Phone Review: Kyocera Hydro Elite

Written by Sandy Berger

Our Sandy Berger provides an in-depth review of the Kyocera Hydro Elite smartphone, an inexpensive waterproof cell phone with good features and a quality build. — Although some of my favorite smartphones are the high-end models with spectacular features, not everyone wants to shell out a lot of dough for a phone, and not everyone needs all of those special features. Enter the Kyocera Hydro Elite. The Elite, at its core, is an inexpensive phone with good features and a quality build.

Kyocera Hydro Elite front

Image credit: Sandy Berger

There are other Hydro phones on the market, like the Hydro Edge (Sprint and Boost) and Hydro XTRM (US Cellular). While these are all in the same family, the Hydro Elite is the newest and, with a 4.3″ screen, it has the largest display, the best processor (1.5 GHz dual-core Snapdragon) and an 8 MP camera.

The Hydro lineup has one outstanding feature: their capability to withstand wet conditions. This phone can be submerged in up to 3 feet of water for up to 30 minutes. In my splashing and submerging tests, the Hydro Elite came out like a champ.

Kyocera Hydro Elite in water

Image credit: Sandy Berger

The Hydro Elite also has a unique audio methodology. This phone uses a feature called Smart Sonic Receiver, which transmits audio via the hard tissue inside your ear rather than through a speaker. This technology transmits small vibrations in your eardrum that are picked up by your body as sounds. I was amazed to find that calls sounded quite normal. On top of that, the audio performance was excellent in noisy environments.

The third feature of this Hydro that needs to be mentioned is the size. The Elite measures 4.82 inches tall, 2.38 inches wide, 0.43 inches thick and weighs 4.51 ounces, making it similar in size to the iPhone 4.  Yet, rather than a 3.5” screen, this phone has a 4.3” screen with a display that goes edge-to-edge with small, thin black bars at the top and bottom. This, plus the nicely-textured back, creates a phone that is extremely comfortable, easy-to-hold and still has a fairly large screen.

Other than these three unique capabilities, the Elite was quite average, which is a good thing for an inexpensive phone. The 720 x 1280 display is easily readable and has good color replication. The touch screen is nicely responsive. The 2100mAh battery provides a full day’s average use. The Elite has an 8 MP rear and 1.3 MP front camera. The rear camera supports panoramic, HDR, multi-shot and smile shutter modes. The camera takes adequate, but not outstanding photos.

Kyocera Hydro Elite battery

Photo credit: Sandy Berger

The Bluetooth 4.0 and Wi-Fi a/b/g/n produce good connectivity. In addition, the phone has support for MHL, DLNA, and NFC. The removable battery and additional storage provided by an SD card slot (holds cards up to 32GB) are nice features. The phone also supports wireless charging, which is a nice touch.

Preloaded software includes the usual — Android software and Verizon apps like VZ Navigation and VZW Mobility Security. Kyocera adds its own MagniFont, MaxiMZR, and EcoMode. MagniFont improves and increases the font size of the phone, zooming one level larger than most other Android phones. MaxiMZR limits the data connection of apps running in the background to conserve battery life and EcoMode adjusts certain device settings to conserve energy. The default color of this device is black with highlighting in bright turquoise blue, as shown in this screenshot.

Kyocera Hydro Elite dial pad

Image credit: Sandy Berger

My only complaint is that the phone is a bit sluggish when performing transitions and other software functions. I also noticed this when taking videos. Although the processing power in this phone is adequate, it would benefit from a faster processor. Then again, you can’t expect a speed demon from a lower-end phone.

You can certainly find faster phones with better screens, but the Kyocera Hydro Elite gives you all the basics and several extra features at a very reasonable price.


  • 4.3-inch 720 X 1280 display
  • Dual-core 1.5GHz (MSM8960) processor
  • 1.5GB of RAM
  • 16GB storage, expandable by SD card
  • 2100mAh removable battery
  • 8MP rear / 1.3MP front camera
  • Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, Wi-Fi a/b/g/n
  • MHL and DLNA support
  • 4G LTE
  • Android Jelly Bean 4.1.2
  • Mobile hotspot capabilities
  • Hearing Aid Compatibility = M3/T3, TTY/TTD Compatible
  • Carrier: Verizon
  • Retail price: Free with 2-year contract, $14.65 month on Verizon Edge, $349.99 with no contract

For, I’m Sandy Berger.

Based in Pinehurst, North Carolina, Sandy Berger is a veteran tech journalist and senior editor at covering tech tips and tricks, apps, gadgets, and consumer electronics. Email her at Follow her on Twitter @sandyberger+SandyBerger on Google+, and on Facebook.