Android SMS bug sends your messages to random contacts

Android SMS bug sends your messages to random contacts

Summary: Remember the kerfuffle over the iPhone 4 'Antennagete' and how you could disrupt the antenna by holding the handset the wrong way? Well, there's an SMS bug in Google's Android OS that makes 'Antennagate' seem like nothing.

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Remember the kerfuffle over the iPhone 4 'Antennagete' and how you could disrupt the antenna by holding the handset the wrong way? Well, there's an SMS bug in Google's Android OS that makes 'Antennagate' seem like nothing.

The Android bug relates to SMS messages, specifically SMS messages being composed with one recipient in mind and actually being set to a completely different person in the contacts list ...

... oh, and this issue has been ongoing for six months!

Over on the Android developer's forum this issue is rated as a "Priority-Medium" which in my opinion downplays the seriousness of the problem. On this forum there's a lot of chatter relating to this bug. Here are just a few of the comments:

Jun 28, 2010:

Device: Nexus One. One day old. Updated to 2.2 FRF50

Default Android Messaging Application. No apps installed.

Messaging. - Send SMS message to RecipientA. - Message appears to be successfully sent to RecipientA. - RecipientX receives message. - 'View Message Details' in RecipientA thread, shows 'To' field as being RecipientX's MSISDN (phone number).

Has occurred multiple times on this device now.

Interestingly, has never occured on my other Nexus running the same FRF50 build.

Jul 09, 2010:

This just occurred again on FRF91. Suck.

SMS was sent to recipient who there had been no contact with and no threads in messaging.

Sep 13, 2010:

This issue is way more widespread than what is respresented here, please review the comments at this page, where users are very detailed in reporting the issues they are experiencing.

http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/android/thread?tid=345259e6d424bad3&hl=en&start=80

My personal experiences:

Text being sent to unintended recipient, when responding to an existing conversation(text). Unintended recipient is NOT someone I have ever sent a text to previously. The 2 contacts in question do not have any similarities in the digits of their numbers, other than the area code.

I have 763 messages in my inbox, 782 in the outbox

Galaxy S 2.1-update 1

Sep 15, 2010:

Cross posting with my post from the Google Help Forums:

My steps to replicate are as below. Seems to be pretty consistent that the message sent in step 09 will go to a random contact; in my limited testing, it usually goes to the number involved at steps 05 and 06. 01) Stop Messaging App. 02) Clear Messaging App data 03) Access messaging app, send messages. 04) Establish messages were sent to correct addresses. 05) Send message to a number not in your contacts. 06) Reply from the number not in your contacts (I haven't established if this is a required step yet) 07) Read reply, don't delete thread. 08) Send SMS to your device, from another device that is in your contacts. 09) Reply to SMS. 10) Check message details of your sent message. 11) Repeat steps 08-10 a couple of times. A factor in this, is I think it might only be short numbers that cause this issue. I'm using my banks automated SMS service (880).

This would explain why it happens when people have facebook/twitter SMS notifications enabled.

I'll debug it all properly on the weekend when I have some time.

Oct 05, 2010:

This issue is listed as "Priority-Medium", I think this is totally wrong. For a phone send messages to the wrong person may be very harmful to the user as a human. This just means the phone cannot be trusted anymore. How to bump up the priority?

Oct 05, 2010:

I have experienced this problem a few times. And I do not have facebook or twitter on my phone either. It's actually a relatively new phone (Samsung Vibrant). To list this issue as "medium" is a gross understatement. This is much worse than iphone's drop call problem. And there is no pattern in picking the wrong recipient. I actually think it's an OS lag issue. Last time it happened I caught it before it sent the SMS (because in my SMS window I saw the wrong recipient showing on top, while I was in a thread window with someone else) and I let the phone sit for a few minutes. When I went back to my thread window, the correct recipient name was at the top once again.

Dec 23, 2010:

...

Except somewhere along the way, Google seems to have forgotten first and foremost Android phones need to be phones. And that is why I'm seriously considering making the move to Blackberry or Windows Phone 7. For the last six months now I've been dealing with a huge flaw that makes my phone unusable for SMS texting. From what I've been able to tell using analytics provided by Google's developer site, as many as 77% of Android phone users are at risk of having their text messages sent to a random contact.

That sounds unlikely right? I mean you pay upwards of $200 for a smart phone, and next to making phone calls, sending SMS text messages is probably the most used feature of the phone. But it's true, and if you don't believe me just type "android SMS wrong contact" into Google's search engine and see how many hits you get. It's astounding. It's happening. And Google seems to be ignoring it altogether.

...

[poll id="586"]

This is a very serious issue that Google seems to have been ignoring for the past six months. For a flagship mobile OS capturing such a big market in such a short space of time, this reluctance to acknowledge and fix such a critical issue reflects badly on Google's stewardship of the Android platform.

Hey, Google! FIX IT!!!!

Thanks to @jonhoneyball for the heads-up on this bug.

Topics: Telcos, Android, Collaboration, Google, Hardware, iPhone, Mobility, Networking

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65 comments
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  • Um, how is this an OS problem?

