At first glance, the Kyocera Hydro Elite doesn’t even look like a Hydro. Compared to Kyocera’s other Hydro models — the original, the Edge, and the Xtrm — the Elite definitely has the most compact and modern look and feel. The rounded corners have been traded for squared corners that echo the Sony Xperia Z. It feels good to hold and doesn’t feel too bulky when it’s held up to your ear, either.
The Hydro Elite offers a comfortable feel with modern design
The Kyocera smartphone measures 122.4 x 60.4 x 10.8 mm (4.82 x 2.38 x 0.43 in) and weighs just 128 g (4.52 oz). As with most modern Android smartphones, there are no hardware-based buttons, save for a power button at the very top and dedicated volume + and – keys on the left side when looking at the face.
The handset does have a slow processor and average call quality, but its spec improvements over other Hydro devices from Kyocera make it one of the best waterproof smartphones around.
The Hydro Elite is optimized to utilize Verizon’s 4G LTE network, but I also had it running successfully on both TravelSim and T-Mobile US SIM cards. The Hydro Elite supports 2G GSM in 850, 900, 1800, and 1900 frequency bands.
The 4.3-inch multitouch display sports HD 720 x 1280 pixel resolution at about 342 ppi pixel density. The phone also has a comfortable 16 GB of internal memory expandable up to 32 GB with an SD Card, all powered by 1.5 GB RAM and a dual-core 1.5 GHz Qualcomm MSM8960 Snapdragon processor. It also comes with Bluetooth 4.0, an 8MP camera back camera, and 1.3MP front-facing camera under the hood, among other features that have become standard in the latest high-end smartphones (NFC, accelerometer, etc).
The 2100 mAh battery packed in the device provides up to 13 hours of talk time and up to 236 hours of stand-by time, making it a pretty decent option for those who don’t want to be dragging around extra chargers where’er they may roam.
Kyocera’s software adds some additional functionality and features to Android
Software-wise, Kyocera has packed its unique add-ons into the handset, including MagniFont, which increases the font size one step higher than Android’s “Huge” setting to make text easier to read; MaxiMZR, which gives the user control over which apps run in the background to conserve data and battery life; and EcoMode, which lets users adjust device settings to conserve energy even further.
Unfortunately, as with most Android handsets not part of the Nexus line, the Kyocera Elite is also bogged down with carrier “bloatware” courtesy of Verizon Wireless, which included Verizon Tones, My Verizon Mobile, VZ Navigator, Viewdini, and VZ Protect, among others. The only way to uninstall this type of software is by, of course, doing some rooting, which isn’t recommended unless you really know what you’re doing.
The smartphone also includes other software that’s common in most Android handsets, including Google’s services and Amazon’s store, Appstore, and MP3 services.
The Hydro Elite is resistant to more than just water
Now to the fun stuff. Kyocera’s Hydro Elite is IP57 certified, meaning it is both dust and water resistant. The device also has an impact-resistant screen.
Part of the fun of using the Hydro Elite for the first time was taking Kyocera’s “Hydro Challenge.” Basically, the idea behind the challenge is to spotlight the smartphone’s ability to be completely submerged in up to a meter of water for up to 30 minutes and still come out working like new. To assist me in taking the challenge, Kyocera was kind enough to provide me with a submersion tank to drop the phone into.
That’s precisely what I did. While the screen was lit, the smartphone stayed under water at different intervals — I placed the phone under water first for 10 minutes, then 20, and then almost 30 — after each of which it was immediately dried and tested. The phone did indeed perform just as it did when it was first put in, with no harm to call quality or data connections at all.
A great mid-range smartphone for global travelers
The touch screen did have a bit of a hard time under water as you can see; it accessed the Android settings menu on its own while it was submerged, making it feel as though there was a ghost in the machine. This is, of course, expected due to the fact that touch screens don’t work underwater, so it wasn’t anything exclusively wrong with the Kyocera Hydro Elite. And really, are you going to be WhatsApping or Kiking your friends while you’re snorkeling?
In conclusion, the Kyocera Hydro Elite is the perfect device for users who desire a reliable water resistant device and don’t care to have the highest specs available. This mid-range device has a slimmer design than most people would expect from a waterproof device, and the build quality is high enough that it should be able to survive at least most of those inevitable drops down the stairs or on the ground. In short, this would be a great device to take with you while you travel and will enable you to utilize your favorite apps or global roaming service while keeping those awful spills and puddle-drops from ruining your trip.