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Kyocera Hydro Elite: Rugged. Waterproof. Mediocre

Florence Ion | Sept. 24, 2013
What good is a tough phone if it can't even last through a whole day?

Kyocera has stuck with a mostly untouched version of Android 4.1.2—two releases behind the current version. The only areas where it has inflected its own design is in the notifications panel, the widgets, and the keyboard application. Though Kyocera included things like Quick Settings and a swipe-capable keyboard, the design appears dated. I wouldn't count on it getting timely software updates of any kind.

The Hydro Elite's custom Notifications panel.

There's a "starter" mode that enlarges the most important icons and simplifies the Android interface. It's a nice feature for parents and novices who are new to the smartphone world, but don't want to rely entirely on seeking constant tech support from their family members.

But does it float?

MICHAEL HOMNICK. It doesn't float, but you can get it wet.  

The Hydro Elite's biggest selling point is that it's waterproof for up to half an hour in three feet of water, though this is about the same as the Galaxy S 4 Active and Xperia Z. You wouldn't be able to tell that it's outfitted to swim from its build, however, and there are no flaps or plastic doors to keep any of the ports safe from water. Kyocera also suggests that you allow the phone to dry for some time after you take it out of the water. You also can't use the device while it's submerged.

Mid-range and affordable
The Kyocera Hydro Elite will only run you $50 on contract at Verizon, or $349.99 off contract. It's an inexpensive, mid-range phone that features the same waterproof capabilities as some more expensive phones, and it hasn't been completely taken over by a hard-to-use custom interface. The low price point may tempt you, but if you really want a good phone that's comfortable outdoors, you'll want to look to its more capable competitors to get the job done right.


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