    Seems to me this is an application issue, surely? Now admittedly that's a quibble, but you of all people should know better.
    wolf_z
    • RE: Android SMS bug sends your messages to random contacts

      @wolf_z
      Even if it is a application issue it is still a result of poor quality control Android has over its apps. This is where the "walled garden" approach is still superior.
      Tigertank
      • RE: Android SMS bug sends your messages to random contacts

        @Tigertank The OS can't help in this issue, the app is the one selecting the destination contact, and the OS simply can't know whether this is the number you had in mind.
        Qussay Najjar
      • RE: Android SMS bug sends your messages to random contacts

        @Qussay Najjar So who is supposed to fix it then?
        NaderBelaid
      • RE: Android SMS bug sends your messages to random contacts

        @Qussay Najjar
        I wasn't referring to just the OS but the entire platform philosophy. Apple is constantly derided by Android fans as as having a "walled garden" because it exerts quality control. Now we see what happens when you don't set quality standards.

        BTW,
        This this is about as big a problem as could have happened.
        This virtually eliminates the possibility of Android being used as a business device. Can you image the ramifications of sending vital or secret company information to the wrong people? To your competition. This is huge! I hope they fix this soon for their users sake.
        Tigertank
      • RE: Android SMS bug sends your messages to random contacts

        @Tigertank
        See my note below - this type of bug has affected Windows Mobile devices also so I don't see "walled garden" has any benefit when everyone is rushing to get product to market. They all face the same pressures and make the same choices - cut corners to get to market.
        DevRandom
    • RE: Android SMS bug sends your messages to random contacts

      @wolf_z

      Huh???

      The Android messaging application!!!

      No apps installed - besides those shipped with the OS!!!

      Yes it may be the App - but how is that relevant to the user???

      The user's phone does bad thing.

      It may be something that is in a code file called an app - or in a code file called a library - but it is still part of the phone and to all intents and purposes part of the OS!!!

      As for walled garden - this is within Google's control, it is their App and they have full control.
      richardw66
    • RE: Android SMS bug sends your messages to random contacts

      @wolf_z So what? It's an app bundled with the OS and maintained by the Android development team, so either way it's still their problem. And it still might very well be the OS that's the problem. The TelephonyManager OS service is what handles the actual sending of the SMS, so it's entirely possible the bug is at that level.
      2drinks
  • RE: Android SMS bug sends your messages to random contacts

    I have been running Android from 2.1 to 2.2 and have not had this problem. Even after rooting and playing around with various different ROMs.
    nobeelmasri
    • RE: Android SMS bug sends your messages to random contacts

      @nobeelmasri Haven't had this problem either, but I also have been using Hancent (amazing app) since almost day 1 which was November 2009. I am also rooted (though only within the last two months) currently running CM 6.1 RC5 on my og droid.
      Paleogirl2003
  • I have received texts not intended for me...

    sent from 2 friends using Android (Droid X and Droid Incredible). At the time, we chalked it up to user error.
    Bruizer
    • RE: Android SMS bug sends your messages to random contacts

      @Bruizer
      Yes, I too have received messages not meant for me. T-Mobile 3G phone. She always assumed it was a "fat finger" mistake.

      Google, this needs to be changed from the current "denial or maybe status" to "Beyond Critical". Not only will this mean I won't be buying an Android phone until fixed, Android is off my recommend list indefinitely. I also need to tell folks to MAKE SURE the correct contact is populated for every text.

      TripleII
      TripleII-21189418044173169409978279405827
  • The worst case scenario with this is awful.

    SMS messages intended for one person being received by wife, mistress, boss, etc. could [b]really[/b] ruin many whole days.
    matthew_maurice
    • RE: Android SMS bug sends your messages to random contacts

      @matthew_maurice LOL, good one! Happy New Year!
      CowLauncher
    • RE: Android SMS bug sends your messages to random contacts

      @matthew_maurice wining about your lousy boss to a friend, and "a perfect plot" your boss should receive it :D
      Qussay Najjar
  • Where is the issue?

    Does the issue lie with something in the OS or the default SMS application? If its just the App then this shouldnt be hard to fix. I havent had any troubles using Handcent SMS so I would suggest users get that if its a problem for them until Google fixes it.
    TheRackow
    • RE: Android SMS bug sends your messages to random contacts

      @TheRackow me neither, Handcent is just pure awesomeness
      Paleogirl2003
  • Interesting. So, then, using another app for texting would solve it?

    If this is an app problem, then should using something like Handcent avoid this problem? I've never experienced it myself, but I could see how this would be a big pain in the butt...
    rlorenz
  • RE: Android SMS bug sends your messages to random contacts

    Perfect example of 'don't say something you wouldn't want someone to hear'.
    Your grandparents weren't stupid when they tried to teach you manners...
    volentib666
    • RE: Android SMS bug sends your messages to random contacts

      @volentib666 The Thought Police are everywhere. Big Brother is watching you.
      Greenman76