T and T-Mobile, the other strong carriers here. Now it's just time for Sprint to actually expand that LTE coverage to more places — Seattle isn't the only major city in the U.S. that is still stuck on Sprint 3G and hating it.

Software

Kyocera Hydro Vibe

Kyocera has loaded up the Hydro Vibe with similar software to what we've seen on previous devices — a very last-gen design language, with blocky buttons and menus, superfluous animations and extra lights and sounds you just don't want. Performance is thankfully acceptable, but not amazing by any stretch. Considering the resolution of the screen and the hardware under the hood, the Hydro Vibe on paper has more than enough power to push around a build of Android 4.3 Jelly Bean. Sadly it seems Kyocera's software customization is letting us down a bit in the performance category, with a few unfortunate bits of choppiness and stutter around the interface at inopportune times.

Kyocera Hydro Vibe Software

We've seen plenty of devices running a Snapdragon 400 processor and even less RAM perform better than this, and it's sad to see it happen on what would otherwise be a very capable device. You can kill two birds with one stone and improve both the looks and performance of the device with a launcher replacement and uninstalling or disabling a lot of the pre-installed apps, but you still notice performance hiccups when you unlock the device and manage multiple apps. Single-app performance in terms of responsiveness, scrolling and interaction seem just fine, but the move between apps and through the interface is where you notice the slowdowns. There's nothing deal-breaking here, particularly for this class of device, but it's just not as snappy and responsive as someone would want when you take price out of consideration.

This is really a case where you wish that Kyocera would give up its thoughts of branding the software to fit the needs of it and its carrier partners, and instead go with something a little simpler and lightweight in order to improve both the visuals and performance.

Cameras

Kyocera Hydro Vibe

You'll find a no-frills 8MP camera on the back of the Hydro Vibe, paired with a standard camera interface that helps you take quick snaps and the occasional specialized shot. The interface itself is basic, gives you access to both stills and video with one tap, has a variety of simple shooting modes but most importantly is quick to let you tap to focus and capture pictures.

Hydro Vibe Camera UI

Photo quality was surprisingly good under standard conditions, letting in plenty of light and keeping grain to a minimum when in automatic mode. HDR seemed to go a bit overboard, letting in too much light, but thankfully the quality of auto means you won't bother with HDR (and subsequently long processing times) to get good shots.

Nobody is coming into buying the Hydro Vibe expecting great photos, nor will they be blowing them up to print and frame, and I'd expect more than a few people to be surprised by the pictures out of this phone because of that.

Bottom Line

Kyocera Hydro Vibe

Nobody that has the Kyocera Hydro Vibe on their radar when walking into a Sprint store will be comparing it to the latest and greatest from Samsung, HTC or LG — and because of its price point, it actually has a lot going for it. At just $29 on-contract or $229 if you're not ready for a contract extension, the Hydro Vibe actually does offers quite a lot.

You're getting an improved screen over previous models, acceptable internal specs, solid battery life and a competent camera. While the software is a bit of a drawback in terms of performance and looks, it's hard to be picky if you're trying to pinch pennies and get something that'll work well enough to tide you over for a while. Whether or not the Sprint network is a downside for you should probably be determined well before you start looking at which device on the carrier you'll be buying, so we can leave that out of the equation as well.

If you're looking for an inexpensive, waterproof, easy-to-hold, Sprint Spark-enabled device that you won't demand much out of in terms of intense usage, the Hydro Vibe may be a good choice when you're put between a rock and a price point. If you're able (and willing) to re-up a two-year contract, you should probably consider spending a little extra to get oh-so-much more, but for a certain set of consumers, this is a solid choice.

 
There are 48 comments

aitt says:

Sprint...

Posted via Android Central App

NoNexus says:

....rules

(where I live, YMMV)

grydlok says:

Where you live is the exception not the norm and you need to thank Shenandoah for that not Sprint

Posted via

NoNexus says:

Everywhere I have been traveling lately has been great, and I have been going quite a few places. Shenandoah did not do the upgrades to LTE in the area I travel most (cannot remember the name right now) but regardless of how it was done, Sprint put it all together.

Credit is deserved.

grydlok says:

Funny because PCMag and the thousands that left seems to back my assertion of Sprint network. Full of holes

Posted via Android Central App

NoNexus says:

Oh there is, same with T-Mobile (which is worse) that is why they need to merge. Most of the issue that Sprint has/had is with building penetration. Now that they secured some real bands that should alleviate somewhat.

I will just leave this here:

http://www.droidforums.net/forum/attachments/android-news/71418d14013905...

grydlok says:

Until gets its building penetration and LTE holes filled people are going to leave. Links about what sprint is going to do means squat now for the millions of people still on the network and to the people who left.

"Nothing I shoot ever gets back up again."

