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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    How many times have you looked at an app and thought, “I could have come up with that?” Or how often have you found yourself frustrated with an inability to track down an app you really need, but no one seems to have released anything along those lines yet? Still, going from a curiosity in app development to actually producing anything sounds like a daunting proposition, and one with a steep learning curve. Is there any way to ease yourself into the world of mobile software? We've already seen efforts like the Windows Phone app studio aimed at lowering the bar for what it takes to get ...

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    Most of the time, when Google releases new software for a Nexus device, it's in the form of a full Android release: going from 4.4.3 to 4.4.4, or somesuch. But that's not always the case. Back in February, for instance, right around the time Google was bringing the 2013 Nexus 7 to Verizon, it released an incremental Android 4.4.2 Release 2 (R2) update which (among other things) delivered targeted fixes for operation on Verizon's network. This week we see a similar story unfolding, as we get word of the distribution of Android 4.4.4 R2 for the Nexus 5 in certain areas. This update is only ...

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    Smartwatches present some real challenges when it comes to user input, but despite the cramped quarters their screen dimensions afford, companies behind keyboard software have been pretty enthusiastic about coming up with usable solutions for these tiny displays. Minuum's been especially vocal about smartwatches, and that makes a lot of sense, as its unusual linear keyboard is highly adaptable to non-standard screen layouts. It showed us its keyboard on the Galaxy Gear, teased how a round Minuum keyboard might look on the Moto 360, and now it's back to squared-off displays, helping new ...

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    Do you unlock the bootloader on your Android phone? Whether you're a developer or just a power user with a hankering for some custom ROM action, the bootloader is the gatekeeper to your phone's software. Problem is, OEMs and carriers have been resistant to the idea of selling wide-open handsets, and the vast majority of phones you'll find today ship with their bootloaders secured. In order to keep delivering devices in this locked-down manner while still offering a path to unlocking for devs, smartphone makers have started offering unlocking services that let them control the process and ...

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    It's been a few months since Microsoft made its big Windows Phone 8.1 announcement back at Build in early April, and WP users everywhere have been patiently (and some not so patiently) waiting since to get their hands on full WP8.1 updates. Sure, the Preview for Developers offered many of you an early peek at the changes, but that came without phone-specific software updates that promise to really make the WP8.1 experience shine. Evidence had strongly been pointing to a July release of OTA updates, and today Microsoft goes official with the start to its distribution, announcing the release ...

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    Smartphones are wildly powerful devices. They have processing power and memory that rivals PCs of just a few years past, and while their screens may be tiny, they often have the resolution to measure up pixel-for-pixel with full-sized monitors. Yet despite all theses resources, phones often end up coming in seriously behind PCs in one key area: web browsing. There are plenty of reasons for why this continues to be, and one big one is incompatibility with Adobe Flash. Putting all arguments about technical limitations versus intentional handicapping aside, the fact of the matter is that a ...

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    The Galaxy S5 has been available for months by now; the time since its release has seen the launch of a few additional family members, including the GS5 Active, and just a couple weeks back the GS5 Mini – and this isn't even touching on the upgraded GS5 LTE-A edition. The GS5 Mini gave us a 4.5-inch phone that seemed pretty fitting for its name, but could we have another shrunken-down GS5 spin-off in our future? We're left wondering just that tonight, as we check out the benchmarks for a mysterious Samsung model SM-G850. This is a model number we've seen before, surfacing on Samsung's ...

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    Google's Project Ara is such a drastic departure from the hardware designs that make up mainstream smartphones that it's pretty impressive to see just how swiftly progress is moving forward on the effort. From the earliest announcement back in the fall of last year, we've moved on to developer conferences and the release of the Ara Module Developers Kit. Now it's nearly time for Ara's next phase to begin, as Google prepares to distribute the dev boards that will let hardware makers continue with work towards creating the modules that will go into Ara devices. A few weeks back Google ...

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    It's Friday afternoon, which means we have a winner: congratulations Lukas Pichl, you've got a OnePlus One invite code with your name on it. Check your inbox for our notification email and we'll get that right out to you. As for the rest of you, check back on Monday for our next giveaway; we've got one more OnePlus One invite to hand out, so if you didn't win this round, you've got one more shot. ____ Last week marked the first official installment of our Pocketnow summer giveaway series, where we're bringing you opportunities to win some of the hottest smartphone hardware all throughout ...

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    Like many smartphones, Sony's Xperia Z2 does not support wireless charging out of the box. For proponents of the tech, that's a big deal, as lowering the bar of entry for wireless charging is often mentioned as being of paramount importance to helping it really catch on. But at least Sony was ready to give users the next best thing, and announced back in May its intention to release official Z2 accessories: a charging plate and wireless charging cover. Except now all of a sudden, near every trace of those products seems to have been wiped clear of Sony's site, leaving us wondering if the ...

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    Google I/O brought us a new look for Android: Material Design. The new direction Google described for its platform took the current trend towards simple layouts punctuated with bold color to its logical conclusion, delivering a look that isn't just clean and highly approachable, but also makes it easier for devs to scale content between device sizes and form factors. At I/O, Google shared some of the ways Material Design would be changing the look of Android, and now a leak offers us a more in-depth glimpse into one in particular, previewing the changes coming to the Play Store. Right ...

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    In the months leading up to the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S5, we talked about a number of features that ultimately didn't make the cut. Those included things like that Quad HD display that eventually landed on the GS5 LTE-A edition (and might just return for this Galaxy Alpha that's at the center of the latest Samsung gossip), as well as some slightly more “out there” ideas like an iris scanner to authenticate users. We had some big concerns about the practicality of such a system from the first time we heard the idea, but those became a moot point when the feature failed to arrive. ...

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    Last month, Samsung brought us its updated Galaxy S5 LTE-A edition, fulfilling those long-standing rumors of a Galaxy S5 equipped with a quad HD display (among other improvements). Even with this model constrained to sales in South Korea, we've taken the time to get our hands on one, giving you a close-up look at the changes. But is this model's release the conclusion of those quad HD Galaxy rumors? What about that chatter of a Samsung smartphone that was supposed to be a premium device from top to bottom, not only going with a 2K display but also a body made of metal – or at least with ...

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    The summer of smartwatches is upon us, and new Android Wear users everywhere are just starting to settle into life with their mobile accessories. The Moto 360 is standing by in the wings, ready to jump onto the retail scene in just another month or two, and entries by Apple and Microsoft are anticipated for a little later on. No matter which platform you call home, or what style smartwatch you prefer, you're going to have some good options to choose from. And as more and more of these wearables arrive, we're seeing how the decisions being made by manufacturers are shaping out expectations ...

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    In a world of cookie-cutter designs, the Dot View case for HTC's One M8 is a breath of fresh air. Sure, we had a few issues with the way HTC manufactured this accessory, not to mention the steep price, but it's difficult to deny how eye-catching it is, and how useful the notifications it delivers can be. Today HTC drops an update for the case's corresponding Dot View app, adding a few new options that should hopefully make the accessory even more fun to use. The big one here is personalization: HTC now lets users choose between a number of themes – background images that act as special ...

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