Review: Kyocera Hydro Vibe for Sprint
May 20, 2014, 3:15 PM by Eric M. Zeman
Kyocera is back with another waterproof, entry-level Android smartphone for Sprint's network. The Vibe offers a good mix of features and performance for the price.
Is It Your Type?
Kyocera has carved a nice niche for itself by placing a priority on waterproofing devices. The Hydro Vibe is a budget-minded Android smartphone that can survive a dunk in the drink. Whether you have butter fingers or spend a lot of time near the water, the Hydro Vibe is worth considering.
The Hydro Vibe is the latest in Kyocera's line of water-resistant devices - a feature Kyocera decided is worth using to differentiate its products from the competition. The Vibe is not ruggedized to protect against drops, but it can handle a short bath with no problem.
The Vibe is fairly compact and somewhat conservative. It's shorter than the HTC One mini 2, for example, but wider and thicker than an iPhone 5s. The Vibe is a black slab with few distinctive design elements. The lines are straight and simple. The Vibe is made of plastic and glass. The front face is black, and I'd call the back surface a dark, dark gray. The buttons are chrome-colored. In all, the Vibe wears typical trade dress for a Kyocera handset.
As is common with Kyocera handsets, the materials are good, but not of the highest quality. The glossy glass front surface feels fine under the thumb, but the textured battery cover befits the device's low price point. The assembly of the device is quite good. It feels tight and strong in the hand. Nothing about the Vibe is loose, and seams are fitted together perfectly. The size and weight are quite comfortable. It is perhaps a bit thicker (front-to-back) than I'd like it to be, but that doesn't mean you'll have any trouble carrying it around in a pocket.
Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.
Glass makes up 99% of the front surface, the rest of which is composed of a thin rim circling the screen to provide some protection for the glass. This rim makes for a stark edge between the front and side surfaces. Kyocera's logo and three dedicated capacitive buttons are the only elements that interrupt the otherwise jet-black glass panel. The dedicated buttons (back, home, multitask) work well and offer haptic feedback.
The volume toggle is on the left edge of the phone. It has a reasonably good profile and isn't too hard to find in a hurry. I do wish it were easier to tell apart the two directions, though, as the entire button is only about an inch long. Travel and feedback are decent. The lock button is located on the top edge of the Vibe. It has an excellent profile, but travel and feedback felt a bit mushy to me. The same goes for the dedicated camera button on the right edge of the phone. It is easy to find, but I wish travel and feedback were slightly better.
The Vibe is water resistant. It can sit in 1 meter (a little more than 3 feet) of water for up to 30 minutes. Like more and more devices that offer this feature, the Vibe is free of hatches and plugs. That means there's nothing protecting the microUSB port, which is on the bottom, nor the headphone jack, which is on the top. You don't have to worry about making sure everything is perfectly sealed up (well, except for the battery cover). That’s good, because of course most people drop phones into water on accident, not after careful preparation. I submerged the Vibe in several common household liquids and it rested comfortably in each with no problems. It can also handle blowing rain, sweat, and high humidity. I held it under a running faucet for a bit, pressed it to my sweaty face after mowing the lawn, and let my neighbor's dog lick it. Yeah, it still works just fine.
The battery cover peels off pretty easily, especially considering that the device is water resistant. The gasket that keeps water from entering the battery cavity - and the rest of the phone - is built into the cover, which needs to be pushed firmly into place to form a good seal. The battery is removable. The SIM card and microSD memory cards are built into a stack with the memory card positioned on top of the SIM card. The memory card can be pulled without removing the battery, but it's rather tricky. The SIM card can't be removed unless you first yank out the battery.
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