NoNexus says:

Again, same can be said for T Mo. Outside of the NE corridor and some major cities, all you get is 2G. I did not link to what Sprint has planned. I know all too well what they say they are gonna do.

Go to Sensorly.com and check out real world data. It is a pretty good indicator of the differences. I just wish I could overlay Sprint and Tmo 4G To see the end result.

grydlok says:

What does this have to do with T-Mobile? Why use straw man arguments? I use sensory and that isn't exact or truly accurate.

Posted via

NoNexus says:

I have yet to make a strawman. The conversation started with you taking issue with sprint. By bringing T-Mobile in I showed that it could be worse and how they both can improve. It is very apparent that the conversation has ever beyond you.

And the worst thing you can say about sensorly is that it could be incomplete. Your inaccurate statement is... Wrong.

Posted via Android Central App

grydlok says:

once again my statements on Sprint network had nothing to do with T mobile. your insistence in bringing them into the strengthen what ever claim your attempting to make about them. Leave T mo out of it, Stick with the facts Shentel built out your home network not Sprint. FOR everyone else Sprint network is hit or miss. PCmag article back up my entire statement. You for whatever reason brings t mobile into the equation??
Sensory is not accurate. I can go on Sensory for my city (Richmond) or Hampton will show glimpses because you may pull in LTE for another tower but once you switch over to the tower for that area the lte is gone. Sensory will still map the LTE bleed over.
It's like that in Raleigh, Norfolk, damn sure Baltimore and NoVA.

NoNexus says:

OK fine we will leave T Mobile out of it entirely

I know that Shetel (I didn't know them by shenandoah when you mentioned it earlier) built out the Sprint network. My question is Why did they do it? Out of the goodness of their hearts? For fun? NO, because Sprint contracted them to. So sure Sprint network workers did not specifically do it, but it was certainly a part of Sprint Network Vision 1.0.

Sensorly reports when the hand off is done. Sure there may be a bit of overlap but it is still real world usage versus some PCMAG article (the only ones that I can find do not say how they collected data, please link it)

I go to Baltimore all the time and through Northern Virginia all the time. I do not know what phone you are using but I have no issues with LTE outside of building penetration within Baltimore. When I get outside of Fredricksburg on 11 is when I drop to decent, not great, 3G. Then it picks back up in and around Newport News and have no problems with LTE all the way through to Virginia Beach. I am speaking from experience. not from sensorly, not from a magazine article not talking out my ass (like you apparently are), experience.

It has been that way for over two years.

Guess what? You win. You are 100% wrong and 100% talking from a hater point of view. Your asshattery has won though. I am through with the "debate"

MERCDROID says:

Asshattery, lol. This word puts a smile on my face.

paisley99 says:

:D. I like the them too.

Posted via Android Central App

Another phone which is pretty much DOA

Posted via Android Central App on Google Nexus 7 2013

NoNexus says:

Why? There is no market for a $200 waterproof phone with decent specs?

eahinrichsen says:

I see people with Kyocera devices pretty frequently here in Philly, which is a pretty good market for Sprint/Boost.

thatguy97 says:

It's weird where I live its all iPhones and android devices but whenever

Sent from my Nexus 7 2013 or iPhone 5

eahinrichsen says:

This is an Android device. Kyocera is the manufacturer.

dizzle16 says:

Doesn't look terrible. I'm sure there's a market for it. People bash sprint (myself included) but the sprint spark network is vastly underrated. I blaze on that network with my device and get a signal almost everywhere in my city. The game is changing, mid range devices will soon be in higher or equal demand than flagships

Posted via my LG LS740 and The Android Central App

Why does everyone knock these less expensive phones? It's basically a nexus 4. Waterproof for $230. You could get a decent blu phone for $100 more as well as the nexus 5. The Moto g is pretty great too. I really like phones like these as an insurance policy.

jwyche008 says:

It's basically a nexus 4? Surely you jest my good man!

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NoNexus says:

Actually they are not all that far apart. Depending on price and need I could see someone going either way.

http://www.phonearena.com/phones/compare/Google-Nexus-4,Kyocera-Hydro-VI...

Software they are not close. Hardware they are very. My Nexus 4 is awesome but it's the same processor I believe and screen. I opted for the luxurious 16 gig white one. Lol. And it's my favorite phone so far. But spec wise these are just about equal. Minus .5 gig ram and a few pixels.

Its nowhere near Nexus 4 display or specs
Posted via Android Central App on Google Nexus 7 2013

Dizfunctions says:

But it's Sprint so...

