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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    Owners of the OnePlus One have been patiently waiting for Android Lollipop for months. And while they don't have it just yet, they've got two releases to look forward to: in addition to the Lollipop-based CyanogenMod 12S, the update to the current OnePlus One software, we're also about to see the release of the company's own custom ROM, dubbed OxygenOS. A few weeks back we got a general ETA for when to expect both of these software packages, with OnePlus advising us that it planed to begin distribution in mid to late March. Now it's getting even more specific, offering a couple dates. ...

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    Google's Play Store and Apple's App Store both attempt to do similar things: connecting mobile users to software for their devices. Yet their attitudes on how they approach this task have historically seemed quite different: Apple has its tight control over what does and doesn't meet its standards, while Google's tried to be more hands-off, having fewer restrictions. And despite Google's easy-going nature in that regard, the company's still made serious efforts to ensure that Play Store apps are good stuff, things like its system to scan software for known malware attacks. But now Google's ...

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    Samsung's MWC launches may have been all about new flagship phones, but even if nothing new debuted on the tablet front, it's also been clear that the company is up to something there. Over the past few months we've checked out numerous leaks and rumors offering evidence for the development of quite a few distinct models, including some new OLED-screen tablets. We're still waiting on those, but this week Samsung is going official with plans for several other new tablets, revealing the Galaxy Tab A series and the new Galaxy Tab 3 V. The Galaxy Tab A (above) first appeared on our radar back ...

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    Samsung's round-screened Orbis smartwatch is just all over the news today. A few hours back we checked out a report that the wearable could find itself powered by the same Exynos chip Samsung's putting in the Galaxy S6, all with the aim of giving Orbis battery life that goes solidly beyond its competition. That sounds all sorts of promising, but when might we actually be able to check this guy out for ourselves? Rumors of an MWC debut clearly haven't happened, so what might be another possible ETA? Sometime in early summer? Another new Orbis rumor suggests a launch could fall even further ...

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    Google announced a big improvement to its Now service back at the end of January, with the personal software assistant picking up support for a bunch of cards from third-party apps. While in the past Google Now had been great about pulling data from things like your email and calendar, this new support meant access to previously untouched data troves. It all sounded very promising, with support for cards from even more apps to come. The only downside might be how Google was making this integration happen, and the need to work closely with the Now team to deliver this functionality might ...

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    Ounce-for-ounce, smartwatches offer some of the highest performance-to-size ratios of any mobile electronics. They may not seem like technical powerhouses just yet, as developers still struggle to tap into their full potential, but the silicon's there: just look at the Snapdragon 400 SoCs in many current-gen Android Wear models. That might make for a mid-range phone experience, but when you're only dealing with a tiny smartwatch screen, you've got performance to spare. Now a new rumor suggests that some upcoming smartwatches could be looking to seriously step up their SoC game, hooking ...

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    MWC 2015 and the launch of Snapdragon 810-powered phones like the HTC One M9 seemed to finally put a damper on those weeks and weeks of everything-that-could-be-is-wrong-with-the-Snapdragon-810 rumors. No matter what bumps along the road the SoC may or may not have had, it was ending up in more and more phones. And to hear a report from about a month back, there could be good reason for this 810 fiasco feeling like it was becoming played out, appearing to show no major thermal issues with the 810 in operation. Now that HTC One M9 handsets are making their way out into the hands of testers ...

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    The last couple weeks have brought us plenty of rumors about LG's plans for its upcoming G4 flagship, but are we getting closer to developing an understanding of this hardware, or is the whole thing just drifting away from us, with confusing rumors muddying the waters? Much of the recent uncertainty has sprung from the arrival of renders that depict a possible G4 that sure looks a lot like the still-very-new G Flex 2 – so close to that phone, in fact, that we're left scratching our heads as to why LG might even bother with such a direct rehash. The latest info on the G4 to leak isn't ...

