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!

Contact Stephen Schenck

  • by |

    We first caught sight of Google's Android 5.1.1 update back at the start of the month, mentioned in the release of a new SDK. Then last week, 5.1.1 was showing up on some official Android dev pages, measuring Nexus family audio latency. It sure felt like a release could happen at any moment, but when? Well, today's our day, as the first Android 5.1.1 release quietly appears as a factory image available for download. What's maybe most notable about the way Android 5.1.1 is emerging is that the first device to get it isn't a Nexus phone nor a Nexus tablet, but the Android TV Nexus Player. ...

    Share
  • by |

    What's a Windows Phone fan have to do to get his hands on some flagship-level hardware? Right now, such handsets on the platform are few and far between, and while there's hope that the situation is going to get better – especially with the forthcoming release of Windows 10 – firm information on specific models is hard to come by. But as we wait to learn more about what phones will emerge to lead the next generation of Microsoft Lumia devices, we get word of another future Windows model from an unlikely source, as Chinese manufacturer Elephone starts talking about its plans for a ...

    Share
  • by |

    The way we access the web is changing. For a growing number of people, their usage patterns are already heavily skewed towards mobile, and for many, mobile access is the primary way they get online. Google's all too aware of this, and we've already seen the company take steps to highlight content that's optimized for mobile consumption, like the way it started noting mobile-friendly sites in search results last fall. Today it's taking things one step further, making adjustments to its ranking algorithm that will award more favorable placement to sites that offer mobile-optimized layouts. ...

    Share
  • by |

    It would be fantastic if devices that once supported a service were guaranteed to keep doing so for years and years to come – that if Netflix works on your TV today, or your car streams Pandora, that it will keep right on working through future server-end upgrades. Sadly, that's not necessarily the case, and given enough time, client-side software can lose the ability to communicate with the service behind it. That's what happening to a number of YouTube-accessing devices right now, as Google updates its API and breaks compatibility with old viewers. The affected hardware includes old ...

    Share
  • by |

    The big news from OnePlus today concerns how it's selling the flagship One, doing away with invites and limited-time sales windows for good. But that's not the only thing that's happening with the phone today, and OnePlus's Carl Pei announced on social media that OTA distribution of the just-released CyanongenMod 12S update is being temporarily paused. While normally that would sound like bad news, it turns out it's happening for a pretty great reason, as Pei teases an new feature about to arrive for the One. CM12S distribution should get started again a little later this week, and it will ...

    Share
  • by |

    Your smartphone supports a lot of different radio formats, each bringing its own benefits to your handset. You've got LTE reception for mobile data, Bluetooth to talk to your accessories, and WiFi for data at home or work. But there's another radio inside many phones that can tap in to a ton of totally free news and entertainment: a standard audio FM radio. The hardware to support regular FM reception is often baked-in to the wireless chipsets employed by popular phones, but whether or not it's a user-accessible feature is a whole different story; despite hardware being physically capable ...

    Share
  • by |

    The Snapdragon 810 may be the system-on-a-chip powering the hot new smartphones of the moment – devices like the just-launched Sony Xperia Z4 – but the next big thing is already around the corner, and early last month Qualcomm announced the Snapdragon 820. The big news for that chip sounded like it would be Qualcomm's move away from off-the-shelf Cortex A-series cores and to Qualcomm's custom Kyro microarchitecture, but we didn't have a ton of technical details at the time. As more information comes to light, there's a new report out that Qualcomm could be turning to a ...

    Share
  • by |

    There's a major shake-up happening for Android tablets right now, and after years of manufacturers preferring models that mirrored their smartphone offerings with widescreen 16:9 or 16:10 displays, there's been a recent push towards the squarer 4:3 screens long associated with Apple's iPad lineup. We've already seen 4:3 models like the Nexus 9 and Nokia N1, and earlier this year Samsung made its own foray into the field with the 4:3-ratio Galaxy Tab A. First announced for Russia, it's finally time for these Tab A models to come to the US, as Samsung shares word of the start of pre-orders. ...

