Kyocera Rise and Hydro Hands-On Previews

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Kyocera took the wraps off a pair of upcoming Android smartphones at the Spring CTIA tradeshow this week. I tried both of them out and would like to share my first thoughts.

Kyocera hasn’t made a huge splash in the U.S. smartphone market, but these two models have a feature or two that makes them worth a glance.

Build & Design

Kyocera RiseThe Kyocera Rise is the first handset to be announced running Google Android OS 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) that has a slide-out QWERTY keyboard. This design is becoming increasingly rare — HTC recently announced it was done with physical keyboards — so those who like using actual keys might need to turn to smaller device makers like Kyocera.

In my preliminary tests, I found the Rise’s keyboard to be a pleasure to use. The keys have good separation and travel, and are nicely rounded.

The Kyocera Hydro has a different gimmick: it’s waterproof. Its maker says users will be able to submerge it in water up to a meter deep for up to 30 minutes. Unfortunately, Kyocera wasn’t actually demoing this particular feature at CTIA.

While I can see the appeal of a waterproof phone, there is a downside: the Hydro is just a bit bigger than a typical phone. It’s like it has a built-in case — which it sort of does.

Both will use a 3.5-inch IPS LCD Touchscreen with (QVGA) 480 x 320 resolution. Compared to cutting-edge models, that’s a bit small and very low resolution.

Performance

The Rise and Hydro are going to be identical internally, so I’m going to talk about the performance of both at the same time. These are clearly going to be entry-level smartphones, because they certainly have low-end specifications.

While they are going to run the latest version of Android, they will do so on a 1 GHz single-core processor, with 512MB of RAM. As a result, no one would call them blazing fast. They aren’t plodding either, but if you want awesome performance, you’ll need to look elsewhere.

These Kyocera models are going to have 2GB of on-board storage, plus a microSD card slot. That gives them potentially 34GB of storage, for those who want to purchase a high-capacity memory card.

Kyocera HydroIn addition to 3G, they will have Wi-Fi b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1+EDR, GPA, and 3G. Not surprisingly, there will be no 4G support.

A 3.2MP rear-facing camera with LED flash and 30fps video recording will round out the features.

Preliminary Conclusion

While the Kyocera Rise and Hydro aren’t exactly the most exciting smartphones announced recently, they’ll likely have one major appeal: price. I expect them to debut at very low price points, and then become free with contract not too many months later.

There’s almost always a market for cheap phones, and these two aren’t bad. The Rise will be a decent option for those who like to do a lot of texting, and the Hydro should appeal to people who spend a good amount of time out in the weather.

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