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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    There's only so much you can do to help smartphone users keep their devices secure. You can tell them to keep their apps up to date, or not to download software from unknown sources. You can even teach them how to spot when someone's trying to trick them into installing they shouldn't be. But despite all those efforts, sometimes malware still manages to get a foot in the door, and that's just what's happening with a new ransomware attack. Let's get one thing out of the way early: this attack only works on Android 4.x devices, so if you're running a modern platform release, you're in good ...

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    It's the tide of progress: what once was state-of-the-art is now ho-hum; what was once premium is now mid-range, or dare we say, entry-level? That's almost unarguably a good thing, as today's most affordable phones emerge capable of running circles around the top-shelf models of yesteryear. Lately we've been checking out evidence for the new mid-range Galaxy C lineup from Samsung, primarily as revealed through benchmark publications. Last week we saw the SM-C7000 – or Galaxy C7 – pop up with 4GB of RAM and a new Snapdragon 625 SoC. Now a second benchmark publication appears to confirm ...

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    Is there still room in your life for a stand-alone music player? A decade back, maybe you carried both your phone and an MP3 player, but pretty much everyone's transitioned in the time since to getting all their music right on their phone. That said, there are still a few outliers, from Apple keeping the iPod touch alive, to music-focused handsets from manufacturers like Sony. Today we're learning about one of the latest along those lines, as we check out the DP-X1 from Onkyo. The DP-X1 is an Android Lollipop device, and while it may look at first like a chunky smartphone, this hardware is ...

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    How many iterations of “X is the new Y” have you seen in social media circles over the years? Instagram is the new Twitter? Snapchat is the new Instagram? Unfortunately for some of the largest companies in the social networking game, it's all too easy to get yourself pegged as the Y in that comparison, and that's a fate Facebook's been fighting for some time now. The company's drive to stay ahead of its competitors has led Facebook to either outright acquire such companies, or do its best to implement its own version of their services. Last month we learned about Facebook buying ...

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    Google realizes that Gmail addresses aren't for everyone. But even if your digital mail lives on someone else's server, Google would still like little more than for you at least to be accessing it through its Gmail app. That's led to developments like the “Gmailify” service we saw debut earlier this year, where Google worked to implement a number of Gmail-like features for users connecting to external Yahoo or Outlook email accounts. Today Google's got some fresh news about how Gmail's making it easier for users with existing email services to adopt the Gmail app, as the company ...

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    What sort of hardware do you think about when we mention a $20,000 smartphone? Ridiculous models with fancy designs and premium materials, but that are basically expensive facades on top of run-of-the-mill phones? Maybe that passes as a nice phone for someone who doesn't know any better, but there's generally been a big disconnect between luxury-positioned smartphones and those that are simply very, very good phones. Now one startup is attempting to bridge that gap, announcing plans to launch a just-under-$20,000 phone next month with some state-of-the-art capabilities. We don't know ...

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    New Apple hardware is always reason to get excited, and even if something like the iPhone SE isn't your particular cup of tea, you can rest assured that Apple's going to sell its latest handset by the boatload. Much like the rumors about Apple's next-gen Apple Watch, we've been checking out a lot of new iPhone rumors lately, and just as many of those smartwatch details are up in the air between this year's and next year's model, there's been a lot of controversy over which changes might land in time for this year's iPhone 7, and which might take until 2017 to arrive. Things like an OLED ...

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    It hardly seems controversial to suggest that Apple's working on new smartwatch hardware; after all, the original Apple Watch has been around for quite a while now, and Apple's sure to have come up with a few ideas in the interim on things it might like to do better. And certainly, we've heard plenty of rumors about just what form some of those changes might take. That said, there are plenty are unknowns when we start getting specific about which of these changes Apple's most likely to make, and maybe more importantly, when the company's likely to make them. Will this year only get a minor ...

