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Kyocera Hydro Edge review: Tepid phone buoyed solely by water resistance

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The Good The Kyocera Hydro Edge is a waterproof handset that's reasonably priced and accepts microSD cards of up to 32GB.

The Bad The handset has inconsistent 3G data speeds, mediocre call quality, and lacks a front-facing camera.

The Bottom Line Consider the Kyocera Hydro Edge if you're looking for a low-price splash proof phone, but skip it if its water resistance isn't a main priority for you.

Visit for details.

6.7 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 7
  • Performance 7

Review Sections

Unless you find you and your phone often drenched in water, consider skipping over the Kyocera Hydro Edge.

True, as the successor to the Hydro, the Edge can still survive a good dunking. But while this new iteration includes some welcomed improvements like a bigger 4-inch screen and a 5-megapixel camera (the original featured only a 3.2-megapixel shooter), the device still runs on 3G and has a a rather slow 1GHz processor.

If having an affordable smartphone that is able to survive multiple spills and dips is important (either from the water you encounter at the beach or simply the kitchen sink), the Edge is a good handset to consider. It's available on Sprint for $19.99 after users sign a two-year agreement, or off-contract under the carrier's prepaid arm, Boost Mobile, for $149.99.

But if that factor isn't a deal breaker for you and you can spare the extra cash, look into your carrier's other devices that sport better specs.

The Kyocera Hydro Edge has a simple, matte-gray plastic construction that feels sturdy, but doesn't look at all chic. Like the XTRM, neither of the device's ports are covered. In fact, the only way one could even assume the handset is waterproof is by the toggle lock located in the rear, which keeps the battery door secured.

The phone measures 4.9 inches tall, 2.5 inches wide, and 0.39 inch thick. It weighs 4.5 ounces, and while the top half of the Edge is a bit heftier than its bottom half, it's still comfortable to hold in the hand.

Kyocera Hydro Edge (back)
To keep it watertight, the Edge sports a small toggle lock in the back for its battery door. Josh Miller/CNET

On the left is a volume rocker, and up top are a 3.5mm headphone jack and sleep/power button. The right edge houses a shortcut key for the camera, and the Micro-USB port is located on the bottom.

The device has a 4-inch IPS touch-screen display, with a 800x480-pixel resolution and 233ppi. Though HD movies won't appear as crisp as you might expect on it, text and icons still displayed clearly and smoothly for me. Furthermore, the screen has a rather narrow viewing angle outdoors. However, when you crank maximum brightness all the way up and you hold up the handset directly at eye level, you can make out the display very well.

Beneath the display are three hot keys that light up white when in use for back, home, and menu. Long-press the home key to access recent apps. You'll notice that above the screen, there is no in-ear speaker. Like a handful of other Kyocera smartphones, the Edge features Smart Sonic Receiver technology, which uses an embedded ceramic transducer to transmit audio via the hard tissue inside your ear.

The back features a dimpled rubber texture, and the top half of the handset's body is contoured to be thicker than the rest of its body. I felt that both these characteristics helped with my grip as I held it.

On the back you'll find the camera, with its LED flash right below it. To the left is a small slit for the audio speaker. To remove the battery door, you'll need to switch the toggle lock at the bottom and pry the plate off. There you can access the 1,600mAh battery and the microSD card slot (which can accommodate cards with capacities of up to 32GB) underneath it.

Software features
The device ships with Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean and comes with a number of Google's services, like Chrome, Gmail, Plus, Local, Maps with Navigation, Messenger, Search, Talk, and YouTube. The Google Play stores for Books, Magazines, and Music are included as well.

Under the Settings menu, there's also a software feature called MaxiMZR. This lets you limit the data connection of apps running in the background to conserve battery life. There is also a MagniFont Mode option for those who want to improve text readability by increasing the font size one level larger than the "Extra Large" or "Huge" setting that is common on Android handsets.

Sprint loaded some of its own apps, one of which is Sprint Zone, where you can check your account information and balance. There's also a ringtone portal called Sprint Music Plus, as well as Sprint TV and Movies, and Sprint ID.

Kyocera Hydro Edge (top display)
The Edge runs Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and feature's Kyocera's Smart Sonic Receiver technology. Josh Miller/CNET

ID enables you to customize your phone with preselected apps, widgets, and other items depending on which ID profile you choose. For example, if you select the E! package, you'll get apps and widgets pertaining to the celebrity news channel. Note that deleting an ID package won't uninstall the apps that you downloaded -- you'll have to remove those apps manually. So far, there are 40 packs available, and once you start up the handset, the Sprint Default ID pack annoyingly starts downloading automatically.

Other goodies include the Reddit browser, BaconReader; ICE, which stores emergency contact info; Eco Mode, a battery- and energy-conserving app; a panorama app that works with the camera, a video editor; Lookout Security, which backs up and secures your data; Qualcomm Enhanced Location app that zeroes in on your location and saves battery power; and the navigational app, Scout.

Of course, there are basic apps too, such as native browser and e-mail clients, a calculator, a calendar, a clock with alarm functions, an address book, a weather app, a voice dialer, and a audio recorder.

For the most part, the Boost Mobile model has all the same apps, give or take a few exceptions. However, instead of having apps like Sprint ID and Sprint Zone, the names have been modified to Mobile ID and Boost Zone. And as previously mentioned, the Boost model does not support hot-spot capabilities.

Camera and video
The 5-megapixel camera has six photo sizes (ranging from 640x480 to 2,560x1,920 pixels), digital zoom, a flash, six picture modes including HDR and continuous shooting, 14 photo effects, three focuses, six scene modes, geotagging, three image qualities, blink detection, three auto-exposures, five ISO levels, five white balances, and grid lines.

Video settings include five video sizes (ranging from a 30-second MMS to 720p), digital zoom, continuous flash, time lapse, two file format options, and the same white balance, image effects, geotagging, grid lines, and auto-exposure options.

Photo quality was adequate, though it wasn't very impressive. For the most part, main objects came out clear and were easy to make out, but colors looked muted, and images weren't as sharp as I would have liked them to be, especially along the outer edges. In addition, the camera is quite slow. It takes a few seconds for it to focus, and you'll need to wait a few more seconds after pressing the shutter for the camera to ready itself for another photo.

Kyocera Hydro Edge (indoor)
In this indoor photo, there's a slight vignetting effect around the edges, and the flowers don't look so sharp. Lynn La/CNET
Kyocera Hydro Edge (outdoor)
In this sunny outdoor photo, the chairs and the middle column of bricks are well-defined. Lynn La/CNET
Kyocera Hydro Edge (SSI)
In addition to objects being out of focus, you can see the vignetting effect more clearly in our standard studio shot. Josh Miller/CNET

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