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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    In the constantly evolving field of social networking, feature creep is a fact of life. You give your users new image-sharing tools, and six months later your biggest competitor is doing the same thing. Then they add video support, and you scramble to implement your own. Or a dialer. Or mobile payments. And while we certainly see success from firms that do one thing, and do it really well, there's huge pressure on the larger players in the field to do offer users every last feature they can. Inevitably, that leads to claims of one mimicking the other's functionality, and that's basically ...

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    When the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus landed last year armed with NFC support, retailers started seeing a huge uptick in consumer mobile payment interest, as users tried Apple Pay for the first time. Thanks to the presence of contactless payment chips on existing credit cards, not to mention previous NFC-based mobile payment systems like Google Pay and Softcard, lots of these retailers already had Apple Pay-compatible POS systems in place, so everything should have been ready to go for all these new users to start making payments … until retailers started switching their systems off. Now at least ...

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    HTC introduced its One M9 flagship some five months ago, powered by the most controversial chip of the year, the Snapdragon 810. In our testing, we didn't notice the One M9 succumbing to the 810's most frequently reported failure mode, overheating, but plenty of users did end up feeling the handset ran a little warm. Could that be driving HTC to consider taking the One M9 back to the drawing board and coming up with a new edition, one powered by an alternate SoC? That's what a new rumor claims, suggesting that HTC is working on a MediaTek-based One M9. We've already seen HTC embrace ...

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    The word “hologram” gets thrown around a lot when we're talking about 3D imagery, but it's rare we deal with actual holograms: diffraction-encoded recordings of light fields. An autostereoscopic parallax barrier screen doesn't display proper holograms, nor even does Microsoft's inappropriately named HoloLens. However, today we look at a new patent from Samsung that actually follows through on the promise of holographic screen tech, bringing holographic icons to a smartphone's display. Samsung describes a method for embedding a series of holographic icons in a smartphone's display ...

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    When checking out the latest leak of the BlackBerry Venice yesterday, we thought a little about the lengthy waits that can stretch between when we first see a product officially revealed, and the day it finally arrives. And at least while BlackBerry brought along Venice to show off at MWC, it didn't really give the phone the full launch treatment. The same can't be said for Huawei, which very much formally announced its round-screened Android Wear Huawei Watch at the expo. And while the company held up its wearable for all to see, it wasn't yet ready to share details about how sales would ...

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    Graphics performance hinges on a lot of factors, from memory layout to rendering pipelines, but for many concerns, it all comes down to speed: rendering a beautiful, high-res scene is relatively simple when you have all the time in the world, but doing it dozens of times a second requires a lot of horsepower. As a result, anything graphics systems can do to decrease overhead, and get things working as quickly as possible, is going to be hugely important for squeezing out as much performance as you can get from any particular hardware. Last year we saw Apple deliver just such a system in ...

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    Google Now's been as successful as it is on Android not solely because of all it can do for its users, but also because of how eminently accessible it is: from an Android phone, Google Now is little more than a home-button-swipe away. So for a competitor to really rise to challenge Google Now's success, it's going to not only have to compare favorably with the service on the features side, but also in terms of accessibility. Luckily for Microsoft, that's just what it's doing as it makes its latest enhancements to Cortana for Android, integrating with Android via the same home-button ...

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    The Google of 2015 is a far cry removed from the search engine that first premiered to the public in the late '90s. In the decade-plus since, we've seen it mature to become the dominant force among search providers, branch out into social media, create self-driving cars, and turn into one of the biggest players in the mobile tech world thanks to its Android platform. So far, all those new ventures have found themselves huddled up under the Google umbrella, but now that's all changing with the announcement of Alphabet, the new company from Larry Page and Sergey Brin that will now count ...

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    Google Play is already the go-to destination on Android for apps, music, movies, TV, books, and even some hardware, and its existence is practically a license for Google to print money, taking a cut of all sales made through the marketplace. As sales go up, Google only stands to make more money, and today we hear about a project that could help drive additional traffic to the Play Store, with Google supposedly working on a new affiliate system for media sales. Reportedly, Google's working with the Performance Horizon Group to implement an affiliate system similar to what Apple does with ...

