Last Friday I received the Kyocera Hydro Vibe and have been using it thru the weekend. Its a really impressive device and has some very nice specs to it as well but one of the things that really stands out, for me, is there is no speaker
that you hear from when you are talking on the phone and that's because Kyocera is using a proprietary technology that's called "Smart Sonic Receiver" below is a diagram, from Kyocera's website, showing how it works and speaking from
experience it works really well. I am pretty impressed with how easy it is to hear the other end in loud rooms or driving with the windows down.
Here is some more info on the Smart Sonic Receiver (source):
How is it different?
Some may immediately think of things like bone conduction technology, found in some Bluetooth headsets and Google Glass. While those rattle your bones to transmit audio,Smart Sonic sends the noise direct to the source. The ceramic actuator is much stronger, which allows it to send out a depth of vibration bone conduction technology can’t. Better vibration means a richer sound, too.
With the ceramic actuator sitting behind the screen, and no need for a dedicated speaker, our devices could be much more rugged. As those Kyocera phones with the technology can demonstrate, waterproofing becomes easier. It could also mean we’d see less top and bottom bezel on a device, since the need for a speaker and hardware isn't there.
The gift and the curse
It’s an amazing feature, but has some curiosities to it. We’re all very attached to our Corning screens, and Kyocera doesn't give specifications on what type of screen is used for the devices which have Smart Sonic. The only thing noted is that they are touch screen, which tells us nothing about the actual material makeup of them. This leads us to wonder if some materials aren't able to handle the output of a ceramic actuator.
The devices using this technology are rugged, but that’s Kyocera’s bread and butter. Smart Sonic lends itself to a more rugged device, and waterproofing, but is that out of necessity for the technology as well as the market they're trying to reach? It’s clear the technology has benefits for those construction workers who need to make a call in noisy environments, but we have to consider the vibrations made by such a powerhouse may compromise the hardware integrity in some way.
Smart Sonic doesn't rely on bone rattling technology, which gives it a truer sound versus bone conduction. Bone conduction technology is great for some applications, but bypassing soft tissue means the eardrum isn't directly engaged. Bone conduction headphones transmit vibrations via your hard tissue directly to the cochlea, which is the last stop before nerve impulses are directed to the brain to tell you what you’re hearing. The eardrum is where nuance is picked up, and bypassing it is why bone conduction technology is often said to be “muffled”.
Bone conduction technology has been around for quite some time (Beethoven was said to have put a rod into his piano, which he rested on his head to “hear” what he was playing), but has been focused on the hearing impaired. Those who are hearing impaired often get cochlear implants, which act as described above. The sound is muffled, and not as rich as it would be if conducted through the eardrum, but better than not hearing things you wish you could.
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