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Would you pay $30 for a waterproof Android smartphone?

John Cox | May 23, 2013
Kyocera unveils waterproof, rugged Android models at CTIA 2013

If you've ever dropped, broken or drowned your mobile phone, Kyocera Wireless has a deal for you: two new waterproofed Android phones, one of them ruggedized, aimed at first-time smartphone buyers looking for affordable handsets. The products were announced for the U.S market at this week's CTIA cellular industry conference in Las Vegas.

The new models are additions to Kyocera's Hydro line of water resistant phones. The rugged-designed Hyrdo XTRM is an LTE phone, for just $30; the Hydro Edge is for 3G networks. The specifications for both are those of a mid-range phone, for example with lower resolution, or a less sophisticated camera. And XTRM is initially available only on US Cellular, and Edge only on Sprint and its Boost Mobile subsidiary. But Kyocera is betting that waterproofing and durability will tip the scales on the buying decision for consumers who will see these qualities as added value.

Both phones also offer Kyocera's remarkable auditory technology, called Smart Sonic Receiver, which won three Best of Show awards when it was demonstrated at last year's CTIA show. Instead of using a conventional diaphragm-powered speaker, the phones use a small, embedded  ceramic transducer, creating vibrations that are transmitted directly to the eardrum when touched to the ear, face or even to ear protectors. The result is users can hear a call or soundtrack or recording with striking clarity even in very noisy surroundings.

At the high-end is the Hydro XTRM, 4.88 x 2.52 x 0.42 inches, weighing 4.9 ounces (the iPhone 5 by contrast: 4.87 x 2.31 x 0.30, and 3.95 ounces. It has a 4.0-inch diagonal screen, 800 x 480 pixels (vs 1136 x 640 for iPhone 5). It runs Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) on a 1.2 GHz two-core Qualcomm Snapdraon processor (MSM8960), with 4 Gbytes ROM, 1 Gbyte RAM, and microSD card support up to 32 Gbytes.

The 2000 mAh Lithium ion battery provides up to 12.4 hours of talk time, and up to 17 days of 3G standby and up to 12.5 days for LTE. It's equipped with 11n Wi-Fi in 2.4 GHz, Wi-Fi hotspot capability for up to eight devices, stereo Bluetooth (4.0 + LE/EDR).

It has 5.0 MP camera (iPhone 5 has 8 MP) with flash and video camcorder and a 1.3 MP front-facing camera. The phone supports Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync for corporate email access and POP3 & IMAP for personal use.

Where Hydro XTRM is really different is in its rugged design, offered at an affordable price. In the past, rugged design has been focused on specialized industrial and commercial devices and carried a steep premium. XTRM is certified dust proof and waterproof for IP57 protecting against dust and water immersion for up to 30 minutes in up to 3.28 feet (1 meter) of water. Kyocera notes that "phone will not operate under water and should be dried as quickly as possible when wet. To ensure that your phone maintains water resistance, make sure the connector covers and battery door are the properly sealed."


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