Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Gear Closet: Kyocera Hydro Shore Waterproof Android Phone

Now days, most of us carry our smartphones with us wherever we go, including into the backcountry when we go hiking, camping, or backpacking. That's because those devices have proven invaluable just about anywhere we might travel, including places where cell network connections are at a premium. The problem is, most smartphones are also incredibly fragile, which means taking them with us on these adventures means putting our precious gadget in jeopardy, or shelling out extra cash for a case that is waterproof and rugged. But what if you could have a smartphone that is already designed to survive in that type of environment? Better yet, what if that device was also very affordable? That's exactly what you get with the Kyocera Hydro Shore, a budget phone designed to run on AT&T's GoPhone network.

First things first, it is important to note that in terms of onboard technology, the Hydro Shore features components that won't compete with high-end, flagship phones from competitors including the iPhone or the Samsung Galaxy S7. It's 5" high-def display is bright and colorful, but not on par with those found in more expensive phones, and its 1.1 GHz Snapdragon processor is under powered at this point of its lifecycle. Additionally, the Hydro Shore's 5-megapixel main camera won't win any awards either and lags behind the competition in performance as well. On top of that, the device comes with just 8GB of onboard storage and 1GB of RAM, which is underwhelming when compared to other smartphones too. As if that wasn't enough, the device runs the Android 5.1 (Lollipop) operating system, which is two full versions out of date at this point, with no clear upgrade path moving forward. Taken as a whole, that makes this a fairly average Android device to say the least, and well behind much of the competition in what has become an increasingly crowded market.

So what exactly does the Hydro Shore have going for it? For starters, it is very affordable. The device carries a price tag of just $79.99, which puts it amongst the least expensive smartphones on the market at the moment. It also has expandable storage capacity through the use of memory cards (up to 64GB), and it features a design that makes it easy to grip and use with one hand – something that we shouldn't take for granted in an era where smartphones continue to expand in size. Plus, the phone has solid battery life – up to 13 hours of talk time – which is better than most of the competition too.

But best of all, the Hydro Shore also happens to be waterproof, which is certainly not something you find at the $80 price point all that often. In fact, the device is certified IP57 waterproof, which means that it can be fully immersed in up to 1 meter (3-feet) of water for 30 minutes without harm. That means that it should survive rainstorms, kayaking trips, and accidental dunkings, which is not something you can say about most other smartphones on the market regardless of price point.

And since the Hydro Shore was built for use around water (hence the name!), its 5" screen was made to be interacted with even when you have wet hands. That means you can snap photos, make a call, or send a text no matter the conditions. I personally appreciate this feature after a long run, which is when my sweaty hands can sometimes make it a challenge to interact with my iPhone too.

The Hydro Shore's case is made from a soft, easy-to-grip material that provides a measure of protection from accidental drops, but isn't as durable as some other ruggedized phones that I've seen, including the Samsung Galaxy S7 Active.  Samsung's offering is bulkier, heavier, and costs more, but includes better waterproofing, a shatter-resistant screen, and a host of other tech features, such as wireless charging. That said, the Hydro Shore feels like it can survive quite a bit of punishment, although you may still want to add a case for a bit of extra protection.

In addition to its waterproof design and great pice, the Hydro Shore's other best feature may be that it connects to AT&T's GoPhone network, which is available through Walmart. Not only does this give consumers an option to purchase phones and services without a yearly contract, it offers affordable voice, text, and damage usage too. Plans start as low as $30 a month, although the top-end option runs $60 and includes unlimited talk and texts from the U.S. and Canada, as well as voice, text, and data usage while in those countries as well. That makes GoPhone and the Hydro Shore an intriguing and affordable option for anyone who frequents those destinations, even if they happen to own another smartphone.

As a self-confessed tech nerd, I have to say that there isn't a lot to get too excited about technology wise with this device. Its specs clearly lags behind the competition in nearly every way. But, as someone who travels a lot, and often visits remote places, the fact that they Hydro Shore is waterproof is certainly a major benefit as is the GoPhone options for use in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. If you happen to visit those places on a regular basis, and want a solid, reliable phone for use while traveling, this is a great option. It is tough, dependable, and has great battery life. Additionally, it is also so affordable that you can actually keep your high end phone and this one too.

Find out more at the Hydro Shore official website.

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