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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  • by | April 9, 2014 8:18 PM

    We're right at the cusp of an exciting period in the development of Google's Project Ara, with the firs dev conference just days away and rumors suggesting prototype hardware might be fully functional within a matter of weeks. Today Ara hit one big milestone, with Google making available the Module Developers Kit that hardware guys can use to start crafting their own interchangeable elements that will make up the final Ara phones. The kit covers design guidelines, describing valid module dimensions, internal construction, and layout for power/communication pads. All Ara modules are based ...

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  • by | April 9, 2014 5:45 PM

    Back in February during the Mobile World Congress, Mozilla was busy talking about what's next for its Firefox OS, an alternative to mainstream smartphone platforms we saw debut on its first hardware last year. The company talked about changes to how apps would launch, re-worked gesture inputs, and basically an overhaul to the platform's interface as we knew it. It's still a while before we'll see any new phones running this Firefox OS 2.0, but this week we catch a bit of an early preview, with the publication of a number of images depicting what to expect. Taking inspiration from the likes ...

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  • by | April 9, 2014 4:36 PM

    So far, Facebook's given smartphone users two primary ways to access instant messages sent over its service: you could either receive and respond to messages from directly within the core Facebook app, or you could fire up Facebook Messenger for a pure messaging experience. Apparently that's all about to change, however, and The Verge has just confirmed with Facebook that an effort is in the works to move all IM traffic over to Facebook Messenger. You'll still be able to see messages in the main Facebook app, but tapping on one of those messages to start interacting with it will instead ...

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  • by | April 9, 2014 4:06 PM

    This time last year, Dropbox had just bought Orchestra, the company behind Mailbox, the popular email app for iOS. At the time, the Dropbox team posted an announcement of the news, mentioning the desire to see Mailbox get “into as many people’s hands as possible.” Well, moving beyond the iOS user base sounds like a prime way to do just that, and today Dropbox announced a “new chapter” for Mailbox with the debut of an Android port. Mailbox for Android is in the Play Store as of right now, free for you to install. At the moment it only supports Gmail and iCloud accounts, but other ...

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  • by | April 9, 2014 3:25 PM

    With Microsoft's introduction of Cortana, will Apple and Google be feeling the pressure to snazz up their own voice assistant offerings in the hopes of keeping ahead of the feature curve? It still remains to be seen just how strong a draw for WP8.1 Cortana manages to be, but regardless of what's going on over on that platform, Google appears to be hard at work in adding new functionality to Google Now, and one upcoming feature may be the ability to automatically detect where you've parked your car, and later guide you back to it. The evidence turns up in a few language packs for Now, ...

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  • by | April 9, 2014 1:19 PM

    T-Mobile has been finding a lot of success in the US with its no-annual-contract alternatives to service from some of the other major carriers, potentially saving users a fair deal of money in the process. This week the company is rolling out its latest series of “un-carrier” announcements, and today's is the news of an affordable $40 Simple Starter plan with unlimited talk and text, alongside 500MB of 4G data. Is it a smart deal, though? $40 is certainly a lot less than you might pay at other carriers, but there are two big problems we see with this plan. One was pointed out by BGR, ...

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  • by | April 9, 2014 12:42 PM

    Over the course of the past week or so, we've heard an awful lot about software projects Google has been working on, thanks to a multitude of leaks. There was that Chrome-based Hera project that sounds like it could be a very big deal for Android apps, evidence of work on a new user interface for a possible Android TV device, and a major refresh for Gmail, adding new categories, sorting techniques, and features. Today we continue with this thread, as new leaks reveal Google's latest efforts to spruce up the Android Calendar app. Right away, you'll notice the big UI differences, with ...

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  • by | April 9, 2014 11:55 AM

    Samsung loves little more than outfitting its latest flagship with an array of software tricks, and too often we find ourselves lamenting just how many fail to be very useful. Still, for all the misfires, we have seen some real hits: Multi Window View was a revelation. The Galaxy S5 is no stranger to the ways of these software flourishes, and one that Samsung's shared with us has the potential to be decently useful in its own right, the ability to split a download between WiFi and the phone's cellular connection in order to enhance speeds: the aptly-named download booster. However, it now ...

