Rugged phones aren't generally very exciting. They're all big, boxy things, with plastic shells meant to absorb force from drops. Kyocera's new Verizon-exclusive rugged phone, though, is... well, it's a big, boxy thing with a plastic shell. But it also has a sapphire screen and an action camera.
Are you bored of the endless parade of touchscreen slabs that smartphones have become? Do you want a new idea, a strike of genius, something to foam at the mouth for? Then look no further than the Japanese market. The companies there are just scrubbing every assumption we have and building weird products to appeal to their awesome and quirky market, like this Kyocera DIGNO rafre. Let's pretend that we all know how this name is pronounced and move on to the highlight feature of the phone: it's hot water and soap washable.
Kyocera is one smartphone manufacturer that could care less about beating the competition on specs. It makes cheap phones that either won't receive updates or won't get them until long after you've given up hope. But the handsets are affordable, and many of the later models tend to be pretty rugged.
Both of these hold true for the Kyocera Hydro Wave, which is now available from T-Mobile and on its way to MetroPCS. This 5-inch qHD phone comes powered by a 1.2GHz Snapdragon processor, 1GB of RAM, and 8GB of internal memory. Fortunately, there's a microSD card slot for extra storage.
Normally the kind of customer who buys a "rugged" phone like the Hydro VIBE isn't all that concerned with having the latest and greatest in software - or at least that seems to be the attitude of the carriers and manufacturers, who don't seem very concerned themselves. Perhaps that's why Sprint and Kyocera launched the phone with Android 4.3 back in May, despite the fact that 4.4 had already been available for seven months. The company corrected that oversight with the 2.033sp update, dated yesterday.
Exactly what version of Android 4.4 the update contains isn't clear - Sprint's support page just says "KitKat." Other changes include support for Sprint's Wi-Fi calling system (which has already been turned on for most of the carrier's high-end devices), fixes for the camera's auto-focus and attaching videos to MMS, and a slight change to the signature system in the built-in email app.
Sometimes PR people make up words they think are clever—they usually aren't. Kyocera's new "fragiphoniphobia" line is an example of this. The "fear of fragile phones" will allegedly be mitigated by the new ruggedized Kyocera Hydro Life. Whether or not you want a rugged phone, I think we can all agree that fragiphoniphobia should never appear in print again.
Update: Verizon's specification page has been changed to indicate that the LG G Vista has an "HD" screen. It looks like there was an error in the original spec list. We're going to assume that means that it's a 1280x720 screen.
Looking for a mid-range phone on Verizon? Then you've got two more choices starting today. The LG G Vista, an enormous "phablet" device, and the Kyocera Brigadier, the latest in the company's line of "tough" phones, are both on sale now at Verizon's website. They should be in at least some company-owned retailer stores starting Thursday, July 31st.
Kyocera isn't exactly a big name in modern Android smartphones, but it does make a lot of rugged devices that don't get much press. It's also big in materials science, which is where sapphire comes in. See, it seems like a safe bet that the next iPhone will have a sapphire glass display, and Kyocera happens to know a lot about manufacturing synthetic sapphire for watches and electrical components. So, they're making sapphire screens for smartphones. This is the thing now.
Do you like the idea of water and ingress protection on the Galaxy S5, but don't feel like ponying up for a flagship phone? Then Kyocera hopes you'll consider its Hydro Vibe smartphone, at least if you're a potential Sprint or Virgin Mobile customer. The "ruggedized" Android phone will be launching on Sprint on May 9th and Virgin on May 27th. Sprint is talking up its "Easy Pay" payment plan, where the phone costs ten bucks a month for two years, but Virgin will sell it outright for $149.99.
That will get you a decidedly low-end phone, though you might have to look hard to tell.
The Kyocera Hydro Elite may not be a top-of-the-line device, but it comes with something most phones don't - water resistance. It also packs 4.3-inch display and a 1.5GHz dual-core processor, making it an admirable midrange handset. Now Verizon is distributing the first OTA for the phone, and while the Android version number remains the same, this update impacts many areas of the device.
The touch screen's sensitivity has been adjusted, including the virtual keyboard, and the call screen now stays lit for over 15 seconds when active. Using the power button to instantly lock the device should now work as intended, and issues surrounding the 4G LTE and Wi-Fi icons have been fixed.
My first two smartphones, the Milano and the Rise, were both made by Kyocera, so I have a soft spot for the brand. The company's handsets generally may not be high-end, or even midrange, but they're good for average folks who don't live and die by the number of pixels their phone is able to push or flip tables if there's a momentary stutter when switching between home screens. Kyocera's latest offering, the Hydro ELITE, will launch online at Verizon Wireless this Thursday, August 29th, and it's quite an improvement over the company's usual offerings.
Kyocera's devices typically leave much to be desired, but the Hydro ELITE is a big step up from its predecessor.