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    Beta testing can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different developers. Some use it as a last once-over, exposing some pre-release software to a segment of the public in order to help uncover any not-yet-spotted bugs. Others seem to use it as a nearly perpetual testbed where new features make their debut shortly before hitting an app's public build. So when we see an upcoming app make its beta debut, as happened with Microsoft's Word Flow keyboard for iOS a couple weeks back, we don't always know what to think. As it turns out, this was one of those quick-last-check betas, and ...

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    How long after the debut of a major new Android release does it become acceptable that new handsets arrive with that latest software present? We're not clueless to the realities of the software development process, and all the testing and re-testing that goes into getting a new release ready for a particular smartphone. Development pipelines are easily months, if not years long, and when a new Android version pops up just weeks before a new phone comes out, we're not about to start making unrealistic demands. But as the weeks and months go on, how long are we prepared to wait before that ...

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    What can we say: it's the end of the week. Manufacturers have wrapped up their big hardware announcements for the time being, leaving us to sit back and check out some of the stories that might otherwise find themselves on the back burner. And you know what? There's some pretty good stuff in there. We've already spent the day checking out some pretty neat DIY projects spread across platforms, and have recently been taking an eye to some of the latest deals to hit the mobile world. That's just the sort of thread we're continuing with now, as we learn about a selection of solid discounts on ...

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    A couple weeks back we saw Microsoft release a noteworthy update for Windows 10 Insiders, giving testers access to a number of the Windows 10 Anniversary Update enhancements that the company had just finished teasing at Build. Bash was a (nope, resisting that pun) hoot to get to finally try out on a Windows machine, and the ease at which we could toggle the system's dark mode on and off had us wishing the option had been there from the beginning. But not all of the hot new Windows 10 features Microsoft told us about during its Build keynote were ready for action … at least, not just yet. ...

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    OnePlus already sells some of the most affordable smartphones around, and while that's great for those of us looking for a good value, it becomes tricky when the manufacturer is trying to boost sales with a new promotional offer – how far can you cut costs before you start taking a loss? Instead, OnePlus has taken to the idea of making its handsets more attractive with some free bundle deals, like we saw it do back in February for Valentine's Day. Now it's back with a very similar offer, hooking new orders of the OnePlus 2 and OnePlus X up with a free StyleSwap cover or case. Shoppers ...

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    When you're a company as big as Microsoft or Google, you've got a lot of eyes on you at any given time, ranging from media critics, to government watchdogs, to competing companies. And while that sort of exposure is a mostly inevitable consequence of being a tech giant, it sure can keep a good number of PR and legal employees busy round the clock. Any time that they don't have to spend worrying about these issues is manpower that can be better allocated elsewhere, so to that end Google and Microsoft have found themselves coming to something of an agreement, each pledging to lay off the ...

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    For a smartphone dating all the way back to 2013, the Nexus 5 still holds a special place in the hearts of a good number of Android users, and while it's clearly been surpassed by more powerful Nexus hardware, some recent hot deals on the phone have managed to keep it in our thoughts. But for as much as the Nexus 5 did right, it was never a phone that fared well for users with big data needs: with no microSD expansion (well, not without a separate mod), and only 16GB and 32GB storage options, it might not be long before you found yourself uninstalling old apps to free up space. Google and ...

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    How do you get your in-car smart-device fix? Are you rocking a smartphone mount on your dash, ready to slap on your phone and start navigating? Or do you have a fancy new vehicle with its own smartphone integration, thanks to systems like CarPlay or Android Auto? Those latter two options are well and good for Apple or Android users, but what about the Microsoft contingent? While Microsoft's announced its own car-connectivity partnerships with various vehicle makers and dash-system manufacturers, there hasn't been quite the same concerted push towards platform-level integration. One user's ...

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    It's rare that a smartphone is so defined by an accessory, especially a third-party one, but when we saw Microsoft showing off the new Lumia 950 and 950 XL at those phones' launch event alongside their custom leather Mozo covers, we knew we were looking at something special. Indeed, while you'll find plenty of criticism about the design Microsoft went with for its Windows 10 Mobile flagship models, it's almost like those objections vanish when we wrap one of those phones in Mozo's smart-looking leather shell. Now the case maker's planning to give 950/XL users even more options for sprucing ...