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    With certain smartphone companies, it sometimes seems like we spend nearly as much time talking about annoyances with their ordering processes as we do the phones themselves. On one hand, that might mean that the phones are desirable enough that shoppers take the time to seek them out even in the presence of obstacles; on the other hand, if things were really working as they should, we'd hardly be talking about the shopping experience in the first place. OnePlus is a company that's learned to embrace its convoluted ordering process, and even though it's attempted to improve things with the ...

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    To say that Microsoft misread the market when introducing Windows RT for tablets might be a slight understatement. Instead of giving affordable tablets the power of full-blown Windows, users were left with a half-measure that failed to meet their app needs. Unsurprisingly, RT's been recently going the way of the dodo, and Microsoft's even begun transitioning its non-Pro Surface lineup to run a full-featured version of its operating system. With Windows 10 now here, RT has been looking more washed-up than ever, and while Microsoft's future is very much with its new operating system, there's ...

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    Showing off an upcoming smartphone well in advance of its formal debut can be a risky move for a manufacturer: are you going to generate buzz, or do you risk fans losing interest as they sit through months and months of unavailability? Five months ago, BlackBerry teased us with a new portrait-orientation slider at MWC, without saying much of anything about how or when the phone might actually launch. Recently, rumors have attempted to identify the hardware as BlackBerry's codename Venice, and suggested that the company could make it one of its first phones that run Android. That very much ...

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    Things move fast in the world of mobile electronics, and especially right around this time of year, it can seem like we're jumping from one major launch to the next with little space for breathing room in between. It feels like we only just saw OnePlus and Motorola introduce their latest hardware, and now we've already got a Samsung event creeping up fast. And while that new-phone stuff may grab all the headlines, there are also interesting developments taking place in the world of phone components. If the rumors are right, we might just see Qualcomm shine the spotlight on the new ...

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    Alactel OneTouch introduced its affordable Idol 3 all the way back at MWC in early March, announcing both 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch models that would shared the Idol 3 name. With some solid specs and a budget-friendly price, we found a lot to like about the Idol 3 – at least, the version we had a chance to try. And while we gave the 5.5-inch Idol 3 our full review treatment, we hadn't been able to come by the 4.7-incher. That finally looks about to change, as Alcatel OneTouch shares word of sales arriving for the US and Canada. The 4.7-inch Idol 3 is priced at right around $180. For that ...

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    What's Motorola's ultimate strategy for the US smartphone market? With this year's new Moto X (the Pure Edition for US shoppers), the company is stepping even further away from the traditional smartphone sales model, dropping the idea of in-store carrier sales entirely and going out on its own as it sells the phone direct, off-contract, and leaving it up to the user to decide which carrier to go with. But could there be more to it than that? While the Moto X proper may go the direct-sales route, Motorola's special relationship with Verizon seems far from over, and we've been tracking ...

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    These next several weeks are going to be big ones for new smartphone launches. Samsung Unpacked is next Thursday, and then we've just got a couple weeks to go before IFA rolls around and we look forward to the next wave of hardware announcements. After that, we've been expecting Apple to show off its latest iPhone models sometime in September, but so far we haven't been able to narrow that window down by much. Apple's yet to make anything official, but a fresh rumor out this afternoon attempts to give us an early heads-up before Apple sends out its own invites, claiming that this year's ...

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    Remember back in those heady early days of smartphones, when hardware keyboards still dominated? Their availability has waned in recent years, and the selection at the moment is so thin that that you'd likely find yourself making serious compromises in order to secure a keyboard-equipped model, either in terms of platform, specs, or carrier support. So it's understandable that word of a keyboard option for an upcoming flagship-level model would get us raising a few eyebrows. This afternoon we check out just such a leak, upon the publication of an image supposedly showing a hardware ...

