Kyocera Hydro Elite Review


A few years ago while at the Consumer Electronics Show, I saw an in incredible nano-coating that promised to turn any treated device into a water-resistant one. The beauty to the nano-coating was that you wouldn’t need to use a silly (and usually bulky-looking) case to protect it from potential liquid damage.

Despite the nano-coating’s magical-like properties, the number of smartphone makers that have actually taken advantage of the technology are few. My primary smartphone is an iPhone 5; a delicate machined piece of aluminum that will render itself defunct if even the slightest amount of water seeps in. Our managing editor uses the HTC One, an equally gorgeous smartphone, which is equally susceptible to water damage.

Very few smartphones are water-resistant. And, the ones that are; they’re usually kind of ugly looking. The Kyocera Hydro Elite that I’ve been testing for the last few weeks is not exactly on the same level as the iPhone 5s or HTC One, but it does have one thing going for it: it’s waterproof without being bulky.


Whereas the Kyocera Hydro Edge, which is also waterproof, was a slow-as-a-turtle device with a lousy touchscreen that was more resistive than responsive in day-to-day use, the Elite is actually pretty decent.

The Elite has a 4.3-inch (1280 x 720 resolution) display, 1.5GHz dual-core processor, 16GB of internal storage, 1.5GB of RAM, an 8-megapixel rear camera with LED flash/1.3-megapixel front camera and a removable 2,100mAh battery. It also sports Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC and runs the older Android 4.1 Jelly Bean.

Those specs won’t blow you away if you’re looking for a smartphone with a larger display, quad-core processor and at least 2GB of RAM, but they’re good enough for someone who isn’t much of a power user.

For general tasks such as making phone calls, sending text messages, and browsing the Internet, the 1.5GHz dual-core processor is plenty. So long as you don’t expect to do any 3D gaming, you’ll be good.


The camera is average, too. Your Instagrams and Facebook photos will look fine, if not a little grainy, especially in low-light, but that’s to be expected from a budget device.


In terms of its waterproofness, the Elite delivers. It’s submergible in up to 3.28 feet of water for a maximum of 30 minutes. The Elite doesn’t use nano-coating, so the only thing keeping liquid from getting to its internals is the fortified cover, which is actually kind of nice on the outside. The two Verizon logos (on the front and the back) are a bit gaudy in my opinion, but the rear cover has a texturized grip that makes it all but impossible for it to slip out of your hand, even when the Elite is covered in water.

One thing I did find annoying was while using the Elite in the shower. As it goes, I catch up on news before I go to sleep using the Feedly app. Naturally, I took the Elite into the shower (for testing) and I was disappointed to see the touchscreen’s responsiveness drop as the screen was splashed with water. Worse, the Elite couldn’t differentiate water droplets from my finger, so I ended up having to wipe the screen down over and over again because the water was making the phone freak out. It’s not hard to imagine how that could be a real problem if you plan to use the Elite by the poolside or in the kitchen.

If anything, it almost feels like the Elite was made to survive the rain. It’s so much more convenient when you don’t need to worry about your smartphone frying up when a spritz decides to come out of nowhere.


And while we’re on the topic of the Elite’s rear, it’s worth mentioning the device has built-in wireless charging, which worked flawlessly in our testing. Any standard Qi wireless charger will work with the Elite.

Another feature the Elite touts is something called “Smart Sonic Receiver,” which is a fancy way of saying it has built-in noise cancellation to cut reduce background noise when making calls. To be honest, I didn’t find much of a difference between the Elite’s Smart Sonic Receiver tech compared to similar tech in other devices. Calls are clear, but background noise is largely a non-issue these days in most smartphones.


Battery life is also solid. In my two weeks of testing, the Elite got eight hours of battery life on average before it needed a recharge, which is in-line with most other smartphones of this size and battery capacity.


Other smartphone makers might be going big-screened, but I found the 4.3-inch 720p resolution display perfectly acceptable for watching HD videos. People with small hands will certainly appreciate its size, which is about the same as an iPhone 5/5s/5c. The only real noticeable difference is the Elite is slightly thicker.



In the end, though, you’re not going to buy the Elite to be on the cutting-edge. The Elite is a solid budget smartphone with waterproof properties, a decent screen and a good-enough camera. It’s great a second smartphone and even better if you work near water all the time. I can see the Elite being a handy smartphone for a marine biologist who spends all day on a ship, or a dolphin trainer, or even a pirate (we kid).

Price: Free with two-year contract on Verizon
Source: Verizon