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    Sony's apparently in no big rush to release the Xperia Z4, with both CES and MWC having passed without sign of the expected flagship. And while we may end up waiting until close to summer before the the flagship debuts, that's just afforded us more time to wait for the arrival of better and better Z4 leaks. Recently, the quality's really been picking up, and earlier this month we had the opportunity to inspect some very nice comparison pics putting the Z3's frame up against a supposed Z4 component. Today we move beyond individual parts to take a look at the fully assembled phone, upon the ...

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    There's a lot of confusion and uncertainty right now regarding Sony's intentions to make Android 5.0 Lollipop updates available for many of its second-tier smartphones, but owners of Xperia Z-class devices have been able to rest a lot easier: they're getting Lollipop, and it's just a question of when. For the freshest of the batch we've been expecting to see those releases come quite soon; just last week Sony told users to look forward to Lollipop for the Xperia Z3 sometime this week. Sure enough, no sooner is Monday here than Sony's going official with its Lollipop news, confirming the ...

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    Two weeks ago, a couple of the highest-profile smartphone brands around welcome the latest iterations of their flagship lineups, as HTC and Samsung launched the One M9 and Galaxy S6, respectively (with Samsung doing double duty and also bringing along the S6 Edge). And as fantastic as it was to finally put all the rumors behind and see these handsets go official, we know that a lot of you just won't be satisfied until you actually have the phones in your hands. So when can you expect that to happen? If you're in the US, carriers have certainly confirmed their intentions to sell these ...

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    Meizu introduced its M1 Note late last year, offering a competitive set of hardware specs like a 5.5-inch 1080p display, 13MP/5MP camera setup, 3140mAh battery, and dual-SIM support. But what really make the M1 Note stand out was its price tag, as Meizu announced plans to sell the phone for the equivalent of just about $160 – a great price for a little budget phone, let alone one equipped like this. Unfortunately, it was hard to get too excited about the phablet initially due to expectations that we might not see it made available outside China. This week brings us good news, as Meizu ...

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    Last fall, Google released a surprising new app with the debut of Messenger for Android. At least, it was a very unexpected app to deliver given the effort Google had already taken to revamp how we access text messages on Android and the integration of such functionality into Hangouts. But for whatever reason, Google saw fit to deliver a new SMS- and MMS-only solution. Today we see a new version of Messenger arrive, complete with some new capabilities. We all know that what separates MMS from SMS is its ability to support audio, video, and still images. That latter mode gets expanded ...

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    Google loves bringing new video types to YouTube. Problem is – for a lot of us, anyway – is that they can be a real pain to view. Like YouTube supporting 4K-resolution video is a great way to prepare for the rising availability of 4K-class displays, but for the moment not a lot of us can view it in its native res. And while you can always cross your eyes and get YouTube's 3D video working in a pinch, the number of us with dedicated hardware designed for consuming such content is still pretty low. Today Google is bringing a new class of video to YouTube, and in what's a lovely change of ...

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    Samsung's been showing off curved displays at trade shows for years. The Galaxy Round launched seventeen months ago. The Galaxy Note Edge followed last summer. And now we have the Galaxy S6 Edge. With all this experience under its belt, you might think Samsung and its manufacturing partners had this whole curved-screen thing pretty well figured out by now. However, a new report highlights possible problems, and claims that issues in fabricating the curved glass that protects the GS6 Edge's display is causing Samsung to seek out new suppliers. Reportedly, yield for these curved glass panels ...

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    Do you trust the internet connections providing data to your smartphone? Is your carrier sharing info with the feds? Is that public WiFi AP harvesting your account data? Is your employer watching what sites you visit when on the company network? By far, the best thing you can do to keep all this information private is to tunnel your data to a trusted remote machine: to use a VPN. Then no matter how data gets to and from your phone, it's all nice and encrypted as it flies through the air, safe from prying eyes. Right now, if you want to take advantage of such a VPN on Android you've got to ...

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    The various voice assistants being offered by the major smartphone platforms aren't just incredibly impressive pieces of tech that also happen to be enormously useful for busy users; they're also great ways for the companies behind these services to draw attention to their respective platforms. After all, if you want to talk to Siri, that means buying an iOS device, just as interacting with Cortana means choosing to go with Windows Phone. But that needn't be a hard-and-fast rule, and at least for Cortana, we've been talking about plans for cross-platform access since last year. Now a new ...