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  • by | April 9, 2014 11:11 AM

    Yesterday we spent a little time looking at reports of some hardware issues with the Xperia Z2, the latest Sony Android to hit the scene, but far from the first to run into a few problems. In addition to other Xperia models experiencing their own share of hardware faults, we've also heard about a few software bugs in our time. Luckily for users, those tend to be a lot easier for a manufacturer to resolve, and Sony is committed to getting such fixes out to us, kicking-off distribution of its latest for the Xperia Z1, Z Ultra, and Z1 Compact. The issue at hand is audio output, and how these ...

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  • by | April 8, 2014 8:15 PM

    A few weeks ago we shared with you a story out of South Korea, claiming that Samsung was running into some manufacturing issues with the array of six lenses making up the Galaxy S5's main camera, and that the company was scrambling to improve yield rates, lest there be a shortage of the smartphone for its retail debut. While that news didn't come off as very positive for Samsung, it wasn't that far out of the ordinary for the kind of rumors we generally hear about new high-profile phones. For some reason, though, this one really managed to ruffle Samsung's feathers, and the company is ...

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  • by | April 8, 2014 7:37 PM

    Sony is not having the best luck when it comes to really nailing the quality control for its smartphones. A couple months back we shared with you an issue cropping up with the Xperia Z1 Compact, where light was apparently bleeding through the phone's body from its flash to the camera sensor, washing out pics in the process. Sony's latest and greatest Xperia model is the new Z2, and once again new owners are sharing their dissatisfaction with unexpected hardware problems. First up, we have another build quality issue. Some owners report the presence of gaps between the edge of the phone's ...

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  • by | April 8, 2014 5:41 PM

    Microsoft's latest platform update for Windows Phone is nearly upon us, with the company making its big WP8.1 announcement at Build last week, and the first handsets running the software arriving shortly. But once 8.1 is here, and existing phones have made the update to 8.1, what then? We're quite used to Microsoft pushing out smaller general distribution releases between the bigger ones – you might remember three such GDR updates that came between the Windows Phone 8 launch and the arrival of 8.1. We've already heard a little about what Microsoft might be thinking so far as its next ...

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  • by | April 8, 2014 4:50 PM

    We just spent a few minutes touching base with LG and its upcoming G Watch, so let's stay in this wearables lane for a little while longer and check in with Samsung and the Gear Fit. Compared to the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo, the Fit is a bit of an underdog, but it's not without its own stand-out features, including that curved OLED screen. While everything we've seen so far has depicted the Fit using that display in a landscape orientation, today we learn about a software update for the wearable that will bring it a portrait-mode view. Considering how very narrow the aspect ratio of the Gear ...

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  • by | April 8, 2014 3:55 PM

    Of the Android Wear watches we've heard confirmed so far, there's little denying that the Motorola Moto 360 is the star; the round, seemingly bezelless design is unlike any smartwatch we're familiar with. But while the Moto 360 may be the flashier option, we'd be doing ourselves a disservice to let that model distract us altogether from LG and its G Watch, the company's own Android Wear offering. So far, we haven't really had many opportunities to get a good look at the hardware, but today not only do some great hands-on pics of a G Watch prototype arrive, but we get to hear a little about ...

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  • by | April 8, 2014 2:43 PM

    Two weeks back, actor Gary Oldman got us started with HTC's promotional campaign for the new One M8, encouraging viewers to get out there and listen to all the great things tech professionals had to say about the follow-up to last year's beloved One. While it was great to see HTC taking advertising seriously (one aspect of its phone sales where the company often finds itself outdone by competitor Samsung), where was Robert Downey Jr., star of last summer's HTC campaign? Well, as the One M8 prepares to see broader retail availability just a little later this week, Downey has finally made an ...

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