Kyocera looks to create multi-headed Hydro

The Hydro Edge and Hydro XTRM mark the company's push to build a full line of Hydro products and open the door to higher-end phones.

Kyocera Hydro Edge
The Kyocera Hydro Edge Lynn La/CNET

LAS VEGAS -- Kyocera is looking to capitalize on one of the phones that has been a quiet success story for the company.

The Kyorcera Hydro has been one of the top 10 selling smartphones each month since its launch in August, according to ITG Majestics. The company is looking to build on the Hydro name with the introduction of two new phones, the lower-end Hydro Edge and mid-tier Hydro XTRM.

The Hydro Edge is a low-end phone destined for Sprint Nextel's contract service and Boost's prepaid service. It will launch later this summer; its price has yet to be revealed. The slightly higher-end XTRM, which also can withstand drops in addition to the water dunking of the Edge, will go on sale Tuesday with U.S. Cellular for $29.99 with an instant rebate and two-year contract.

With these two phones, Kyocera is hoping to start of a family of Hydro products. The company, which has products largely geared toward more budget-conscious consumers, desperately wants to move up the tiers of customers. The company is hoping Hydro can take it there.

With the Hydro family, Kyocera is taking its cues from larger rivals such as Samsung Electronics with its well-known Galaxy family, or LG with its Optimus line of Android smartphones. HTC last year attempted to build a family of One phones, but has moved to a single flagship device this year.

A Kyocera representative confirmed that the two Hydro devices mark the beginning of the family, and that there will be a future, higher-end Hydro device. The rep also said there will be a follow-up to the Kyorcera Torque, a phone known for full military specifications and its ability to withstand all manners of rigors from Mother Nature.

Kyocera went big at this week's CTIA Wireless show with its demonstration of Hydro smartphones, inviting the media to a bar completely constructed of ice in the Mandalay Bay hotel. Even the glasses that held drinks were made of ice.

While I consider it the height of decadence -- a bar made of ice in the desert -- Kyocera saw it a perfect example of the harsh conditions that the Hydro Edge and Hydro XTRM are able to withstand.

Unfortunately, Kyocera also put the two phones inside a block of ice. When asked about whether the phones could withstand such rigors, a company representative conceded that they could not, but did note that the blocks of ice made for a great illustration of the products.

The Kyocera logo carved in ice. Roger Cheng/CNET

The bar, called Minus 5 for no small reason, had the media dressed in gloves and heavy coats in an effort to test out the devices. The phones are definitelly far more durable than the average smartphone, which is something any consumer should keep in mind.

Not all phones will feature the Hydro name, and Kyocera is trying to limit the family to just products with a waterproof nature and improved audio features, the company rep said.

Kyocera has been stuck as a provider of low-cost phones to prepaid providers such as Sprint Nextel's Boost and regional carriers such as Leap Wireless's Cricket service. It has also been known for creating phones for rugged conditions. Now it is hoping to raise the bar and attract a higher-end segment with improved design, higher quality of materials, and the same kind of durability.

Kyocera has a lot of work to be done when it comes to a flagship smartphone, but the Hydro family name at least gives it a start.

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