Followup on the Android Gmail flickering bug - what really irritates me

Followup on the Android Gmail flickering bug - what really irritates me

Summary: Transparency, Google. Can you say it with me? Transparency. Great! I knew you could do it!


Early this morning (or late last night, however you like to look at it), I wrote about the flickering bug that was hitting Android users and making their Gmail app unusable. I posted a few updates as the night went on, but even today, users continue to report ongoing issues, even after Google posted a "fix".

Google's "fix" forced me to do a full reset on my phone, made my SD card unmountable to my phone (I was able to grab all of the pictures and video off of it on my PC and they were all sitting out on Google+ anyway), and I'm looking forward to a rocking good time tonight reconfiguring my Droid Razr. Good times.

So that's inconvenient and probably goes beyond the medium-priority under which Google classified this bug on their product forum. I'm sure the many other people who reported similar results from the fix, or for whom the fix still has not resolved their issue, would agree that this is more than a "medium-priority defect". But it's not actually the inconvenience of the phone reset or even the bug itself that really torqued my twister. It's the utter lack of transparency and communication from Google about something with widespread, serious effects for many thousands of users of the top smartphone OS in the world.

Even today, there's no mention of the issue on Google's major blogs, Twitter accounts, or elsewhere. Most of us Google-watchers writing about this kept referencing one lone Googler who popped into the forum occasionally by the screen name of BrittanyBee to give us updates. While her updates were helpful, the average phone user (even us geeky Andrdoid folks) won't go trolling through forums, join 2 Google Groups (required to post and subscribe to the forum), and keep an eye on things into the wee hours of the evening.

How about a blog post? Or a tweet? The blog post could have been really short and a poorly educated monkey could have written it. It could have looked like this:

"Hey guys, we're really sorry about this, but the only way to sort out the issue we know you're having with your phones is to delete the primary Gmail account from the Gmail app. And we're even sorrier that for a lot of you, that means you'll have to reset your phones and reconfigure the primary account, the apps, and everything else. But with our apologies, watch this YouTube video that shows you what will happen and what you should do."

Would that have been so hard? It still would have been a pain, but ongoing public updates and workarounds would have gone a very long ways towards reasonable customer service. Poor little BrittanyBee posting all by her lonesome on a little forum? Not so much.

Maybe I missed Google's updates outside the forum. It's certainly possible. But I'm a relatively good Googler and I certainly didn't see anything. And it shouldn't have been something that was easily missed. Maybe a little red box on, oh, I don't know, With just a little note. But no. There's a great Google Doodle up today, but nothing to placate the many thousands of people having epileptic fits from looking at their Gmail apps or grumbling about reconfiguring their phones today when they should actually be getting some work done.

If we all lived with Google on Sesame Street, the word of the day would definitely have been "Transparency." But, I'm afraid, we don't live on Sesame St.

Image adapted from "Oscar" photo by ben hanbury on Flickr

Topics: Browser, Apps, Cloud, Collaboration, Google

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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  • No news....

    I had that problem, and tried all kinds of things, but couldn't get it going. Your article was the only one that I found even talking about it. My Gmail just started spontaneously working with no indication of what was done to make it work.
    • Yep

      Sometimes it's best to leave things alone for a while, rather than digging yourself into a deeper hole. As I recall, Google acknowledged the problem was on their server side, so why would I want to make matters worse for me by wiping my phone? I had the flickering problem yesterday, but it's working fine today.
  • Even worse in Canada

    In Canada they keep messing up our Nexus phones and they never communicate with their users in any way.

    A firmware update last year made Wi-Fi hotspot stop working for most users. Google fixed it weeks later and provided zero communication.

    Recently, they started rolling out 4.0.2 to Galaxy Nexus owners and it broke the Android market, so they stopped the roll-out. Once again, no communication at all. User were left to troll through forums looking for a fix. Less advanced users were probably totally out of luck.

    Nexus S users are, as everyone knows, still waiting for the ICS roll out that started months ago and then abruptly stopped. Personally, I prefer that they really polish it instead of rolling it out quickly, so I don't mind the delay. But all those who do mind the delay (and were sold on the idea that nexus phones get quick updates) deserve an explanation or an apology at the least.

    I used to recommend the Nexus phones' to friends since I thought it would provide a more straight-forward and reliable experience then other Androids. Now I have to grit my teeth and recommend iPhone's. It's a shame because I admire much of what Google has done in the past, but their total disregard for their users makes it impossible to recommend them any more.
    • Yeah my HTC with GUI overlay worked better than stock Android on Nexus

      Although some of the issues are Samsung's fault too. Im still waiting on the Maint Release to fix the signal strength and 4G connectivity issues.

      I will probably give iPhone a shot when its time for a new phone--unless Verizon releases a Windows phone.
  • Its not the top smartphone os, it's just the most widely used.

    Quality, security, stability, supportability, etc. it's not even in the top 3. It's an os designed to push ads and mine personal data from a company that sells ads and personal data. You get what you settle for.
    Johnny Vegas
  • Google is the new MS

    Amazing how fast the corporate bureaucracy has taken over Google.

    I bought a Samsung Galaxy Nexus and had high hopes for it. But ICS, and hardware issues destroyed those hopes.

    Google is now facing the same problems with phone OEM's, that MS faced with PC OEM's.
  • They might not know themselves....

    I'm a business user (administrator) of Google Apps and when these problems started to show a few weeks ago I contacted Google Support. They replied promptly and friendly. Unfortunately not very helpful as they more or less told me it was my own problem because I have more than one Gmail account on my phone (sic!). I could then only relate to them that the problem was random from Android device to Android device and it ALSO inflicted on one iPhone. Still random so it might work one moment but not the next. Or even one account was affected at one moment and another at the next moment. I provided Google with all my info and experiences and also listed all the different devices involved.

    As an administrator I discovered a work around (which won't work for the personal user) by turning off "Enforce Policies on Android devices". Then turn ON "Enforce Policies on Android devices". Restart devices and it works perfectly. Been working for a week or more now. (Beats me why THAT would work for the iPhone too...).

    I am still in contact with Google and hope they can use my info and workaround to fix their issue. But I doubt how professional they are. Also based on my experience with sales/support on the Chrome Books.