Review: Kyocera Hydro Vibe for Sprint
The Vibe includes the basic Google Play apps, including Music & TV, Video, Books, Newsstand, and Games. You can use the Play Store to purchase or rent content and then consume it in the corresponding app. These apps are fairly mature and haven't changed much in the last year or so. They work just fine. The Vibe lacks basic MP3/video player apps.
The Vibe also includes NextRadio for listening to local FM radio stations. It's a bummer that it requires headphones, though. Sprint loaded the Vibe with CBS Sports, as well as Sprint Music Plus and Sprint TV & Movies. Sprint's Music store is getting better. The latest version offers news as well as the latest hits and the user interface is much improved. It's still a bit slow, however. This was one app that might suffer from the Vibe's Snapdragon 400 processor. Sprint TV & Movies offers a limited selection of live, streamed TV shows. Most of the content revolves around news and sports. If you want more channels and movies, you have to subscribe to the monthly service. Sprint charges $10 per month for access to a better selection of TV and a separate $6 per month to access a limited selection of movies.
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The Vibe offers a new take on the camera software from Kyocera. Previous devices have offered a stock-Android camera experience, but the Vibe follows a different path. I'm glad to see a dedicated camera button on the phone, which makes it easier to launch the camera app. The app fires up in short order.
All the controls for the camera are lumped in the right edge of the screen. The camera includes separate buttons for capturing photos and capturing video. Two buttons may take up more space than one, but it makes it easier to capture snapshots when recording video. There is a strip next to the shutter buttons that contains some basic tools for switching mode and scenes, as well as altering white balance and controlling the flash. The modes include normal, color effect, burst, panorama, smile shutter, and HDR. Scenes include auto, portrait, landscape, night portrait, night landscape, and action. These modes and scenes are all fairly typical and function as expected.
In order to adjust more behaviors, you need to select the full settings menu. This expands another control strip across the bottom of the screen and provides access to resolution/quality controls, as well as autofocus and metering behavior, the timer, blink detection, storage location, review period, and so on. The one thing I don't like is that all these items are represented by a little icon with no text. You have to press them in a trial-by-error fashion to figure out what all the little buttons do. This is frustrating the first few times around, but you can learn them over time.
In all, the camera behaves quite well.
The Vibe's 8-megapixel camera exceeded my expectations for this class of device.The shots I captured were generally in focus, showed good exposure, and proper white balance. See how blue the sky is and green the foliage in the shots below. The HDR mode had trouble on occasion, and white balance was sometimes off when indoors, but the bulk of shots looked good. I'd say the Vibe could stand in for a dedicated camera on vacation, but only for those who aren't super picky about their images.
The Vibe 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.
The Vibe uses the stock Android gallery application. It doesn't offer anything new or different compared to other Android 4.3 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.
The Google Photos+ app is also on board, which ties into Google+. Photos+ is a decent app and is particularly handy when it comes to backing up photos and videos to Google+ for easier management and sharing.
There are a lot of Sprint-branded apps on board, as well as useless extras. You'll find 1Weather, CBS Sports, Eureka Offers, MagniFont, Sprint Money, as well as My Sprint Music Plus, Sprint TV & Movies, and of course Sprint Zone. Most of these cannot be deleted, but there's still a fair amount of storage left on the Vibe for your own apps and content.
The Vibe'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 OK through my car's hands-free system. Music also sounded good via Bluetooth (although it lacks aptX support for truly top-quality music.) I had no trouble pushing files between devices, either.
The Vibe comes with both the generic Android browser and Chrome. The generic browser is "enhanced" with the Lumen Toolbar. Basically, the Lumen Toolbar adds browser extensions that improve the performance of the browser when it comes to content, such as games and videos. It also adds easy sharing tools, newsfeed shortcuts, and recommendations. I didn't find it to be all that helpful, and thankfully you can turn it off. You can also choose to apply Lumen to Chrome if you want.
Both the stock browser and Chrome do a fine job of rendering web sites whether you use the Lumen toolbar or not. Speeds on Sprint's network aren't great, though, even on LTE. I often found myself tapping my toe waiting for sites to load. Browsing over Wi-Fi is much better. Beyond these two browsers, there are tons of options in the Google Play Store if you're looking for a different browsing experience.
The Vibe'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.
The Vibe includes Google Maps and Telenav's Scout app. Google Maps and Scout are both good in their own right. I find Google is better at live navigation than Scout, but Scout (which is free) is really great at finding local stuff, such as nearby restaurants, banks, and so on. The GPS radio itself often found me in fewer than 20 seconds and was accurate to within about 25 feet.
Hands On with the Kyocera Hydro Icon
Kyocera's popular Hydro series of water-resistant phones recently gained a new sibling with the Hydro Icon, which is pretty much a Hydro Vibe that's shock-resistant, so it can survive clumsy hands. Since the body differs a bit from the Vibe, we wanted to share our hands-on impressions.
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