Whether it was because your friend unexpectedly pushed you in the pool, or you got a little clumsy around your toilet (don't worry, I won't judge you for browsing the Web while in the bathroom), going through the dreaded I-dropped-my-phone-in-water scenario is no fun.
Fortunately, the Kyocera Hydro doesn't require a bag full of uncooked rice and a night of praying to the phone gods if it happens to take a dip, because it's waterproof.
That's not all it has going for it; it also ships natively with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. But though I'm excited to see even a midlevel handset like the Hydro run the still-elusive OS, not all ICS devices are created equal. With its 1GHz processor and 3G data speeds, the Hydro is slow. Still, as a prepaid, waterproof, $129.99 Boost Mobile handset, this phone is worth considering. It's also available on Cricket Wireless for the initial price of $139.99. However, it's important to note that Cricket's Hydro showed a poorer call quality and clocked in much slower data times than its Boost counterpart.
Editors' note: This review was updated on March 28, 2013, 5:50 p.m. PT, with additional information on the handset's performance on Cricket Wireless' network.
As many Kyocera devices cater to industrial workers, many of its designs are unfortunate-looking, albeit durable and practical. But because the Hydro is designed for the average user and isn't a rugged handset, its build is sleeker and more suitable for daily use.
The phone measures 4.53 inches tall, 2.44 inches wide, and weighs 4.16 ounces. At half an inch thick, it's not as slim as other smartphones, but it fits comfortably in front and back jean pockets regardless. Managing the touch screen with one hand is a cinch and it's lightweight enough to hold between your cheek and shoulder while talking without feeling uncomfortable.
On the left of the Hydro is a volume rocker. Up top are a waterproof 3.5mm headset jack and a Micro-USB port. Unlike the headphone jack, which doesn't need one, the Micro-USB port can be covered by an attached door to keep water out. On the right is a sleep/power button that's completely level with the rest of the device's surface, which made it difficult at times to locate by touch.
On the back is a 3.2-megapixel camera with accompanying flash. To the left of it are eight small holes for the audio speaker. At the bottom is a lock that keeps the backplate sealed. You can use a coin to unfasten it and pry the plate off to access a 1,500 mAh battery and microSD card slot.
The Hydro's 3.5-inch HVGA touch screen has a 320x480-pixel resolution. Though text appeared clear and menu icons crisp, high-resolution images like wallpapers were grainy and color gradients appeared streaky instead of transitioning smoothly. Colors on HQ YouTube videos looked a tad muted; however, intricate objects like confetti or fireworks displayed sharply despite the small screen.
The display is also responsive. Pinch zooming, entering messages with Swype (which the handset is preloaded with), and playing the swipe-heavy game Temple Run, all were a breeze. Above the display are an LED indicator light and an in-ear speaker. Below are four hot keys that light up when in use: back, home, recent apps, and menu.
A 1GHz Qualcomm processor powers the Kyocera Hydro. Though simple tasks like navigating through five home screen pages and scrolling through the app drawer were swift, more complicated actions like opening the camera and transitioning back to the home screen after opening a game took a few seconds. There was also noticeable lag when it came to switching between portrait and landscape mode.
The device runs the Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich operating system. So in addition to the more chic-looking UI, users will also get home screen folders, the ability to reject calls with a text, camera access from the lock menu, and much more. And of course the Google staples of Gmail, Google+, Latitude, Maps with Navigation, Messenger, Search, Talk, Places, Play Books, Movies, Music, and Store, and YouTube are included.
In addition to basic apps -- a Web browser, a calculator, a calendar, a clock with alarm features, a native e-mail client, a news and weather app, and a voice dialer -- a few other goodies have been thrown in, including a social-networking portal called AirG; BoostZone, which keeps you updated with Boost Mobile news; and an app called ICE in which you can log pertinent medical information and an emergency contact list.
The handset also comes with an EcoMode feature and a battery status app. The former allows you to customize settings like sleep, Bluetooth, syncing, and display brightness in order to conserve battery at a set battery percentage. The latter tells you your remaining battery power and what percentage of power each of your apps is using.
Lastly, with Boost Mobile ID you can customize your phone with preselected apps, widgets, and other items depending on which ID profile you choose.
For example, if you select the E! package, you'll get apps and widgets pertaining to the celebrity news network. You can also choose a Professional package, which includes tools to aid with business travel plans, financial investments, and office communication. Note that deleting a Mobile ID package won't uninstall the apps that you downloaded -- you'll have to remove those apps manually. So far, there are 19 available packs.