    Share
  • by |

    We're still a solid week away from LG's official G4 launch event, but that clearly hasn't stopped the manufacturer from getting an early start to promoting the smartphone. It's already been sharing hardware pics, talking about phone components, and generally getting us excited about the G4's pending debut. Its latest attempt to do just that comes from the company's native South Korea, as it shares some of the bonuses that are set to come along with G4 ownership. Just like HTC offers with its Uh Oh protection for the One M9, LG will replace a damaged G4 screen for one full year following ...

    Share
  • by |

    Amazon's Fire tablets make for a tricky proposition. They're not quite the full-blown Android experience some shoppers expect, with the same tight integration with Google apps and services you'll find on something like a Nexus model (or even a Galaxy Tab). That said, Amazon's own Fire OS fork can still manage to hit a lot of the notes many tablet users are looking to hear, and especially if they already find themselves invested in Amazon's ecosystem, a Fire tablet can prove to be a very convenient, affordable way to consume Prime content and access the company's own services. Today, that ...

    Share
  • by |

    With Apple Watch pre-orders upon us, and the smartwatch set to hit customer hands (well, wrists) soon, it's easy to get so wrapped-up in Apple's chapter of the wearable story that we gloss over what's happening with Android Wear. Sure, the other week's announcement about newly curated watchfaces and straps wasn't so hot, but that Moto 360 sale was solid. As it turns out, we just had to wait a little bit longer for the really substantial news, as today Google announces a big Android Wear update delivering some long-awaited features, including WiFi support. For watch hardware that supports ...

    Share
  • by |

    Last Friday, OnePlus invited the world to turn its attention on the company today, Monday,  April 20, with the understanding that big news was on its way. Was new hardware ready to make its debut? Could we be seeing the launch of the OnePlus 2 already? As it turns out, we're not getting any new device at all, but that doesn't mean that OnePlus doesn't still have a milestone of an announcement to share with us. Today it gets ready to mark the one-year anniversary of the OnePlus One launch by finally getting rid of its convoluted ordering system for the phone, fully opening OnePlus One ...

    Share
  • by |

    Piece by piece, Microsoft's vision for Windows 10 is being exposed to users participating in the public Technical Preview. The first release got the ball rolling, and this month's new build added to that equation with the introduction of new apps like the Project Spartan browser. Back at its January event, Microsoft shared even more software that would be emerging for Windows 10, including some updated versions of its Office apps for smartphones. Today it talks a little about what it's been doing to improve that software, and when we can expect to give it a try for ourselves. The preview ...

    Share
  • by |

    Yesterday we heard about a nasty bug affecting some Windows Phone users who were attempting to give Microsoft's Windows 10 Technical Preview a spin. Users with certain Lumia 52x-series handsets were finding their phones rendered unusable after playing with the preview, when trying to move back to Windows Phone 8.1. As a result, Microsoft halted distribution of the preview to devices like the Lumia 520, 525, and 526 until it could work out what was going wrong. The preview's still on ice for these models for now, but Microsoft may have already solved this mystery, as it explains today. The ...

    Share
  • by |

    Mobile payments may not necessarily revolutionize how you pay for goods and services, but they can still be a convenient (and sometimes even fun) way to break up the monotony of cards and cash. Last year Apple tipped its toe in the contactless mobile payment waters with the release of the NFC-supporting iPhone 6 and 6 Plus and the matching Apple Pay service. While that's been great for users in the US, where Apple Pay is currently active, iOS users abroad haven't yet been able to join in. We've already heard rumors about Apple's efforts to expand Apple Pay to new markets like Europe, and ...

    Share
  • by |

    It was April 23 of last year when OnePlus had its big launch announcement for the OnePlus One. And with the one-year anniversary of that news coming up on us fast, it's little surprise we've been talking a bunch about plans for a follow-up to the that model. With multiple reports talking about Q3 (if not slightly later), though, we were all ready to be waiting for quite a while before the OnePlus 2 would be making its own debut. But could it actually land far sooner than anticipated, much closer to that one-year mark? That's what everyone's asking this afternoon, as OnePlus teases an ...

    Share
  • by |

    It was only a few weeks after Google formally introduced Android 5.1 that we started hearing about its next platform release, as a new Android SDK made reference to Android version 5.1.1. But that was all we had: a number in some software. We're still far away from putting together an understanding of what Google intends to change in its next Android update, but today we do get to check out some new evidence of its development, with another 5.1.1 mention tuning up in an official source. Remember how one of the improvements Lollipop delivered was decreased audio latency? Google's got a page ...