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    What the almighty heck are we looking at here? One of our favorite ways information on an unreleased phone can surface is when the company behind it accidentaly posts something online before it should have. Remember last fall when Apple outed the iPad mini 3 and iPad Air 2 before it announced them? Or just a few weeks back when Sony shared a pic of the Xperia Z4 Tablet in advance of the MWC launch? Well, now we've got another one from Sony to check out, only this time what we're seeing is very, very odd, and it's not obvious if this is even a Sony product in the first place. The image ...

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    Samsung and Marvel are pretty close these days. Back at CES Samsung showed off some very futuristic handset and wearable designs it cooked up for use in the upcoming new Avengers film, and right around the same time we saw Samsung debut its Penvatar software for Note devices, featuring a bunch of little Avengers-themed icons. But could the biggest Samsung/Marvel collaboration still be in the works? We're wondering that today as we check out some very attractive speculative renders of Avengers-themed Galaxy S6 Edge phones. Now keep in mind: none of these are official pics. The designer ...

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    Android 5.1, just formally released by Google this past Monday, brings with it some pretty exciting changes, as we just discussed when looking at the substantial performance benefits imparted to Google's flagship Nexus smartphone, the Nexus 6. “Well that's nice,” you respond, “for those users who actually have Android 5.1 on their phones. I haven't seen it yet? What the heck am I supposed to do, just keep waiting?” Well, yeah, you could just be patient until your phone or tablet pops up its update notification warning, but for the more proactive Nexus users out there, you'll find a ...

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    This past Monday, Apple brought us iOS 8.2, all ready to start getting our phones prepared for the arrival of the Apple Watch. And while that was great to see arrive, we've been even more excited to see that's next for iOS updates, after hearing that Apple could be about to open iOS beta testing to the smartphone-using public. Supposedly, we'd see this program go into effect with a forthcoming iOS 8.3 release in March, and today that's just what we get, as signups begin for the iOS 8.3 public beta. Apple used to have a signup page for its OS X public betas, but today we see it drop the old ...

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    Google started off the week with its release of Android 5.1. While the latest version of Android tweaked a lot of little things that bugged us about earlier Lollipop builds, introducing new features and changing the way others worked. But more than all that, what owners of certain devices have been noticing is a big boost in performance. Nexus 6 users have been reporting that their phones feel a lot more speedy after upgrading to 5.1, and now we have a better sense as to what's going on, as Google changes the way the phone's multi-core SoC works. The Nexus 6 runs a quad-core Snapdragon ...

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    Earlier this week we checked out an early render purporting to be the LG G4, revealing a pretty significant change for the phone's styling, picking up the curved-screen look of the G Flex line. If this plays out, that could mark a pretty major step forward for LG; while manufacturers like Samsung have flirted with making curved screens parts of their flagship lineups, they continue to exist as alternate models – we have both the Galaxy S6 proper and the S6 Edge. Were LG to really pursue this look for the G4, we could end up without a traditional flat-screened G4 at all. But is that what ...

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    There's a new connector on the block, and his name is USB Type C. Apple's hooking its new MacBook up with a Type-C port, and Google just announced the refreshed Chromebook Pixel with a Type-C connector of its own. There's a good reason manufacturers are showing so much love for this little guy, as besides carrying high-speed data and enough juice to charge a device, it's also super easy to work with thanks to its reversible orientation – just like Apple's proprietary Lightning connector. Well, all this USB Type-C action is well and good for laptops, but why do they get to have all the ...

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    Right now, if you're talking about LG and plans for an upcoming flagship, chances are you're thinking about the G4; now that Samsung and HTC have made their own early 2015 heavyweights official, it's nearly time for LG to follow suit. And while the G4's been on the receiving end of the bulk of our LG coverage, last week we started hearing whispers about another flagship-level model, one that might outshine even the G4 itself. At least, that's what a LG exec was saying, but just how might this phone materialize? While we don't have any new official details, rumors are now suggesting that ...

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