Review: Kyocera Hydro Life for T-Mobile / MetroPCS
The pocket-friendly Kyocera Hydro Life has a screen measuring 4.5 inches across the diagonal. It has 940 x 540 pixels, which is referred to as qHD resolution. This size and resolution combination work well. Icons and graphics look sharp, but small text had noticeably rougher edges. Colors look good and the screen is bright enough for outdoor use. For example, I had no issue at all snapping pix or checking maps when outside. Viewing angles are quite good, with no color shift and no brightness drop. For a device of this class, the Life's screen is more than adequate.
One major bummer about the Hydro Life is that it doesn't support LTE 4G. It is limited to T-Mobile's HSPA+ service for data. It still shows a "4G" symbol in the status bar, but it's not LTE. Even so, data speeds on HSPA+ were generally fast enough for most purposes. Uploading photos, for example, didn't feel slow or sluggish, nor did updating social networks, or streaming music over the network. The phone connected calls on the first dial and never dropped or missed any while I used it. Performance was even across the board, whether signal conditions were strong or poor. I'd call the Hydro Life somewhat above average when compared to other devices I've tested in T-Mobile's network in the metro NYC area.
Like many Kyocera handsets, the Life uses the company's Smart Sonic Receiver technology. This is made obvious by the Life's lack of a traditional earpiece speaker above the screen. The technology eliminates the need for an earpiece and instead uses vibrations to transmit sounds directly to the eardrum. Placing the phone in contact with the general area of the ear — even when wearing a helmet — is supposed to create clear sound even in very noisy environments.
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As with other Smart Sonic Receiver devices from Kyocera, I experienced the worst results in quiet places. I didn't think the volume was anywhere near good enough while sitting in my silent office with the Life cranked all the way up. I could hear much better if I put on a helmet. Further, I had no problem at all hearing calls when in a noisy mall. The quality of calls — both on the sending and receiving sides — was decent but a little thin sounding.
The Life uses a traditional speaker for speakerphone calls. It works best when the device is placed flat on a hard surface, such as a desk or table. The quality was average for a phone on T-Mobile's network, and volume was pretty good. Ringtones and alerts were able to get my attention from several rooms away, and the vibrate alert is quite strong.
The Hydro Life has a 2,000 mAh battery and it's good for a full day's use. The smaller, mid-resolution screen, entry-level processor, and lack of LTE all help keep battery life in check. The Life includes Kyocera's MaxiMZR and Eco Mode tools to help you further improve battery life; they do help.
MaxiMZR analyzes the data usage and can limit the background data consumption of certain apps (such as email or Facebook) to help conserve power. The tool takes at least a few days to learn how you use your apps. Eco Mode helps refine the Life's power consumption by shutting down predetermined services once the battery reaches a user-defined percentage. For example, Eco Mode could be used to turn off automatic email fetch once the battery drops below 20%.
I'm completely confident that most people will be able to use the Hydro Life for a full day between charges.
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