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printed April 25, 2014
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Review: Kyocera Hydro Elite for Verizon Wireless

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Media

The Google Play Store is your one-stop-shop for music, movies, TV shows, books, and magazines. It addition to the Store itself, the Elite comes with all of the ancillary apps that are used to interact with each type of content (Play Music, Play Movies, etc.) Google recently added content from more movie studios and HBO, which means you have a greater selection than before.

Of course, Verizon had to stick a few extras on board. You'll find Amazon Kindle and Audible for book reading, Amazon MP3 for music purchases, NFL Mobile for your football cravings, and Viewdini to search for online video content. Slacker Radio is also on board, as is Verizon's Viewdini app. Viewdini helps people find content both online and on their TV set. All of these apps have been around for a while and work well.

In terms of sharing, the Elite has DLNA on board, which uses an app called DiXiM to manage the process of handshaking with other devices. As long as you have a good Wi-Fi network at home, it's a breeze to push content from the Elite to your HDTV.

 

Media

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Camera

The Elite's camera isn't too different from that of the stock app. There's no dedicated camera button, so the camera must be launched from the lock screen shortcut or the app icon itself in the main menu. It opens fairly quickly, but could open swifter.

The viewfinder fills about 80% of the screen, and there are control strips on the left and right sides. The left side offers a tool for zooming in and out, as well as access to the camera's main Settings menu. The Settings menu let users adjust picture size, brightness, white balance, exposure, image stabilization, focus, and more. There are several "picture modes," including normal, color effect, multi-shot (burst), smile shutter (fires the shutter when the camera ”sees” a smile,) and HDR.

The shutter button is on the right side of the screen. I like how big the software shutter button is. There's a nice, easy-to-use tool for switching between the camera, video camera, and panorama modes, as well. The camera also provides quick access to the photo gallery.

The camera is one app that suffers from speed. There's a noticeable lag between pressing the camera button and when the camera actually shoots the image. This effect is pronounced if you use the touch-to-focus feature. The camera also takes a second or two to save each image and return to shooting mode.

 

Camera

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Pictures

The Elite's 8-megapixel camera does a pretty good job. I noticed sharp focus on most images, accurate white balance, and good exposure. The one thing the Elite had trouble with was bright spots in the background, such as a window or lamp. Otherwise, it did well, even in low-light situations, at capturing the right amount of photons. The Elite's camera does not challenge those of the HTC One or Samsung Galaxy S4, but it's among the best I've seen on a Kyocera-made device.

 

Photos

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Video

The Elite can capture 1080p HD video, and the results I achieved looked good. I was pleased with the sharpness of the video, as well as the exposure and color. In general, it will deliver results that accurately represent the real-life subject. The only complaint I'd voice is that there's perhaps a bit more grain than I'd like to see. Most people will be pleased with the results, and not shy about sharing them.



Gallery

The Elite uses the stock Android gallery application. It doesn't offer anything new or different compared to other Android 4.1 phones. It’s acceptable for managing photo albums and sharing photos with social networks. It also has a some simple editing features, such as crop, rotate, red-eye reduction, and filters that help correct color, exposure, and other issues.

 

Gallery

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Apps

There are a lot of Verizon-branded apps on board, as well as useless extras. You'll find Caller Name ID, IMDb, and QuickOffice; as well as My Verizon Mobile, Verizon Tones, VZ Navigator, and VZ Security. Most of these cannot be deleted, but there's still a fair amount of storage left on the Elite for your own apps and content.

Bluetooth

The Elite's Bluetooth radio worked well. I was able to connect with an array of other gadgets and pass phone calls and music to mono and stereo headphones. Calls sounded great through my car's hands-free system. Music also sounded good via Bluetooth. I had no trouble pushing files between devices.

Browser

The Elite includes Google's Chrome browser. Chrome worked perfectly at rendering web sites over Verizon's network. Web sites were reasonably quick to load, for the most part, and web sites looked good on the Elite's display. The Elite's screen was good at making web sites painless to read and interact with.

 

Browser

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Clock

The Elite's clock is a digital display that shows up when the phone is woken from sleep. It’s big enough to be read at an arm's length. I was unable to find a way to adjust the font or appearance of the clock on the lock screen, but you can download a bazillion clock widgets for the home screen panels.

GPS

The Elite includes Google Maps and VZ Navigator. Google Maps and VZ Navigator are both good in their own right. I find Google is better at searching for local stuff while VZ Navigator is slightly superior at live navigation. It had better be, however, considering that it costs $10 per month to use and Google Maps is free. The GPS radio itself often found me in fewer than 10 seconds and was accurate to within 25 feet.

 

Maps

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