Posted via Android Central App

NoNexus says:

...it is one of the best networks for fast LTE and good prices

(in my area so YMMV)

almath says:

+1

paisley99 says:

+1

Posted via Android Central App

thatguy97 says:

You're one loyal sprint user ill give you that believe me I've been on every carrier except for T-Mobile since 1999

Sent from my Nexus 7 2013 or iPhone 5

WestonCory says:

And probably haven't used Sprint in 8 years

Posted via Android Central App

jwyche008 says:

Kyocera should probably stop pretending the Moto G doesn't exist if they still want to be a cell phone company.

Posted via Android Central App

dizzle16 says:

They both have their benifits. The moto g has more ppi bit it's not waterproof. Imo it's ot the best midrange phone by any means. Top 2 or 3 sure. At this point the galaxy s3 is mid range. $250 on boost or virgin mobile. The LG Volt and moto g round out my top 3 mid range devices. But only moto g 4g lte. Not the og moto g though. Compared to the new one no reason to buy the old but $
Posted via my LG LS740 and The Android Central App

DWR_31 says:

Kyocera made a decent device here.
Removable battery, wireless charging, water-resistant, bone-conducting speaker screen, Spark LTE, decent qHD screen, and a low price point.

This in many ways is placed somewhere in between a GS3 and a GS5. (Feature wise)

Posted from my "KNOX-FREE" 4.3 Sprint GS3 Maxx...!!!

dizzle16 says:

imo= In my opinion and we're all entitled to one. The Samsung s3 has the same removable battery, better display and similar price point (personally i dont like the s3). The moto g 4g lte has a better battery (albeit not removable), more ppi, good in hand feel and great sound. Now to me the LG volt is better than both, same display as this kyocera phone. same removable battery and expandable storage. same sprint spark connectivity. Not water proof but it is running 4.4.2 and VERY EASILY ROOTED using towelroot. Its doesnt have wireless charging and is not waterproof but it IS $50 lower than the kyocera and $70 less at best buy. IT DESTROYS THE BATTERY ON THE KYOCERA at 3000mah. legit 24 hours talk time. again its a matter of opinion. im not taking ANYTHING away from the kyocera but to me the LG VOLT or moto g 4glte is a better buy.

NoNexus says:

Not knocking your opinion, but the S3 is the better phone than the Volt, in a ton of areas. I know you said it is that you do not like the S3 but it is hard to put the volt ahead of it.

Volt battery is bigger, but the S3 storage kills the volt. Not to mention screen. Not to mention RAM. The fact that they both have removable batteries really makes the Volt battery a moot point.

Just my 2 cents

dizzle16 says:

"The fact that they both have removable batteries really makes the Volt battery a moot point" HAHA. can the s3 last over 24hrs without a charge coonected to either 3g, 4g or wifi the entire time. go here http://androidforums.com/lg-volt/853010-battery-life.html and check the screenshots bro. you have no idea what you're talking about as far as battery. Ive used BOTH PHONES, have you? I had a s3 from september of last year to feburary of this year and that 1700 mah battery is garbage, the display might have more resolution but to the visual eye, they're the same. again IVE OWNED BOTH PHONES. They BOTH HAVE 8 GB of internal memory, at least mines did and ram doesnt mean anything to me. no way the s3 is better than the volt. my volt will do more for LONGER than any s3, plus the ir blaster. i control my ps 4 and Samsung smart tv without leaving my couch. can a s3 do that?
And before anyone says it, im not a LG Fanboy. ive owned a LG Optimus S, HTC Evo 4g and Evo 3d. Samsung Galaxy s2 AND s3. zte SHELBY and most recently a moto g and now the LG Volt. IVE OWNED something from everyone and none has a 3000 mah battery with this type of talk time, none had lte this fast plus kit kat. i know what im saying.
And let me add a apology. Everyone has an opinion and I respect yours. Hope it doesn't come across that I don't. Funny thing is to me there are only 2 game changing android phones, the OG HTC evo 4g and the galaxy s3. Every phone those 2 have dropped since has been trying to get the buzz those 2 phones had. . It's just the battery on the s3 is a horrible overheating piece of junk to me. But I respect you point of view

NoNexus says:

The s3 only came in 16 GB storage at the minimum

The s3 battery is not 1700, it is 2100. on top of that, if I have the ability to switch out who cares? Ten seconds and I have a full battery. In addition, I have gotten 12-14 hours on a charge and I am a pretty heavy user. Never had the overheating unless I was gaming.

You absolutely cannot dismiss an extra GB of RAM that easily. It is important to have that, especially if I am buying a phone in 2014.

The IR blaster is something that I would not expect on a phone from 2012 but certainly would from a 2014 phone.

Which is kinda the meat of the matter. You have 2012 specs in a 2014 phone.

Nope I have not had a Volt, I only get tester access to those phones that are flagship and high mid range.

