Virgin Mobile Kyocera Hydro Vibe
Can $50 phones satisfy the gadget beast in us? The Kyocera Hydro Vibe proves that phones can get a lot of things done quickly and with great power, but they don't always do it smoothly. At least I can make calls in the tub.
Water and dust proof
8gb of storage
Quad Core. 1Gb of Ram
A few months ago I told you I was going to stick with my Nokia 635 Windows Phone through thick and thin, even though the phone had its obvious hang ups (bad app support, kind of slow). Well… the inner beast of dissatisfaction drove me to get another phone off the Virgin plan. I was driven by one reason: my accountability software was only compatible on an Android phone. With so many temptations on the plastic rectangle of flashing lights, I believe I made the right switch. Thus, the Kyocera Hydro Vibe is now my phone.
So I learned that no contract phones don’t actually use the official User Interface OS. They use mock up versions. These are minor UI’s, which are a dumbed down version of Android. It’s meant to act just like Android, but it isn’t the official program of the $200 phones. This explains why the non-contract phones only need to be $50-$99. This also explains how a quad core, 1-Gb-of-ram phone like the Hydro Vibe can sometimes feel like the code hates working. While you do get access to all the apps, and it feels relatively smooth, sometimes an update won’t work right or something will fail for no reason. It comes with the territory of a low budget phone. Right now, the Kyocera won’t log onto Google Play Services without shutting down. It doesn’t kill my use of the phone, it just means I need to go to Google and find a fix (hopefully).
With most non-contract phones, you get a 4.6 inch screen and a plastic or rubber back. The Kyocera adds a protective screen that lets the phone sit in 3 feet of water and protects it from dust. I can imagine someone who lives as a park ranger really needing that function. Me? I am tempted to call my fiance in the shower. The edges are rounded, the volume rocker is decent, and the dedicated “back,” “home,” and “compile” buttons are quality.
As I said before, apps make the phone. Android has one of the best systems for downloading quality work, entertainment, and convenience apps. I have my accountability software (Accountable2You) and my Bank of America app. They also load much faster and with more options than my previous Windows Phone. I cannot stress how relaxing that feels. I now have access to Amazon Apps, and I can use more music services than just Microsoft Music. Me Gusta! The phone is fast in loading them, and it just feels natural on the phone. The Vibe has a 8gb storage for apps, but only four of those gigs are usable. That is just enough to get all my favorite games and work stuff. The rest can be supplemented with an SD card. Previous phones had only two of those gigs usable and that is unacceptable.
Bells and Whistles
The rear camera function on the phone is 8 mega pixels with flash, which is great for its $50 price. The problem is that the picture-taking app that it comes with has trouble focusing. You will get some blurry pics. You can find some alternatives that work better (there are always alternatives). I do find that sometimes my camera apps crash. The front camera is pretty low quality, so most selfies won’t bring out your beauty.
The brightness and resolution of the screen is mid-range. It isn’t popping with brightness and HD, but it is not junky by any standards.
Virgin Mobile and other non-contract phones usually come with a bunch of shovelware that you cannot delete. The best you can do is disable it in the apps and try to ignore it. The Kyocera is pretty scarce on the shovelware, but it does have it.
The call quality (the reason we need to use the phone) is less than acceptable sometimes. The Vibe uses a vibration technology to transmit the sound. On most models, the vibration technology is stellar, but on this phone it is muffled. Usually, this kind of review would kill the phone, but my phone calls don’t last longer than a minute so I don’t mind so much.
The battery life is something to write home about. At its best, I can keep it for a day and a half without recharging. If I use it continually it will be dead by evening.
3G and LTE data is great on the road when you want to listen to some streaming music or make a Skype call. For video and downloading, it is unreliable. Also, I can never make a phone call or download anything when I am in a Walmart or a super market.
Non-contract phones come with a price, and you have to be ready to pay it. I am glad to finally have the userability, interface, and speed of an Android. I know that the limitations of the UI will cause some frustration, but right now I am in a good place with a phone. I don’t recommend giving this phone to anyone other than a park ranger, your 13-year-old child, or someone who needs a cheap way to get Android apps. It does everything Google needs to do at a minimal level, but the programming can lead to some swearing. You are probably wondering, “why did he get rid of his Windows Phone if this is a piece of garbage?” The Android interface makes all the difference to me.
+ The Android Interface is clean and fast
+ Only $50 or under
+ Quad Core and an 8 Megapixel camera
+ Decent storage size
+ Good battery life
- Random apps will crash
- Feels Cheap
- Camera app is junk
- Phone calls are muffled