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    After an iPhone 6s that did little to convince us we needed to upgrade from the 6, it's nearly time for Apple's hardware cycle to bring us a slightly more inspired iPhone, a model that breaks from tradition enough to really get us excited about some new functionality. But with rumors of features like dual cameras (and even then only on certain models) and a disappearing headphone jack, will the iPhone 7 we've been hearing about really do enough to justify its full-number step forward in the iPhone family line? Some days it feels like we're coming across just as many rumors talking not ...

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    The FBI would have loved to get Apple's help in breaking into the iPhone 5c from its San Bernardino terrorism investigation, but Apple wasn't playing ball. And before the courts could sort out just how much assistance the government could legally demand from the iPhone maker, the FBI backed out of the proceedings, claiming that it had managed to get into the smartphone without Apple at all. The agency's been keeping tight-lipped about exactly who helped it access the phone in question, but today we're learning a little more about just how this all happened, as FBI Director James Comey ...

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    Curious how your favorite mobile companies have been doing? You're in luck, as the biggest of the big are lining up to share their latest financial figures. Today we've got new reports incoming from a couple of these giants, and right now we're taking a look at Microsoft's. The company's unsurprisingly making good money (though it's seen better quarters), and on the hardware side we're seeing the continuation of some familiar trends. Quarterly revenue hit $20.5 billion, with net income of $3.8 billion. While those figures are slightly down from last year ($21.7B and $5.0B, respectively), ...

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    The past few weeks have been thick with rumors of new Motorola hardware, as leaks appeared to reveal a pair of handsets: the device we're hearing called the Moto G4 Plus, with a beneath-the-screen fingerprint scanner, and a similar model that forgoes the fingerprint scanner, believed to launch as simply the Moto G4. The design we've seen hasn't been everyone's favorite, but regardless of what you may think of the look of these phones, we're still very curious to get the official scoop on them – and that's going to mean looking forward to a formal launch announcement. As luck would have ...

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    Today's Acer hardware event continues, and in addition to checking out that Android-powered Liquid Zest Plus with its big 5,000mAh battery, we're also hearing a lot about new Windows 10 devices. In addition to some hot desktops and conventional laptops, we're also seeing one new model that seeks to give the Surface Pro family a run for its money, as Acer introduces the Switch Alpha 12 convertible tablet. The Switch Alpha 12 features a (you guessed it) 12-inch 2160 x 1440 display, Skylake Core i-series processors, 4GB of RAM, and storage options topping out at 128GB. With both traditional ...

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    Smartphone manufacturers walk a delicate tightrope when choosing how to power their phones: go with too small a battery, and users will be frustrated when their phone craps-out midway thtough the day; go too large, and you risk alienating users seeking a slimmer, sleeker handset. That said, there are always going to be groups of shoppers who are willing to compromise and actually prefer one of those extremes, and today we learn of one new smartphone that wears its giant-sized battery like a badge of honor, the just-launched Acer Liquid Zest Plus. The 5.5-inch Liquid Zest Plus comes through ...

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    It's been just over a week now since Amazon introduced the latest member of the Kindle family, launching the very thin (if somewhat oddly shaped) Kindle Oasis e-reader. For users who love the look of e-ink screens when settling in for a little light reading, the new model certainly delivered, but what about a more full-featured tablet – say, a new Fire model? Last week we also heard a rumor about a possible Fire HD 8 refresh, but the Kindle Oasis ended up launching alone, no new Fire model at its side. Well, it's not quote what we were expecting, and it's taken a little longer to get ...

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    Sony smartphones may not dominate the market, and sometimes it's difficult to say just how enthusiastic the manufacturer is about selling them in the first place, but for users interested in getting access to cutting-edge software, Sony's emerged as a surprisingly forward-thinking OEM. For the past few years, the company's not been shy about making available early builds of new Android releases for a select group of handsets, and last summer we even saw that early access extend to the still-in-development Android M preview. This year Google surprised us all by releasing its Android N ...

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