It very well be that the Volt is a great phone. I have no qualms with it at all. I also respect your opinion on it. But I think that you really cannot say that it is "better" than the S3. I also do not think that I can say with absolute certainty that the Volt is better. I am just saying that spec wise they are a wash.

dizzle16 says:

tell me why that ram is so important. what can i not do with 1gb on my lg that you can do with 2gb of ram on the s3. As to the internal memory i thought it was 8 but wont dispute that. i will say you say the battery does'nt matter because according to you "if I have the ability to switch out who cares? Ten seconds and I have a full battery". Then why does the internal memory matter? Because i say less than 10 seconds and i have access to my SD Card. Also how about you make a youtube video of you powering off, swapping the battery and rebooting in 10 seconds because thats a guiness world record buddy. more like 60 seconds and we BOTH know it. a better arguement would be to buy a extended battery for the crappy s3 battery, Guess what youll get with that extended battery? 3000 mah, what i get STOCK on my LG Volt.
its also important to have that ram in 2014 according yo you but your happy with a 12-14 hour battery? LG Volt=24 talk time. Bottom line the lg volt battery is better. numbers dont lie.
The only 2012 spec i have is the screen which is the same screen on the Kyocera which started all this chatter guy.
You are absolutely right. no one can say which is better as it is a matter of opinion.
but you havent told me one number that beats the lg besides the display and ram/internal storage. say what you want but internal storage dont matter when you have a sd card and i know you love ram but it doesnt matter. in fact ill use a post from this very webiste called "RAM: What it is, how it's used, and why you shouldn't care" done by Jerry. google it. in fact here's the link (i know its 3 years old but ram hasnt progressed light years in that time)
http://www.androidcentral.com/ram-what-it-how-its-used-and-why-you-shoul...
I have 2012 specs in a 2014 phone but you wouldnt expect a ir blaster in a 2012 phone? im confused and their your words. same 8 mp camera, kit kat factory not a ota update or 2014 phone being released with 4.3 like the kyocera, ir blaster, a battery that makes your battery its bitch (sorry but its true) and NFC and every single samsung feature on the gs3 like smart stay is on the lg volt. i HAVENT EVEN MENTIONED THE KNOCK FEATURE lol.
Youre buying the galaxy name. nothing else. i sold my s3 15 days ago and literally got a text today asking if it was still available. Its the galaxy name. even the rep at the best buy said so but only AFTER i pointed out to HIM why the lg was better. people are just caught up in the brand.
Don't know why you bother debating. All I said, if you check my very first post was that the gs3 is mid range at this point and it is. I'm not disputing the lg volt is mid range. I paid $215 out the door with activation fee and everything. Versus $250 for the s3 that only has a better display. Check the reviews and the only bad thing you'll see is the display and as someone looking at it right now, trust me it's equal to the s3. You won't look at it and say "man I miss the s3"

dizzle16 says:

Did i even mention Quad Core processor on the LG Volt vs. Dual Core on your beloved S3? Its a no brainer.

NoNexus says:

Dual core and 2gb ram is faster than quad and 1gb

Posted via Android Central App

dizzle16 says:

You forget I've used them both. I assure you it isn't. I'm also sure it depends on network signal or wifi signal right. So let me tell a story: my wife is a bartender and needed a phone that had all day battery (unlike her galaxy s2) in case there was a problem when her bar closed at 2 am and she needed to reach me. So the moto g came out in January and I got her one. I was leery because of how low the price was but they said "All day battery" +kit Kat so I got her one. At the time I used my s3. Our house had recently caught fire so our insurance had us in a hotel. I held the moto g in my left hand and my s3 in my right, connected them both to the hotels wifi. Ran 3 connectivity tests to see who would connect to google.com, the play store and the android central app the fastest and the moto g won all 3 times. Won by at least 3 seconds all 3 times. Why do you think I gave up my s3 for the moto g. The salesman at the store thought I was crazy. I had 3 customers offer to buy the s3 on the spot while in that store that day (because of the galaxy name). So I don't know where you get your info from but you're not gonna convince a guy that held both dual core and quad core in his hand and tested both and LITERALLY saw with my own eyes which is faster. And we both know dual core processors are so 2012.
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Sprint......... :/

WestonCory says:

Has a very good network now

Posted via Android Central App

flychinook says:

Kyocera Hydro Vibe sounds like an adult novelty device...

Hydro Vibe sounds more like a water-powered sex toy than a phone.

rap1 says:

I'm glad to see more decent options for midrange phones. With prepaid gaining traction and people having the option to separate the phone from the plan even on post paid, I think more people might look at these. Good options for a lot of people just getting into smartphones or who can't or don't want to pay for a $600 phone. If the nexus program really goes away, I think these or a used phone would be my only option.

If not kit-kat then why theres not update of jellybean 4.3 for Galaxy S3mini,on air?I think upto jellybean this phone can operate pretty well.