/>
X

Join or Sign In

Register for your free ZDNet membership or if you are already a member, sign in using your preferred method below.

Use your email Use Linkedin Use Facebook

Kyocera Hydro Life hands-on: Submerge it, drop it, and buy it for just $125

In the past low price Android phones frustrated me, but they have come a long way over the last couple years. Kyocera's new Hydro Life offers quite a bit in a rugged package.

|
matt-miller-headshot.jpg
|
Topic: Mobility
wp20140913090150pro.jpg
1 of 15 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Kyocera Hydro Life retail package

A couple months ago I wrote about , but for the past week I have been checking out a solid no-contract smartphone priced at just $125 with some high end capabilities.

Some people can be very hard on their phones, especially those who work out of the office. While wandering around the shipyard I often see phones drop into the bilges, fall over the side into the water, or drop down onto the drydock. It doesn't make much sense for people working in these environments on a regular basis to carry expensive and fragile high end smartphones.

The new Kyocera Hydro Life is inexpensive while also being built to withstand the rigors of outside environments. It is IP57 rated for dust and water resistance, as well as tested to MIL-STD 810G rugged shock and drop testing.

Hardware

While the Kyocera Hydro Life is built to withstand the rigors of the outside, it is not nearly as bulky as a phone in a massive protective case. It feels good in the hand, thanks in large part to the rubberized back panel that has an internal O-ring to keep the sensitive electronics safe from water.

After turning on the Hydro Life, you will see the 4.5 inch qHD (960x540 pixels) that looks quite good. The front is a crazy fingerprint magnet though and I was constantly wiping it on my shirt to keep it cleaned off. The entire front is one slab of glass with a raised edge. Back, home, and task switching capacitive buttons are at the bottom with a front facing 2 megapixel camera.

The power button and headset jack are on the top, embedded in rigid plastic. The same plastic is on the bottom around the microUSB port. There is nothing on the right side with the volume button on the upper left. A 5 megapixel camera, flash, and speaker are found near the top of the back. A removable battery and microSD card are found on the back, underneath the rubber back cover.

Specifications of the Kyocera Hydro Life include:

  • 4.5 inch qHD display
  • 1.2 GHz quad-core Snapdragon processor
  • Android 4.3 Jelly Bean OS
  • 8GB internal storage and microSD card slot
  • 1.5GB RAM
  • 2000 mAh removable battery
  • 5 megapixel rear camera and 2 megapixel front-facing camera
  • Dimensions of 131.8 x 65.4 x 10.9 mm and 136 grams

Software

The Kyocera Hydro Life is not running the KitKat OS, but 4.3 Jelly Bean runs very well on it and for the hardware and price I think this is a reasonable trade-off. The great thing is that the device is a fairly pure Android experience, including a standard notification area and quick control options.

The only Kyocera influence I could find was a few widgets and apps such as a file explorer, music player, and camera software.

This model works on T-Mobile and there are a few of their apps, such as My T-Mobile, T-Mobile Name ID, T-Mobile TV, and Visual Voicemail. Thankfully, the Kyocera Hydro Life supports Wi-Fi Calling so you can get yourself a and ensure you have solid coverage.

Daily usage experiences

I enjoyed using a device that I could drop, take out in the rain, and throw in my bag without worrying about it. With a full price ranging from $125 to $150, the phone was already considered disposable. However, with the rugged characteristics it may actually end up functioning longer than your expensive smartphone.

Calls sounded great on both cellular and wi-fi networks. I found the display to be perfectly fine for a device of this size. The device was snappy and responsive, even after loading up several applications.

The camera did not perform that well, but gets by for a low cost smartphone. It has been a long time since I used a Kyocera smartphone and I was pleasantly surprised by the Hydro Life. It is a great option for a no-contract, low price smartphone.

wp20140913090201pro.jpg
2 of 15 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Opening up the box to reveal the phone

wp20140917193351pro.jpg
3 of 15 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Hydro Life withstanding water in the fountain

wp20140913090418pro.jpg
4 of 15 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Note the rubber seal around the center

wp20140917193607pro.jpg
5 of 15 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Hydro Life lock screen

wp20140917193622pro.jpg
6 of 15 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Hydro Life in the hand

wp20140913090559pro.jpg
7 of 15 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Rubberized back of the Hydro Life

wp20140913090623pro.jpg
8 of 15 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Bottom microUSB port

wp20140913090635pro.jpg
9 of 15 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Top power button and headset jack

screenshot2014-09-17-19-38-38.png
10 of 15 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

App launcher

screenshot2014-09-13-13-00-55.png
11 of 15 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Quick control menu

screenshot2014-09-13-13-01-03.png
12 of 15 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

View of the Settings area

screenshot2014-09-13-12-50-06.png
13 of 15 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Eco Mode battery manager

screenshot2014-09-17-19-41-12.png
14 of 15 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Browsing in landscape orientation

screenshot2014-09-17-19-43-41.png
15 of 15 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Camera software options

Related Galleries

Incipio Grip and Kate Spade cases for Galaxy Z Flip 3 and Fold 3: Stylish drop protection
incipio-z-fold-3-flip-3-2.jpg

Related Galleries

Incipio Grip and Kate Spade cases for Galaxy Z Flip 3 and Fold 3: Stylish drop protection

ZAGG Gear4 Bridgetown case for Samsung Z Fold 3 and Flip 3: D3O drop protection
zagg-gear4-case-z-fold3-flip3-2.jpg

Related Galleries

ZAGG Gear4 Bridgetown case for Samsung Z Fold 3 and Flip 3: D3O drop protection

First look: iPhone 13 Apple event [in pictures]
california-streaming-2.jpg

Related Galleries

First look: iPhone 13 Apple event [in pictures]

First Look: Samsung's Galaxy Z Flip 3 [pictures]
01-001ef-gf711t-001-front-navy-210719-h.jpg

Related Galleries

First Look: Samsung's Galaxy Z Flip 3 [pictures]

Working with the Cat S62 Pro and its thermal imaging camera
cat-s62-pro-flir-use-12.jpg

Related Galleries

Working with the Cat S62 Pro and its thermal imaging camera

Google Pixel Buds A Series review: in pictures
google-pixel-budsa-9.jpg

Related Galleries

Google Pixel Buds A Series review: in pictures

Nomad Rugged Leather Moment case: MagSafe, 10-foot protection, and advanced lens support
nomad-moment-iphone-12pm-1.jpg

Related Galleries

Nomad Rugged Leather Moment case: MagSafe, 10-foot protection, and advanced lens support