The Kyocera Hydro Reach for Boost Mobile isn't a particularly impressive Android phone, but for $99.99 (full retail price), it's a decent option if you often need to use your device when camping or adventuring. The Hydro Reach is dustproof and waterproof, offers good screen visibility in sunlight, and has very loud call volume. But it isn't ruggedized, so you shouldn't drop it, and aside from the outdoor-friendly build, there just isn't much to recommend. You'll get better performance all around with our Editors' Choice, the Motorola Moto E.
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Design, Display, and Features
The Hydro Reach is your standard black plastic slab, coming in at 5.47 by 2.83 by 0.39 inches (HWD) and 5.11 ounces. It's similar in size to the LG Tribute 5 (5.65 by 2.85 by 0.35 inches, 4.88 ounces), which has a classier look thanks to its curved back edges and all-glass front. Despite feeling a bit chunky to hold, the Hydro Reach isn't as thick as the Moto E (5.11 by 2.63 by 0.48 inches; 5.11 ounces).
The Reach has the buttons and connectors that you expect of a modern smartphone. There's a micro USB port on the bottom of the phone, a volume rocker on the left, a power button on the right, and a 3.5mm audio jack up top. The plastic back panel has some texture for grip. You'll find a loud—but tinny—speaker next to the camera sensor and LED flash. Peeling the back panel off gives you access to a SIM card slot and a microSD card slot that worked fine with a 200GB SanDisk card. The battery isn't removable.
On the front, you'll find a 5-inch 960-by-540 display. That works out to 220 pixels per inch, so text and video are reasonably sharp. But viewing angles are quite poor, and the screen has a cooler, bluer temperature that gives it a washed outlook when compared with the Moto E and the Tribute 5. On the plus side, the screen is bright and easily visible outdoors, even in direct sunlight.
As mentioned above, the phone is rated IP57. That means it's dustproof, and can be submerged in up to 3.25 feet of water for 30 minutes without issue. I put it to the test by washing it in the sink and immersing it in a cup of water. It survived the dip, though I noticed some water droplets made it inside the back panel. Fortunately, they were prevented from reaching the SIM and microSD slots by an additional plastic barrier that surrounds them. The phone isn't ruggedized, so try not to drop it.
Network Performance and Connectivity
Boost Mobile operates on Sprint's cellular network. The Hydro Reach supports CDMA (800/1900MHz), HSDPA (850/900/1900/2100MHz), and LTE (25/26/41) bands. Network connectivity where I tested in midtown Manhattan was average, with the phone hitting peak 9.12Mbps download and 8.93Mbps upload speeds.
Call quality is mixed. On the plus side, the earpiece and speaker are loud, making it easy to hear calls in a noisy environment. Transmissions quality isn't the best, though. I encountered more garbling and skipping on indoor voice calls than I should have given the quiet surroundings. Call quality was surprisingly stronger outside, as noise cancellation dampened the majority of background noise.
Processor, Battery, and Camera
The Hydro Reach has a dated Snapdragon 210 processor under the hood, clocked at 1.1GHz. It scores 20,918 on the AnTuTu benchmark, which tests overall system performance, putting it on par with the Tribute 5 (20,21). The Moto E offers faster performance than both phones thanks to its more powerful Snapdragon 410 processor.
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The Reach was able to handle most apps in testing, especially basic ones like Chrome, Gmail, Twitter, Messages, Facebook, and Uber. But trying to run too many at once will stress the paltry 1GB of RAM beyond its limits. High-end gaming is also beyond Reach.
Battery life is mediocre. The phone lasted for 3 hours and 17 minutes when I set screen brightness to maximum and streamed full-screen video over LTE. That's a lot lower than both the Tribute 5 (4 hours and 42 minutes) and the Moto E (6 hours and 7 minutes). Keep in mind the battery isn't removable, so you might want to carry a battery pack, or a solar charger if you'll be away from electricity for an extended period of time.
Camera performance is weak. Using the 5-megapixel rear camera, details in leaves and branches are lost, no matter the lighting. Color reproduction is dull around, even under the glare of the LED studio lights in PCMag's photo lab. You can record 720p video at 30fps, but it suffers from the same issues as photos. The 2-megapixel selfie camera gave my skin an orange hue. It'll do in a pinch, but you're not going to want to post any of these pictures on Instagram unless you want to look like an Oompa Loompa.
Software and Conclusions
The Hydro Reach comes running Android 5.1 Lollipop with some heavy UI changes. Apps, widgets, the notification shade, and the settings menu are all significantly altered from stock. There aren't very many additional features aside from Eco Mode, which acts as a battery saver and can tamp down screen brightness based on battery percentage or time of day.
Boost has installed a whopping 14 bloatware apps, leaving 3.82GB of storage available out of the total 8GB. You'll probably want to add a microSD card if you want to store a lot of apps, photos, and video.
For $100, the Kyocera Hydro Reach fits the bill if you need an outdoor-friendly phone that can run basic apps, surf the Web, and make calls. The LG Tribute 5 has a slightly better camera and longer battery life, but it lacks waterproofing and its display doesn't pack as many pixels. If you can live without the outdoorsy build, your best bet is the Moto E, our Editors' Choice. It offers near-stock Android, better performance, and great battery life.