Smartphone cameras: What's coming next (Smartphones Unlocked)

It wasn't all that long ago that a 3.2-megapixel camera on the back of your smartphone was reason to show off. Now, phone-makers like Nokia and Samsung are forging a new frontier of mobile photography aimed at incorporating the technology of a point-and-shoot into the smartphone bundle.

Nokia gets camera savvy with the Nokia Lumia 1020's 41-megapixel sensor and software that saves huge images for lossless cropping. With the niche Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom, the electronics giant derails from the streamlined smartphone shape by essentially cramming a cellular radio into a point-and-shoot camera with a 10x optical … Read more

Google wins patent on predetermined unlocking patterns

Google has won a patent on a new way to unlock a device and access applications.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday awarded Google a patent on "Alternative Unlocking Patterns." The technology describes a method by which users would create several different unlocking patterns that would pertain to a particular action. Upon completing that pattern input, the device would perform the predetermined action.

According to Google's patent, the company envisions a way in which users would open up applications, check for new calls, or perform other actions through the use of the patterns. Currently, … Read more

House committee approves bill to end ban on unlocking phones

Consumers are one step closer to being able to legally unlock their smartphone -- again.

The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday approved a bill introduced by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., that would allow consumers to unlock their phones without permission from their wireless carrier.

The bill, H.R. 1123, would restore an exemption in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that was rejected by the Library of Congress in October 2012. The exemption would make it legal to break the software locks carriers put on devices to prevent them from being used on other carrier networks.

"The bipartisan Unlocking Consumer … Read more

An unlocked and sexy Android device

It's hard to zero in on an affordable yet satisfying unlocked Android smartphone. Other than the $299 LG Nexus 4 or pricey $569.99 Sony Xperia Z, there aren't a lot of viable options, at least in the U.S. market.

Enter the $229 Life Play from Miami-based handset maker Blu Products. Not only does it flaunt a sexy ultrathin design, it boasts Android 4.2 Jelly Bean and takes snappy pictures. It's a valiant attempt but unfortunately its faults, namely a sluggish CPU and a cramped allotment of internal storage, make it tough to recommend. Sure, … Read more

Dear America: Meet unlocked phones

Both T-Mobile and AT&T now have plans that "let" you pay an extra monthly cost to avoid a two-year contract and get a "free" phone upgrade after six months or a year, instead of two years. But both plans are essentially lease options that leave you, in the end, paying more than you'd pay if you bought the phones instead. And like your wise parents or banker friends always told you: Buying is better than leasing. So maybe what these plans will really do is finally, at long last, drive Americans into the … Read more

ABCs of smartphone screens: 1080p and more (Smartphones Unlocked)

The smartphone industry tosses around a whole bucket of names and numbers to describe the viewing experience on your smartphone screen: ClearBlack, 1080p, Retina, AMOLED, supersensitive. And the list goes on.

Some designations are marketing monikers cooked up to give one company an edge; others are more scientific. That isn't to say that flashy names like Apple's Retina Display are worthless and empty. Sometimes the trademarked name masks a unique process too technical to quickly explain.

To make things simpler, here are some common terms you might see attached to smartphone screens, and some factors that actually go … Read more

How supersensitive screens get touch-y (Smartphones Unlocked)

For all of your smartphone-owning life, you've been told you can't use your expensive device while wearing gloves, no matter how low the mercury plummets. You weren't really sure why, you just knew it wasn't going to happen.

And so rocketed sales of fingerless gloves, conductive gloves, and even conductive thread for those brave (or thrifty!) enough to hack their own touch-screen hand coverings.

Then something wonderful happened that obliterated this sad certainty of specialty winterwear dependence forever, and that was Nokia.

Starting with the Nokia Lumia 920 and Nokia Lumia 820, the industry got a … Read more

The 404 1,280: Where we dig up the truth (podcast)

Leaked from today's 404 episode:

- Film crew to dig up Atari landfill site, maybe score 3.5 million copies of E.T.

- The opposite of standing desks: the computer workstation for the person with everything.

- Unlocking The Truth is the most brutal sixth grade metal band ever.

- Hatebeak: a death metal band fronted by a parrot.

- Ex-military snipers called into shoot feral goats from helicopters to protect Galapagos Tortoise population.… Read more

HTC selling unlocked HTC One for $574

Smartphone buyers willing to shell out some cash to grab an unlocked version of the HTC One now have their chance.

HTC is selling an unlocked edition of its new flagship phone for $574. The unlocked flavor comes with 32GB of on-board storage and sports the same features found in the carrier-based version.

The unlocked phone comes on the heels of the debut of the HTC One Developers Edition earlier this month. That model costs $649 but comes with 64GB of storage and includes an unlocked bootloader for people who want to root and modify the phone with custom ROMs.… Read more

Smartphone innovation: Where we're going next (Smartphones Unlocked)

The HTC One has a gorgeous chassis and a ton of camera tricks, the Samsung's Galaxy S4 pauses and unpauses video when you avert your gaze, and in the Lumia 920, Nokia was one of the first to introduce wireless charging and an ultrasensitive screen you can control while wearing gloves.

Yet compared with the real meat of what you do with a phone -- things like communicating with people, browsing the Internet, snapping photos, and playing games -- today's top phones are mostly all on par. Software and hardware extras that extend beyond the basics, while impressive, … Read more