Waterproof smartphones are not new; a variety of waterproof and liquid-resistant handhelds have been available for years. (So have a bunch of awkward accessories designed to waterproof any smartphone.) But the unique devices reached a new level of mainstream awareness following Samsung and AT&T's summer release of a waterproof version of the popular Galaxy S4 called the GS4 Active.
To be honest, I have never dropped my smartphone in a body of water or a toilet--knock on wood--and I've never said to myself, "Gee, I really wish this smartphone was waterproof!" But Samsung and a number of other handset makers clearly think there is a market for the devices; as such, new waterproof smartphones are announced regularly. (CNET has a decent roundup of notable waterproof phones on the market today.)
Earlier this month, Kyocera sent me its Hydro EDGE Android smartphone--along with a "dunktainer," a.k.a., plastic cylinder--to test its "rain, splash, bath" resistance. And the first thing that came to mind upon unpacking the device was, "I wonder how this guy compares to the GS4 Active."
What follows is a high-level look at both Kyocera Hydro EDGE and Samsung GS4 Active technical specifications, my thoughts on the most notable differences and, finally, a quick video in which I give the Hydro EDGE the dunktainer treatment.
Kyocera Hydro EDGE vs. Samsung Galaxy S4 Active: Tech Specs
Kyocera Hydro EDGE
How Waterproof?: Certified for IPX5 and IPX7 (IP57), which means the Hydro EDGE offers some protection against dust and debris and can be submersed for up to 30 minutes in up to 3.28 feet or 1 meter of water. (Read more about waterproof ratings on AndroidAuthority.com.)
Weight: 4.5 oz., according to Boost Mobile; 4.9 oz., according to Sprint.
Display: 4" IPS, impact-resistant WVGA (800 x 480 pixel) touch screen with Asahi Dragontail glass
Camera: 5MP, auto-focus camera with flash and camcorder including "advanced" features such as panorama, HDR, facial recognition, smile/blink detection and burst mode settings.
Network: Sprint 3G
Selling Point: Kyocera Smart Sonic Receiver tech, which lets you "HEAR IN PLACES YOU NEVER COULD BEFORE." (Yes, Kyocera used all capital letters in its Hydro EDGE marketing material, presumably to let us know just how well you can hear people who speak in all capitals while using the Hydro EDGE.) With Smart Sonic Receiver tech, "sound transmits as vibrations that go directly into your eardrum;" "there's no speaker hole--the entire touchscreen is a sweet spot;" and "peak volume is 100db, which is the equivalent of hearing a jackhammer from 6.5 feet away."
Battery: 1600 mAh Removable Battery; 13 hours average talk time
Storage: 1 GB RAM/4 GB ROM
Processor: 1GHz dual-core
Operating System: Android Jelly Bean 4.1
Availability: Sprint and Boost Mobile in the United States
Price: $19.99 on Sprint, after $50 mail-in rebate and with a new line of service or eligible upgrade and a two-year service agreement; $149.99 on Boost Mobile (Sprint 3G network) with no annual contract, with service as low as $40.
Visit KyoceraSmartphones.com for more information on Hydro EDGE tech specs.
Samsung Galaxy S4 Active
How Waterproof?: Certified waterproof for IPX6 and IPX7 (IP67), which means the GS4 Active offers complete protection against dust and debris and can be submersed for up to 30 minutes in up to 3.28 feet or 1 meter of water.
Weight: 5.39 oz.
Display: 5" FHD TFT (1920 x 1080 pixel) with Corning Gorilla Glass 2
Camera: 8MP rear; 2MP front; 4x digital optical zoom; auto focus; zero shutter lag; geo tagging; HD video recording; LED flash; various camera modes including, auto, aqua, night, sports, panorama, eraser, rich tone (HDR), and more.
Network: AT&T 4G LTE
Selling Points: A set of gestures that enable basic touch-free navigation; Support for NFC; Samsung S Beam; Wi-Fi Direct; and more.
Battery: 2600 mAh removable battery; up to 17 hours talk time
Storage: 2GB RAM, 16GB ROM, with support for external microSD memory cards up to 64 GB
Processor: 1.9Ghz quad-core processor
Operating System: Android Jelly Bean 4.2.2
Availability: AT&T in the United States
Price: $199.99 with new two-year AT&T wireless service agreement
Kyocera Hydro EDGE vs. Samsung Galaxy S4 Active: Biggest Differentiators
Without beating around the bush, the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active blows the Kyocera Hydro EDGE out of the water--pun proudly intended--when it comes to hardware. The GS4 Active has a larger, higher-quality display with a higher resolution; its processor is significantly faster; it has more storage capacity and it supports memory cards; its battery is larger; it runs on 4G LTE networks, while the EDGE is a 3G device; its camera is better, and it has both front- and rear-racing lenses.
That said, the Kyocera Hydro EDGE is a fraction of the price of the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active, so as the ol' axiom suggests, in this case you get what you pay for.
From a software perspective, both devices run Android v4 Jelly Bean, but the GS4 Active runs a version that's newer by a couple of software updates. In other words, the GS4 Active runs a more refined version of Android with a few more bells and whistles.
The top four differentiators between the two devices, in my opinion, are pricing and availability (but again, you get what you pay for); 4G LTE support; camera quality; and display quality.
The GS4 Active is only available on AT&T. The Hydro EDGE is only available via Sprint or Boost Mobile. If you're not on any of these carriers, and you don't want to switch to a new wireless-service provider, keep moving.
The GS4 Active is a 4G LTE device, while the Hydro EDGE runs on Sprint's 3G network. If you want or need 4G, the GS4 Active is a better choice for you.
The camera on the Hydro EDGE is decent for a low-end smartphone, but it can't touch the shooter on the GS4 when it comes to image quality and advanced features. The Hydro EDGE also does not have a front-facing camera, so if you want to be able to place video calls, you'll also want to look elsewhere.
The display on Hydro EDGE is acceptable but doesn't really shine. The screen on the GS4 Active is of higher quality. The GS4 Active has Corning Gorilla Glass, the Hydro EDGE has Asahi Dragontrail Glass. I didn't test the durability of either, but dragons are tougher than gorillas, right? Then again, Gorillas are real and dragons aren't, so...make of that what you will.
When it comes to water and dust protection, the two devices have very similar official rankings, with the GS4 Active offering slightly better protection against dust.
You can find more information on the Kyocera Hydro EDGE on the company's website. Visit Samsung.com for more on the Galaxy S4 Active.
And now, the moment we've all been waiting for--or at least the moment I've been waiting for: The Kyocera Hydro EDGE "Dunktainer" video:
Kyocera Hydro EDGE "Dunktainer" Challenge Video