Posts by Stephen Schenck

Stephen has been writing about electronics since 2008, which only serves to frustrate him that he waited so long to combine his love of gadgets and his degree in writing. In his spare time, he collects console and arcade game hardware, is a motorcycle enthusiast, and enjoys trapping blue crabs. Stephen's first mobile device was a 624 MHz Dell Axim X30, which he's convinced is still a viable platform. Stephen longs for a market where phones are sold independently of service, and bandwidth is cheap and plentiful; he's not holding his breath. In the meantime, he devours smartphone news and tries to sort out the juicy bits Read more about Stephen Schenck!

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    With MWC just two weeks away, we're getting into the home stretch for leaks and rumors focusing on the crop of new smartphone flagships expected to make their debut at the show. We've already seen the LG G5 reveal many of its secrets, and we've been waiting patiently for the Samsung Galaxy S7 to do the same. And while that's brought us a couple of detailed renders of the phone, as well as a possible shot of the actual hardware, so far the leaks have been coming up short in one key area: we'd yet to get a good look at a real pic of the phone's backside, confirming rumors about a seriously ...

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    For as much thought as we put into PINs, passwords, and biometric authentication on our phones, security often feels like an afterthought – or not thought about at all – when it comes to wearables like smartwatches. To an extent, that makes sense; after all, we're a lot less likely to accidentally lose track of a gadget that's securely strapped to our wrist. But as we start using wearables for more and more functions, maybe especially in terms of mobile payments, is it worth thinking a little more about how to properly secure them? Samsung seems to be doing just that, and a recently ...

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    Doing even the simplest-seeming thing on our smartphones can involve a lot of little moving parts. Information needs to be gathered from input sources, interpreted, passed to the right processes, ferried off to remote cell towers, routed to the right servers – and that's just getting started. Every step along the way is another opportunity for things to go wrong, messages to get dropped, and lag to slow the whole process down. In the spirit of believing that simpler might just be better, Google's rolling out a change to Hangouts on Android that aims to increase call quality by setting up ...

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    How many objectively different smartphone can one company release under the same name? And how long can it keep that routine going? When we see a manufacturer like Samsung release a flagship Galaxy phone running different SoCs in different markets, it's one thing, but as more and more of those specs change, and more and more time passes between launches, are we really looking at multiple variants of the same smartphone, or what might be more properly talked about as fully distinct models? That's the question we're asking about HTC today, as we learn about yet another handset making its ...

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    Net neutrality may be the law of the land, but carriers aren't about to sit idly by and treat all content as equal while there's money to be made by doing the opposite. So while paid prioritization may be out the window so long as the FCC is getting its way, carriers have been quick to come at things from another direction, championing the rise of “zero-rated” data schemes that allow content providers to get their media to users without those viewers having to use their expensive mobile data allotment in the process. Last year we heard that Verizon was looking into doing just that with ...

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    After a quiet couple months, HTC One M10 (aka Perfume) rumors started picking back up a few weeks back, talking about everything from launch plans, to handset design, to the phone's internal hardware. And while all that added up to giving us a better understanding of the next flagship in HTC's pipeline, we still hasn't seen the phone that was to become the manufacturer's big early-2016 hero device. That's in stark contrast to the LG G5, which has been leaking like a rusty sieve, and even the Samsung Galaxy S7, which recently found itself the subject of a few convincing enough renders. But ...

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    The times are a-changing up in Waterloo, and BlackBerry faces a future that looks very different from what the company might have been expecting just a few years back. BlackBerry 10 as a platform is on the way out, and while support's supposed to continue for time being, everything we've heard suggests that BlackBerry's fate lies in its ability to fully transition over to an Android device maker. And while the company may be in this for the long haul, it might not be bringing all of its employees along with it, as reports roll in of some pretty substantial layoffs. BlackBerry has yet to ...

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    Someday, our favorite smartphones will be left behind by the tide of progress, no long tapped to receive the latest platform updates and doomed to live out the rest of their days on increasingly feature-poor, insecure software: it's just the way of the world, as planned obsolescence pushes us towards newer and fancier hardware. But for the time being, there's still plenty of life left in our favorite flagships, and Android users are experiencing a surge in availability of (admittedly overdue) Android 6.0 Marshmallow updates. We just told you about the LG G4 bringing Marshmallow to T-Mobile ...