    Share
  • by |

    Last week, Alcatel Onetouch shared the pre-order details for its 5.5-inch Idol 3. We first got our hands on the phone back at MWC in March, and now it was finally almost time for sales to begin. The way Alcatel Onetouch told it, the normally $280 Idol 3 would be scoring an online discount as pre-orders begin, going for just $250 when they get started on April 21. So imagine our surprise this morning when a new press release hit our inbox, announcing that not only was the Idol 3 arriving for pre-order early, but that the price was coming even further down. First up, pre-orders are open as ...

    Share
  • by |

    The LG G4 is nearly here, having leaked six ways from Sunday in advance of its upcoming April 28 launch event. And while that means that much of the phone's design has been revealed, questions about the hardware remain. One of the bigger ones has concerned precisely which SoC will power the handset, and while a Snapdragon 810 might have once been the safe assumption, a theory landing last month posited that the phone might instead run a Snapdragon 808. Now this week a new image has arrived that attempts to confirm that SoC choice, and the evidence is already stirring up a controversy. ...

    Share
  • by |

    Late last year, Sony Pictures Entertainment went and got itself hacked. What made that so interesting for us was that some leaked emails published in the hack's wake revealed internal marketing plans for the Xperia Z4, and correspondence about strategy and promotional tie-ins also revealed a few renders that sure looked like they could be the upcoming flagship. This week the hack's back in the news, as Wikileaks publishes a new trove of data stemming from it. And as luck would have it, this new release contains some additional smartphone renders. While these are being presented to us as ...

    Share
  • by |

    We've been waiting for ZTE to launch the Nubia Z9 for ages by this point, with leaks dating all the way back to last fall. The manufacturer has already gone public with a couple Z9 family members (Z9 Max pictured above), but the Z9 itself has so far been waiting for its own moment to step into the spotlight. Today we finally get an indication for when that will happen, as ZTE teases the launch for this handset with quite the eye-catching screen. One of the big selling points we've heard attached to the Z9's hardware has been a display with incredibly slim side bezels. The leak we saw last ...

    Share
  • by |

    When all the content we were looking for online existed as websites, Google's job was pretty straightforward: index that content and connect us to the most relevant among it based on our search queries. But as apps rise to fill some of those spaces once occupied by websites alone, Google's had to adjust. One big way it'd been doing that is through its app indexing program, which introduces app-specific content to mobile searches. For instance, you might look up data on a local restaurant, and Google could direct you right to the Yelp app already installed on your phone. Problem's been, ...

    Share
  • by |

    How do you get written data onto your smartphone or tablet? You can take a picture and process it with an app like Microsoft Office Lens. A stylus will let you write directly on your device's screen, and while some of the capacitive ones can be a little unsatisfying, setups taking advantage of a dedicated digitizer (like in Galaxy Note models) can offer much higher fidelity. Maybe one of the most interesting solutions is a smartpen, a handwriting tool that looks and works like a regular pen, but can digitally capture its movements and relay them to a connected device. Livescribe has a ...

    Share
  • by |

    When Google Cardboard premiered at I/O last summer, it felt like some odd combination of a joke, an afterthought, and maybe a passing distraction. After all, Google couldn't really be serious about a passive VR viewer that was little more than a couple lenses and a cheap frame, could it? But what Cardboard lacked in polish it made up for in accessibility and flexibility, and the low barrier of entry it offered has allowed more smartphone users than ever before to enjoy a real 3D experience on their phones. In the time since, we've seen dozens upon dozens of manufacturers come out with ...

    Share
  • by |

    Carriers have any number of reasons for why they begin and end sales of smartphones when they do. New phones may arrive due to freshly inked deals with manufacturers, and vanish to make room for new models. So when word arrived yesterday that T-Mobile was halting sales of last fall's ZTE Zmax phablet, you might not have batted an eye at the news. But as more of this story comes to light, the Zmax's disappearance from T-Mobile's lineup is anything but ordinary, and there may be a very unusual reason why the carrier is putting a stop to sales. A leaked memo informed T-Mobile retail stores to ...

    Share
Mobile Version