When we first heard of the HYDRA SmartBottle, we were a little skeptical. A water bottle with a speaker, microphone, multicolored lights, and a power bank for charging USB devices?! It all sounds a little whacky, and it is. But the HYDRA SmartBottle, for all its cookiness, is actually a pretty functional and awesome bottle. All of its features can be put to some kind of use, either practical or purely novel.
Recently we’ve been looking at a lot of so-called “smart bottles,” and among the bottles we’ve looked at like the H2O-Pal and the Pryme Vessyl, the defining feature of a “smart bottle” has been water consumption/hydration tracking. The HYDRA SmartBottle takes a different approach to the concept of the “smart bottle,” instead making a sort of Siwss Army-knife of water bottles, jam packed with features.
What the HYDRA SmartBottle Can Do For You
The SmartBottle’s water bottle itself is not much to write home about: a 20oz BPA-free plastic bottle with a retractable straw. The bottle is accessed by unscrewing the lid and opening up the straw or unscrewing the inner lid for refiling or easy cleaning. All of the nifty electronics reside in the top lid, which houses the BlueTooth speakerphone system, the lights, and the USB charging hub. One of my initial concerns with the design was leakage: if it was a leaky cap or straw, the water would find its way directly into the electronics. Fortunately, the HYDRA SmartBottle is super-leakproof.
A big part of the marketing behind the HYDRA emphasises the danger in using headphones while cycling or walking as they can isolate you from your environment. To help combat this threat to cyclists, the HYDRA SmartBottle attempts to provide an all-in-one solution which can free cyclists from headphones while also achieving a host of other goals.
With a few audiophiles among the contributors at Hydration Anywhere, we were ready to criticize the little 5W BlueTooth speaker, but for what it is it actually sounds quite good. There is some effect of amplification from the design of the bottle, and given what it is, it actually sounds pretty sweet! It is not only a speaker, but also equipped with a microphone to be used as a speakerphone with your Android or iPhone smartphone. That means you can take phone calls on your water bottle! The bottle has volume buttons and even call controls which can answer calls or control your playlists.
One of the coolest parts of the speaker is that when detached from the bottle, it has extendable legs. When extended, these improve the acoustics of the speaker by allowing the high-end to be emphasised and the low-end to be transferred down into the surface it is standing on to provide better bass. It is a neat design which actually makes a difference in practice.
When we tested the speakerphone, we noticed a bit of a weird echoy chambery effect on the other end of the call. It sounded a bit strange, but it definitely worked. Also, interestingly, there is a built-in radio, which allows you to listen to local stations. Nifty!
And It Lights Up!
Okay, maybe it’s not that exciting. At first, we were pretty sure that a light up water bottle is, uh, not exactly on the practical side of things. But after thinking about it a bit, there is some utility in it. It can be used as a signal to traffic for cyclists or walkers in the dark, or it could function as an emergency beacon. Of course, the main use we’ve put it to so far is as a party light.
The lights on the HYDRA SmartBottle can be set to the lantern feature, which has a decently bright white light. It works a little bit for aiding your vision in the dark but is certainly no flashlight. Another setting provides a red flashing emergency light. It can finally be set to the RGB color cycle, where it cycles through six different colors. With the free Android or iOS app, you can set which color the light is.
When full, the light refracts through the water in the bottle to create a cool effect. It is pretty eye-catching as the LED lights do their things and cycle through the different colors.
Portable Powerbank & Hidden Features
One of our favorite features of the HYDRA SmartBottle is the 4000 mAh USB 2.1a power bank, which allows you to charge other devices on the go. Surprisingly, the HYDRA does a pretty good job at charging up my iPhone, although it pretty rapidly drains the HYDRA’s battery down. It is extremely nice to have the option though.
The HYDRA SmartBottle is literally jam packed with features you might not even notice at first glance. One is a hidden compartment which is big enough to carry some small objects in – not a bad storage place, but I wouldn’t put anything too valuable in it. Another nifty feature which didn’t stand out at first is the inclusion of a bottle open on the carabiner clip which is attached to the HYDRA – pretty handy!
The Utility Water Bottle
The SmartBottle manages to be hugely utilitarian and practical while also having some neat party tricks up its sleeve. Much of its design is geared towards cyclists. Mounted to your bike frame, the HYDRA SmartBottle provides music while you ride, a light to advertise your presence to traffic, water when you need it, a place to store something, and a portable backup battery for your phone or other device. All of this is can be equally handy for a hiker, or even in your car’s emergency kit.
But the HYDRA SmartBottle would be equally at home at a party. The app lets you pick a color for the light, and play a variety of environmental ambient sounds like oceans and forests. You can set it up to cycle through its colors while you play some tunes through the speaker and open a beer (or a soda) with the included bottle opener on the carabiner. Suddenly, your water bottle is a portable party.
Depending on your perspective, the HYDRA SmartBottle is either remarkably useful or a bit silly. We embrace it being both, a sort of whimsical product which manages to be useful and fun at the same time. We’re certainly having fun with our HYDRA SmartBottle.
While some people might make use of every little feature included on the HYDRA, we think most people will probably only make use of a few of the features. Either way, the bottle is pretty cool, and sure to start a conversation or two, especially if people see you taking phone calls on your water bottle! A pretty handy portable companion, the speaker sounds better than we expected and the battery life is reasonable.
There is nothing like the HYDRA SmartBottle on the market to really compare it to – it is truly an innovative and daring product. With a ~$60 price tag on Amazon it is actually remarkably affordable – especially when priced against other BlueTooth speakers. If it were just a water bottle it would be wildly over priced, but given all of the features packed into the bottle, it is a reasonable price tag.
The whole package is also well put together. We worried that it might be a cobbled together and cheaply made contraption, but out HYDRA is pretty sturdy. The construction is all plastic, and has survived a few falls without issue. While it is far from invincible, it does have some quality manufacturing behind it.
It is kind of hard to rate the HYDRA SmartBottle, given that it is the only one of its kind. For sheer innovation and an appreciation we can execute, we award it 5/5 stars.
More on the HYDRA SmartBottle
The HYDRA SmartBottle was a successfully project successfully crowd-funded through Kickstarter. Below is a video which was used to advertise the project’s crowd funding campaign. It is a little old, but it gives a great demonstration of the bottle and an up-close look at all of its features. Of course, the HYDRA Bottle is now available, so ignore the parts about it being a prototype!
Includes Speakers, Lights, Backup Battery, Storage Comaprtment
The HYDRA SmartBottle is decked out with a speaker to play your favorite tunes, lights for a party or emergency, a backup battery, and even a storage compartment - not to mention carries your water!
Jacob Hatch is the author and founder of Hydration Anywhere. He has been actively writing about drinking water since 2013. These days Jacob spends most of his time investigating water related news, studying environmental issues, reading health studies, and reviewing products like water bottles and water filters.