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    Dealing with a broken smartphone can be an abject nightmare, not to mention a pretty expensive proposition, so it's little surprise that users often turn to their most accessible, most affordable options for repair – even if that may not mean dealing with an authorized service agent. After all, your phone's already broken, so what's the harm, right? Well, for a growing number of iPhone users that harm is only becoming apparent after the fact, as they get locked out of their phones when attempting to install their latest system updates. The culprit is the Touch ID sensor embedded in the ...

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    February is finally upon us, and that means that we're only a few weeks away from when we've heard that HTC will finally start accepting pre-orders for its Vive VR headset. When that day comes we'll finally have the answer to maybe the biggest question hanging over the Vive to date – just what will this extravagance end up costing – and while we don't have that info quite yet, today we find ourselves picking up a little new insight into Vive ownership, as HTC makes available the headset's owner's manual. With much of the Pocketnow staff having slapped on the Vive for some VR fun by ...

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    Everything we've been seeing lately about LG's upcoming G5 has been telling us to expect a radical new look for the phone's back, dropping the now-standard rear volume controls in favor of a single power button/fingerprint scanner, and going with a side-by-side dual-camera arrangement, with the lenses flanking the phone's flash and laser-assist auto-focus. And while this layout has become a key part of the G5's story, so far we haven't been super-clear on the specifics. At least, every time it seems like we get a chance to peek at the phone's rear, either in schematics, renders, of even ...

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    Apple's in the business of buying old iPhones. Maybe the company doesn't quite position it like that, but if your iPhone isn't ancient (iPhone 4 or newer), Apple will offer you a little cash when trading in your old model for the purchase of a new one – from as little as $100 in the case of the iPhone 4, to as much as $350 for a iPhone 6 Plus (and that's not even touching on the new lease program). But while Apple's happy to take a used-but-in-good-condition iPhone off your hands, the situation quickly starts going south when you're talking about a damaged phone. Now a new rumor claims ...

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    When are finally going to get the chance to see the debut of the next – and by plenty of accounts, maybe even the last – Lumia smartphone? The Lumia 650's been on our radar for months, and since right around the start of the new year we've really been looking into just when this puppy might be fixing to launch. Rumors first suggested a very-early February low-key announcement, before backing off and claiming that the Lumia 650 was facing some short delays. Well, that rumored February 1 launch clearly didn't happen, so what about this new, delayed date? While earlier reports didn't name ...

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    How long have we been waiting for Android Wear watches to start sounding off? Models like last year's Huawei Watch were clearly packing integrated speakers, and it looked like it was just a matter of time before we'd see the software fall into place that would finally take advantage of them. But despite some indications that such updates were on the way, official speaker support has so far been elusive. Well, today's the day we've been looking forward to, as Google announces new hands-free features for Android Wear, including speaker support. Right now, the only two Android Wear models ...

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    It's easy enough to build an extremely affordable smartphone, but the trick isn't simply undercutting everyone else on price; it's keeping prices low while still delivering hardware that's worth buying, with attractive specs and a compelling design. Huawei may have hit that nail right on the head with its Honor sub-brand's new 5X, which just the other day went up for sale in the States at an incredibly attractive $200 price point. With a Snapdragon 615 under the hood, 13MP camera, and a 5.5-inch 1080p screen, that sure looked like it added up to one heck of a bargain. Now it's time for ...

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    A few years back, it seemed like being ahead of the curve with mobile gadgets meant carrying as many as your pockets would allow: you had your phone, maybe a tablet, and packed your bag with a laptop, camera, and no shortage of accessories. And while we still love being packed to the brim and ready for whatever the day throws at us, there's a new focus on simplifying our mobile lives, and moving to devices that do double (if not more) duty. Microsoft's stirred up such interest with Continuum on Windows 10 Mobile, and Canonical's been pushing a similar agenda with Ubuntu on mobile devices, ...