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    Smartphone platforms have seen their fair share of security scares over the years, but there's something about this new attack on the Android StageFright subsystem that really has industry players responding in way unlike what we've seen before. Rather than dragging their feet in getting fixes out, we're not only seeing a rush to update devices, but also some bold new commitments being made to keep on top of security updates going forward, devoting resources to getting those updates out in a timely fashion. Google's going to be leading the charge as it prepares platform-level updates, ...

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    When Apple introduces its next wave of iPad tablets, what devices will be among them? A new iPad Air and mini, sure, but will that be it? What about the possibility of finally seeing one of those long-rumored bigger iPads launch – like the 12.9-inch device we've been calling the iPad Pro? Some sources are adamant about the tablet's presence in Apple's fall lineup, but then again, these plus-sized iPad rumors have been around for years, and so far nothing's come of them; why should this year be different? As we wait to learn if there's really a new, larger iPad in our future, a new report ...

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    Among the many announcements that we heard Google make back at I/O earlier this year, we learned of the coming launch of Android Pay, Google's next-gen mobile payment system and spiritual successor to Google Wallet. And while we've known to expect Android Pay to go live following the arrival of Android M later this year, Google hasn't been sharing a ton of details about just how we'll see the service debut. Perhaps it shouldn't be too surprising, but a new report claims that Android Pay will arrive with the help of LG, as the service is supported by an LG-made Nexus phone. Wouldn't a Nexus ...

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    One month ago, HTC's latest quarterly results arrived – and they didn't look too good, not by a long shot. The company, once on the brink of turning its fortunes around following some recent disappointments, ended up taking a big loss – its largest quarterly loss ever. Clearly, something's not working for HTC, and if it wants to get back on its feet, that's going to mean making some changes. This week HTC Chief Financial Officer Chialin Chang shares just what sort of changes the company has in mind, and that's going to mean making cuts. It's not yet clear just how many HTC jobs could ...

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    The last couple months have seen Pebble's next generation of smartwatches arrive bit by bit. First we saw the Pebble Time start going out to its crowdfunding backers, then later become available to shoppers at large; most recently, we've even started talking about brick-and-mortar retail sales. But that's only half of the new Pebble picture, and we've also been anxiously awaiting the new Pebble Time Steel. While that Pebble's been a little behind schedule, it's finally on its way out now – just not necessarily with its matching steel band (not yet, at least). And while that's great news ...

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    Windows 10 promises big changes for the way code is shared across devices, and beyond the arrival of useful universal apps that will easily transition between PC, phone, and tablet form factors, Windows 10 also looks to help break down boundaries between competing platforms. Back in April we learned about Microsoft's plans for encouraging devs to bring existing Android and iOS software to Windows 10, thanks to an Android subsystem that would allow for very lightweight porting, as well as tools to help adapt Objective-C apps from iOS. That sounded all kinds of promising, but will the ...

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    Will jumbo-sized tablets ever catch on, or are users just more comfortable past a certain screen size working with more traditional laptops? We've already seen some early attempts at extra-big tablets, like Samsung's 12.2-inchers, while others like Apple's long-rumored iPad Pro have yet to surface. Today, though, we're talking about a tablet that could make even those look positively tiny in comparison, as evidence turns up towards Samsung work on an 18.4-inch beast. India's Zauba import database reveals the device, described as a test model with a screen size of 18.4 inches. Despite that ...

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    If the rumors are accurate, we're looking forward to a pair of Nexus phones this year: a smaller LG 5.2-incher, and a Huawei 5.7-inch phablet. While the LG Nexus may be getting the most attention, if only due to the absence of a more petite Nexus option in 2014, the Huawei Nexus could end up being just as impressive, while also exposing the manufacturer to new audiences. Today we get what may be our first look at the phone, as a short video gives us a brief glimpse at an a previously unknown Huawei handset. As the rumors have suggested for the Huawei Nexus, there's indeed a fingerprint ...

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