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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    A couple days earlier this week, Samsung got US sales rolling for arguably the most compelling Galaxy Note 4 accessory you'll find, the immersive Gear VR headset. Pop your Note 4 in the front, strap the Gear VR on, and you're all ready to start experiencing virtual worlds. Well, at least you would be, if your Note 4 supported the Gear VR. Even though the accessory is explicitly designed to work with the phablet, there's one important stipulation you may have overlooked: the Note 4 needs its latest software to connect with the Gear VR, and as Samsung alluded to in its statement accompanying ...

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    Right at the tail end of last week we checked out the latest information attempting to clue us in as to what to expect form Samsung's spring 2015 flagship, the phone we're all expecting to arrive as the Galaxy S6. Instead of stuff like curved screens, we were looking at straightforward benchmark data – and from what was revealed, the handset sure looked like a solid one, rocking an octa-core Exynos 7420, a quad HD display, 3GB of RAM, and a 20MP camera. Problem is, benchmarks aren't always the most reliable source for intel on a new phone, and especially when we're only looking at ...

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    For the past couple months, OnePlus has been doing its best to make the One available for purchase to more and more users. While some of those opportunities have involved very limited pre-order windows, we've also seen progress towards regular, continually-open sales, as occurred over Black Friday weekend. With the clock ticking down on 2015, the manufacturer is offering shoppers one more shot at snagging the very affordable smartphone, announcing its “Gift of One” event with another wide-open sales opportunity. Starting now and going until... well, we don't know when, but acting fast ...

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    If you're looking for a smartphone that takes its security seriously, there's not a handset that wears its commitment to user privacy and OS integrity on its sleeve more boldly than the Blackphone. But as we saw when reviewing the handset, this is a phone that sometimes sounds a bit better than its reality can follow-through with, and we took issue with software stability problems and what we viewed as first-gen missteps. But the great thing about software is how amenable it is to improvements, and today we learn about a big new update coming for the Blackphone with the release of PrivatOS ...

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    A few weeks back, a leak surfaced that attempted to reveal the next evolution of Android Wear, previewing some of the changes coming to the OS in the forthcoming Android 5.0 release for smartwatches. Those included some handy accessibility features, as well as the much-needed ability to recall previously-dismissed notifications. It all sounded great, but we didn't have much of an idea for just when we could expect Google to release it. There's still no official word, but a new rumor claims that distribution could begin as soon as tomorrow. So says the team at Phandroid, having heard from a ...

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    The past few months have seen some pretty solid progress towards the dream of a fully modular smartphone, and back in October we got a look at an assembled Project Ara prototype handset booting into Android. The arrival of that news also brought with it word of the next Ara dev conference, set to get underway in mid-January. Among the topics we've been looking forward to for coverage there is the reveal of the next-gen Ara Spiral 2 prototype board, which will form the backbone for future Ara module development. Today we get an early preview, as Google ATAP shares a look at the Spiral 2 ...

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    Back in August, before we even knew that the Nexus 6 would be a Motorola handset, rumors were hotly debating what sort of features we might end up getting. One of these rumors married itself to the idea of an LG-made Nexus 6 based on the G3, and while that obviously didn't happen, the same source mentioned Google in discussions with component suppliers about possible fingerprinting-scanning hardware. As it turns out, that aspect of the rumor may have actually had some legs to it, and now we're being made aware of Lollipop code pointing to just such a Nexus 6 fingerprint scanner. The ...

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    Three weeks ago yesterday, Apple started sending another in its series of post-iOS-8 updates, releasing iOS 8.1.1. The big draw there was supposed to be enhanced performance on older iOS hardware (stuff running the ancient A5 chip), but real-world testing disputed just how substantial of an improvement users could hope to see. Still, there were some more concrete benefits, like freeing up some storage space on certain models. Today Apple follows 8.1.1 up with its next iOS update, sending out 8.1.2 to awaiting users. What's new? As shouldn't be too surprising from a tiny (28MB) ...

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    “But it's going to kill the battery. But I don't want to pay for a second cellular plan. But I always carry my smartphone on me, anyway!” Listen, not everyone's going to dig the idea of a smartwatch that pulls down its own cellular connection. And yes, there are a bunch of new issues that such products introduce. But as our experiences with the Samsung Gear S taught us, there can be a lot to love about models like this for the right users. We've already talked about the idea of LG joining Samsung with a cell-enabled smartwatch of its own, having spotted such a model at the FCC a couple ...

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    Amazon finds itself in a complicated relationship between its mobile hardware and the software that runs on it all. On one hand, Amazon would very much like you using its Fire phones, tablets, and maybe even a Kindle on the side, and if it's got some attractive software that helps draw you to these devices, that could be just the carrot on the stick it needs. On the other hand, anything that has you interacting with the company's services only stands to help bring business its way, so it also makes a fair amount of sense to make that software as broadly available as possible. This week, we ...

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    It's a dance we know all too well: Samsung delivers its latest flagship model, only to come back a few months later with a tweaked version running some even more impressive silicon. The Galaxy S4 launched with a Snapdragon 600, only for Samsung to follow that up with a Snapdragon 800 version for LTE-A networks in South Korea. And after the GS5 arrived with its Snapdragon 801, Samsung came back with an LTE-A version that didn't just step up to a Snapdragon 805, but also gave the phone a huge resolution bump up to quad HD. We could be about to see another move along these lines, as rumors ...

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    Mobile device manufacturers are always looking for the latest hot feature to capture the public's attention. Over the past few months, we've seen several efforts to draw shoppers' eyes to the notion of fast charging – power adapters able to push so much juice into our phones that we're charging them to capacity in a matter of minutes, not hours. And while that's all really great, it's not doing much to help promote another big power-related tech: wireless charging. Sure, wireless charging can be quite convenient, but it's also a bit slow. However, that may soon be changing, as solutions ...

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    We're still months away from seeing the start of Apple Watch sales, but one thread that's been a pretty consistent part of rumors concerning how Apple intends to sell its first smartwatch have been this high-fashion, luxury angle: with all the different sizes, materials, and band options Apple intends to offer, to say nothing of the rumored multi-thousand-dollar price tags for the higher-end versions, it certainly looks like it would fit right in with such a market. While we don't yet have the full picture on Apple's intentions, new reports are doing their best to reinforce this idea, as ...

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    The Nexus 6 has been available for several weeks by this point, but it can still be a pain to track down. Google Play Store sales have suffered from extremely sporadic availability, driving shoppers to the carriers, instead. With AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile all carrying the smartphone, that means plenty of alternative choices, although there's been the promise of more to come: Verizon and US Cellular. Verizon continues to remain silent on the matter, but today we finally see US Cellular throw its hat in the ring, beginning sales of both the 32GB and 64GB Nexus 6. What's the big deal ...

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    Well this is an interesting coincidence: only hours ago we were telling you about some rumors concerning LG's G Pro series of smartphones, with claims arriving that the manufacturer could be done with the G Pro lineup entirely. That led to us talking about LG and phablets in general, and how with its G-series flagships growing each generation, there might not be a need for a separate phablet - at least, barring some cool feature like the Note 4's S Pen stylus. Now, while LG does have the stylus-equipped G3 Stylus (above), the phone's hardware falls seriously short of G3 quality, and the ...

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