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    With under three weeks to go until MWC 2016 kicks off, interest in the show is heating up fast, especially as companies like LG confirm plans to launch long-rumored flagship phones. Beyond LG, we're also extremely interested in what Samsung's got coming our way at its Unpacked event, and even if Samsung's not yet ready to go the LG route and outright tell us what's on the menu (*cough* GS7 *cough*) there have been more than enough rumors to hold us over. One of those rumors concerned a possible accessory for the Galaxy S7 (and its presumed Gear VR), a dual-lens spherical camera Capablanca ...

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    MWC is just weeks away, and it seems like every day we're talking about another smartphone we're hoping to see launch at the expo. Yesterday we checked out some unannounced hardware from Alcatel OneTouch, as the company accidentally posted some early info about both the Idol 4 and Idol 4S, ahead of an expected MWC launch. It turns out that was just the opening act, and today we're turning our attention to a new leak that attempts to reveal even more AOT hardware due for an MWC debut, with the revelation of the Pop 4, Pop 4S, and Pop 4 Plus. The Pop 4 (bottom) looks like the lowest end of ...

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    Is there no holiday that's not a good opportunity to sell some smartphones? Arbor Day coming up? How about some half-priced wearables? Cinco de Mayo right around the corner? Let's offer some free USB power packs with new phone purchases! So while you may not think of Valentine's Day as a particularly phone-related celebration, hardware manufacturers are doing their darnedest to cash in on the inevitable swell of gift-giving all the same, and OnePlus is trying its hand and that by offering some free-case deals. Whether you're in the market for a OnePlus 2 or a OnePlus X (both finally ...

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    From the moment LG sent out its invitations to its Mobile World Congress press event, we found ourselves wondering if the G5 might show up. It couldn't launch that early, right? But it wasn't long at all before we had to start seriously reconsidering what the manufacturer might be up to as the company confirmed plans to show off a “flagship-level” phone. LG stopped short of outright saying “we're going to launch the G5,” but based on the info we had access to, that outcome started sounding like a pretty reasonable conclusion. Well, we've still got over two weeks to go until LG's ...

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    It's easy to find yourself overwhelmed by ads on your smartphone, whether in apps or just on the mobile web. So it's little surprise that when a company announces a new way to give users control over just how they're exposed to those ads, we're quick to take advantage of it. That's just what happened a few days back as Samsung opened up its Android browser's API to work with ad-blocking software, and devs were in a rush to deliver solutions ready to start nipping all those ads in the bud. Unfortunately for fans of this development, Google's wasted no time in shutting the operation down, ...

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    Google Cardboard has opened the door on virtual reality for millions of smartphone users, but based on the recent hirings and shifting of resources Google's been up to, it's becoming clear that Cardboard's only the start, and Google's got some much larger VR ambitions; where will they take us? While Google hasn't made any public proclamations of its future VR plans, evidence from at least one employee suggests we might be looking at some kind of crossover with Project Tango, marrying Cardboard's 3D display with Tango's reality-scanning hardware. Googler Isaac Taylor recently posted on ...

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    Android offers users no shortage of ways to consume podcasts, with plenty of apps ready to connect listeners with their favorite content. But for as many options as were out there, the platform's been missing an official central repository for podcast distribution. Last fall we saw Google begin to address this oversight, announcing plans to finally bring podcasts to Google Play Music. The company announced a few early partners and started accepting sign-ups from interested producers (ourselves included), but wasn't ready to offer a start date for the service going live – only saying that ...

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    With Fitbit's launch of its new Alta band, we've got wearables on the mind, but today it's not just new models that are catching our attention. We're also checking out the arrival of a new update for one of last year's models, as Microsoft delivers some new features for its own wearables, updating its Microsoft Health companion app and helping the Band 2 stretch its battery life to new lengths. While some of us will use a fitness tracker to just generally keep on top of our physical activity, there's no shame in admitting that many of us are interested in losing weight. To that end, ...

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    Is there still room for a dedicated fitness tracker in your life? Between widening adoption of full-fledged smartwatches, and all the sensor data our phones are capable of gathering themselves, you might think that traditional activity trackers were at risk of becoming a hard sell, but for a lot of users, their compact sizes, laser-focused feature set, and affordable price tags have continued to make them an attractive proposition. Today Fitbit announces its latest effort, the petite Alta band. Alta tracks steps, computes calories burned, and gathers sleep data. It's water resistant, ...

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